It’s true. The internet is really, really great for so many things. However, the more time I’ve spent on it recently, the more I’ve come to realize that it’s also really, really awful. The positives and the negatives are seemingly present in equal measure. For every genuine, positive, social interaction through Twitter there’s also a troll. For every pep-filled post on Facebook, there’s sure to be someone taking the piss. It’s because of this that we’ve become people obsessed with the public perception of ourselves. We’re so conscious of attracting unwanted, negative attention that we – quite literally, thanks to Instagram – filter our lives for the sake of others. Or, in some cases, create a whole new avatar/profile in order to express some opinions that you wouldn’t dare share as yourself (I’m looking at you Audition Pianist, Winter Strallen etc…#kisses).

Especially within our industry, we are constantly aware of how others may perceive us. Even though ‘public image’ is a term I would associate with celebrities, it’s becoming something that’s applicable to most with the rise of social media. Ninety percent of the people that I follow on Twitter don’t have private accounts which means that their profiles are open to viewing by anyone and everyone. It’s a public image. It doesn’t matter how active you are on social media (I’m a self-confessed addict), it’s still a public portrayal of yourself. Recently, I’ve become hyper aware of this and censor myself – although that might be hard to believe if you follow me on Twitter! I’ve been incredibly hesitant to post blogs if I’m not 100% happy with them. You should see my drafts folder. I know I don’t make enormous waves but I’ve become incredibly anxious of the reactions that they may receive. Obviously, blogs often open up debate and people have differing opinions. It’s not that kind of reaction I have an opposition to, but rather the negative personal reaction that could come in tow of that. After all, who is this Rebecca Ridout person writing all this stuff about the industry? WHO IS SHE!? It seems to me that negativity makes a much louder noise on the internet than positivity. Therefore, I panic at the thought of making even the smallest of ripples.

Case in point: I tweeted a small (sassy) rant about the result of the general election and made the biggest Twitter impression I will probably ever make. I’m one of the 46,420,413 people that voted in the GE2015 yet my tiny voice still made a bloody ripple.

Twitter

“WHAT IF SOMEONE I WANT TO WORK FOR IS TORY AND NOW HATES ME!?”*

*Probably the stupidest fear ever considering you work in the Arts, Rebecca. But it’s still a thought that ran through my head, a lot.

It’s no wonder we’ve all become our own Public Relations representatives and are only allowing our best bits into the limelight. Such edited excerpts aren’t an accurate portrayal of ourselves, yet we are all increasingly guilty of comparing ourselves to our internet-crazed peers. This industry, undeniably, fuels that comparison fire. We all know people who are regularly thrilled to announce a job (seeeeeriously though guys, what other industry does that!?! I want to know you have a job but I don’t want you to “announce” it to me – that’s reserved for babies/engagements #sorrynotsorry), people who publicize their audition diary so you know when they’ve been seen for that show and that show, and people that tweet, pre-audition, that they’ve already been to the gym (2001 Cathy from the Last Five Years would have been LIVID). But, who am I kidding, we’re never going to convince all those people to change their ways so instead you have to find ways to embrace these traits and keep strong in that favourite Ridout mantra of running your own race.

I recently read the book ‘Happiness by Design’ by Paul Dolan which points out that happiness and misery are contagious. You should do all you can to catch the former and avoid the latter. Basic, but sound, advice. However, choosing the right reference group of people is central to this. Social media has given us flexibility in choosing our peer group (hence all the confused, lefty, Arts folk who were bemused that we didn’t win the election, without realizing that we tend to follow like minded people). Dolan recommends that you prioritize a group of people whose behaviour you want to copy. SO HOLD ON! Don’t do that massive cull of people who commit the above sins just yet – they could be a positive influence on you. You just have to be realistic. You don’t want to look to and hope to copy people’s behaviours if it’s an unobtainable upward comparison – that might make you a whole lot less happy. After all, we can’t all be Cynthia Erivo! It would be silly to compare your career to hers, but she’s pretty damn inspirational so her filling up your news feed with joy is no bad thing. It’s about recognizing the difference between someone who is a tad annoying – because they’re ultimately advertising that they’re in a position you want to be in – and someone who is actually doing you harm with their social media behaviour. Ask yourself “Is this somebody whose voice I need to hear?”*. If you’re leaning towards a ‘no’ then you know what to do. That’s a glorious bit of advice I got from Marie Kondo – the author or ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”. I love a positive mind book, I do. Can you tell?

*Cue Ridout descending into sheer panic at the thought that people might read that and think “well I bloody well don’t need to hear yours, love”. Please like me, Internet!

My personal advice on this subject would be to just take everything you see online with a big-ass pinch of salt. People are, naturally, hiding their demons offline so it’s not worth even beginning to compare yourself to their selected showings. Try to soak up the positivity they put out into the realms of the internet and reflect the bits that you can. Plus, don’t forget that your Facebook-savvy Gran is looking to your updates for a glimpse into your well-being. Your posts – even if only your selected ‘best bits’ – make the people who love you smile. So keep at it and when you’re brave, maybe post something a bit more vulnerable and truthful. Don’t be scared to show both sides of yourself. This is my first step towards stopping the social media censor. After months of hesitating, I finally wrote another blog that will be out there for the internet to judge. Take that, comfort zone! I’ll leave you with my favourite quote ever. Heed this advice:

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind” – Dr. Seuss

Thanks, Dr. Seuss! You’re so right.

Happy social media lovin’!

Note: The photo below has been posted on my Facebook page. I was having a lavely old time with my friends on a Sunday for my birthday. The following day I was back at work in a call centre. Unless I was to #LiveTweet my life, I think it’s okay to be a bit selective.

I'm gonna use #blessed - but it's totally ironic.

I’m gonna use #blessed – but it’s totally ironic.

“Tweet tweet tweet tweet tweet tweet tweet tweet….HOORAY!”

– Rebecca Ridout

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