Imagine for a moment, standing in the center of empty silence; no information for your senses to decipher except the pressure between the floor and the bottom of the soles of your shoes. Suffocating in perpetual darkness, you’ve lost your sense of direction in the absence of light. A short bit of panic subsides when light begins to leak through a vail of red velvet that weighs heavy on thin planks of well-worn hard wood.
Somewhere between 1564 and 1616, William Shakespeare wrote, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players:” Long before technology tangled itself within the human existence, a brilliant man called attention to the theater and drama in everyday lives. What is our current reality?
Tension in the cables and ropes pull the red wall skyward. Blinding light assaults your senses for a moment. Once the aperture of our eyes adjust to the exposure of the scene, a microphone stand and it’s shadow appear in a puddle of light, extending towards your toes, inviting you to step up and speak your thoughts, mind to mic, so to speak.
“All the world’s a stage…” Are we all actors and actresses in the movie we call life? When we step out of bed in the morning, our roles for the day are normally laid out by our own, society’s, and our employer’s expectations, laws, or guidelines. These rules we follow are the results of centuries worth of mistakes and lessons learned in humanity. Sociology calls this learning of society’s rules socialization. So, what interactions are actually genuine? Do these guidelines force us to be anything other than what we want to be? Do they push us farther left or right of center than where we are meant to be? Can anyone be 100% real or would there be consequences for their actions? Are we all fitting the mold for what fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, friends, students, teachers, soldiers, and employees are supposed to be? In Shakespeare’s time, these are the roles he speaks of in his infamous monologue. What would he think of this new world?
When you move toward the microphone you notice an audience giving you their full attention. A single source of hard light is beaming from behind their seats, you can’t make out your audience’s faces; you’re essentially blind to their emotion, also, their judgement. The soft glow of light penetrating hair and silhouetting hats and shoulders gives you an idea of the depth of the theater. When your fingers touch the microphone, two more spot lights illuminate you from 10 and 2 o’clock. You now realize you have a wider theater and more company than you initially thought. All the light in the theater is directed towards you and this forces the cameras and people in the audience to isolate and focus on you.
Uniforms we see in life are costumes that carry responsibility for the wearer to bear. Clothes are viewed as tools to convince or persuade. Human behavior is manipulated to cause separation between people. Homes and vehicles are seen as measures of success, or props, if you will. Jewelry, hairstyles, and makeup are items we use to paint a picture of who we are as a character. Store-fronts and establishments are set designs that offer services, goods, or food.
There is a difference between the society of Shakespeare’s time and ours…technology, and more specifically, social media. Everyone nowadays has a stage similar to that mentioned above; when you open your Facebook app, stage lights illuminate, essential preparing for a show. The microphone looks a little more like the all too familiar question “What’s on your mind?”
If you were in that situation above, live and in person, standing on a stage at the front of a beautiful theater that is full of your “friends” what would you say, show, or share? Would you make your words matter? It’s hard to believe a nation full of people afraid of public speaking feel so free to use throw away words and phrases on a world stage. People forget they are essentially public speaking without the immediate reaction of the audience’s emotion and judgement. What would change in your delivery if your audience was standing on the same floor as you, under every light the theater’s electrical system could muster? In that setting, you could see your audience’s reaction to your words, you can see their judgement, their emotional response to your words… That’s where fear of public speaking comes from; being unsure of the accuracy of your words, the cold stares from certain listeners, and the possibility hecklers making you look like an idiot. That pressure, the unknown of our audiences reaction, forces us to be as accurate as possible, we make our words count and we pour passion into them. Public speaking has a unique way of humbling us before we ever speak.
What role are you playing on your social media? Who are you? Have you created a personality that’s different than your own? How different are you? In a society that’s full of restricted interactions that are bound by rules and expectations, is another platform or “role” something you need to hold in such a high regard? Are you losing yourself by trying to remain current, forcing yourself away from your center?
All the world is indeed a stage, in life and online; however, the further you push yourself away from who you are, the more lost you are going to feel. Know that roles and highlight reels do not define who you actually are.
In a world full of actors and actresses, we have lost ourselves in the chaos of theater that’s mistaken as reality.