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The Arresting Rise of the Social Media Police

You type a few sentences, add a link or post a picture and hit SEND. Then the sirens start. WARNING! WARNING! The social media police are stalking you, ready to take you down.

Watch Out!

It was a pretty simple joke. I updated my status on Facebook with what was meant to be a humorous comment, referencing a current event. Tainted, of course, with a little sarcasm. I thought it was harmless and was surprised when a dear old friend took offense to it.

Is there anything at all that isn’t offensive to someone these days?

Social Media is a way for us to connect. We share our thoughts, what we’re doing, our hopes and dreams– we may reach out for support, ask opinions or look for some healthy debate. It’s called sharing. It’s called communication. We use it to keep touch and stay informed — maybe even learn a thing or two.

I’ve found that most posts in social media fall into three categories: I felt this, I did this, and I saw this (and I want to share it).

How is that a bad thing?

Even if you post something that might not be a popular opinion– it’s nothing more than an expression of who you are at that given moment. Doesn’t freedom of speech give you that right?

Is there such a thing as inappropriate content? Of course there is….. BUT Politics, religion, entertainment, current events, family– your life– is completely within your rights to share.

My Opinion

I seriously think there are a lot of people that should not be connected to social media. They aren’t capable of accepting what they find there– or allowing others to exercise their right to free speech. They don’t want to discuss or debate an issue they may disagree with– but they will judge you for posting it.

Do I read, like or comment on everything posted on social media? No, of course not. I do, however, respect the right of people to post it. If I want to engage with people about it, then I will. Most of the time though, people just want to get something off their chest, share a story or state their point of view. They aren’t really looking to have a conversation. That’s okay, too.

On topics I’m not interested in or disagree with — I just scroll on by. If it’s ‘fake news’ or something I feel strongly about, I’ll try to use it as a ‘teaching moment’ and comment. What I will not do, is criticize or state an opposing view that I am not prepared to back up. What would be the point?

That is where the social media police come in.

So exactly who are they?

They are the people that troll online, criticizing people and trying to regulate what they want to see. Don’t even try to please them because they will always find something wrong with your posts.

They are the people that don’t like a specific thing– sports, politics, religion, even cuteness– and issue ultimatums. Usually, that will include the threat that they will delete you or stop following you, if you don’t submit to their demands. They think it is their right to control you.

It becomes difficult when the attacks come from someone you respect, love, work with, or from family. The bottom line is: maybe you (and they) need to stick to other ways to connect. Avoid the rush and get off social media if you can’t handle it.

I’m a political person. Even so, after the above mentioned friend threatened to delete me for my politics, I did a quick look back. Of my past 50+ posts on Facebook, only 10 (20%) had anything to do with current events (not counting entertainment industry posts) and not all of those were even political. For the ‘average’ person– is that too much if that’s what interests them?

Would you tell a mother not to post pictures or stories about their child? Would you tell an actor or musician not to share their work? How about someone fighting cancer or a sports enthusiast? Should they stop posting specific things because you say so? It’s ridiculous.

Sure, I’ve unfollowed some people and even deleted a couple. I’ve never bullied them. At the same time, some of my most favorite people (on social media) are those with whom I have diametrically opposing views on certain issues. Because — we can talk about it, maybe debate it and also even sometimes joke about it. We show respect for one another. I think we enrich each other’s lives because we are open-minded enough to want to learn and understand each other. We’re better people because of it.

Advice to the Would Be Social Media Police

Get off social media!

It’s that simple.

No one has the right to try and control another person. Stop being a bully. You are not the center of the universe. If you don’t like what you see on Facebook or Twitter? Close your account. Shut down your computer. Take a walk. Breathe.

I think if you’re the type of person that just wants to see pictures or cute posts of puppies and food– there are still probably email lists you can sign up for to get your daily dose.

Don’t like what you’re seeing? Your misery and controlling nature doesn’t need to be forced on the rest of us who might actually appreciate the diversity of the world.

Knowledge is power. Acceptance is the key.

If you really don’t like what your friends are posting, maybe you’re just too afraid of learning something new. Or maybe, you really just don’t like your friends.

You decide.

Friends: I Take You With Me

To All My Friends:

I take you with me.

Though we may not share every moment of our lives,

Though years may pass without our sharing a single day,

I take you with me.

You are with me, and you are loved.

 

IMG_1376Michael and I have already mentioned, probably more than a dozen times, people in our lives, past and present, that we’ve thought of on our trip. You see, friends, you are always in our hearts and minds.

 

People I meet, share time with, develop relationships with– impact me daily.

 

Even thousands of miles from home I can’t help but think of many people along the way.

 

*Walking the streets of Old Town in Stockholm, I immediately thought of Gay and her love of European life and culture. I pictured her here, remembering all the many students she exposed to the world with her many trips to Europe.

*When we visit Danzig, how will I not think of my cousin Ginger, whose character in the musical RAGS escaped from there?

*When we visit the Stutthof Concentration Camp, how will I not have my friend Kathy, close in my thoughts? She and I shared a close bond and understanding of the events of the Holocaust and the importance of telling the stories to future generations.

*How will I not think of Jason after our frequent Patti LuPone conversations, while she performs on our cruise?

Yes, my friends, I have brought you all with me. I carry you with me every day of my life. Your impact and importance in my life goes far beyond the times we might have shared or the experiences we encountered. I think of you often.

Rejoice and celebrate every connection you make. You’ll be surprised how sometimes the most unexpected people influence you the most.

‘GYPSY’ 20 Years Later: Celebrating Strong Women

Twenty years ago, I had the pleasure of directing the Jule Styne, Stephen Sondheim and Arthur Laurents musical, GYPSY for Elgin Summer Theatre at Hemmens Auditorium in Elgin, Illinois. It was the combined effort of the City of Elgin, Independent Players and the Elgin Theatre Company (then, Elgin Community Theatre). It was a big, colorful spectacle that I’ll always hold close to my heart as one of my most important professional accomplishments that had a huge lasting impact on my personal life.

Peggy Pipilis as Mama Rose in the 1993 Elgin Summer Theatre production of Gypsy.

Peggy Pipilis as Mama Rose in the 1993 Elgin Summer Theatre production of Gypsy.

For those of you not that familiar with the show– it coined the phrase, “Sing out, Louise” and introduced the legendary “mother of all mothers” — the biggest stage mom of them all, Mama Rose. The character was originated by stage icon, Ethel Merman, in 1959 and later portrayed on film by Rosalind Russell. There have been many famous Mama Roses over the years including Angela Lansbury, Tyne Daly, Bernadette Peters and most recently: the sensational Patti LuPone.

In the story, single mom Rose foregoes all hopes of a normal life for her two daughters, pushing them in the dying vaudeville circuit, only to have her eldest (her star) leave her. In one last-ditch effort, Rose forces her younger, less talented daughter Louise to become a stripper. That stripper became perhaps the most famous of all time, Gypsy Rose Lee. Rose was blinded by stardom. If not for her, then for her daughters, no matter what the cost.

I’ve had this blog post mulling around in my head for a couple months now. i just wasn’t completely sure how I wanted to approach it… until last night.

Last night, I was reunited with a very good friend I hadn’t seen in almost thirty years. When our friendship began all those years ago– I remember her being a strong, level-headed influence in my life. Of course we reminisced about the old days, last night but more importantly, we started to get caught up on our lives since. Tara is indeed, still the strong, intelligent woman I remembered (and missed) from so many years ago.

I’ve been blessed to know many strong women over the years– which brings me back to our production of Gypsy and start of probably the greatest friendship of my life.

Peggy and I met working on a previous show but didn’t connect on a personal level until production of Gypsy started. She was (and is) my Mama Rose. I was still living in Chicago at the time and Peggy offered to drive me to the train station after rehearsals each night, giving us extra time to talk about her role and quickly establishing a tight bond that went far beyond a typical actress-director relationship. We just clicked.

I can’t even begin to go in to all the adventures we’ve shared over the the years but her family is my extended family. I think I’ve probably shared as many, if not more holidays and special occasions with them than with my own immediate family.

Our friendship and the relationship with her family, to me, is an example of what life is all about.

Gypsy also brought at least four other strong women into my life that have made a lasting impact on me. Two are brilliant single moms that single handedly raised amazing children; one is the most positive cheerleader I’ve ever known; and a wonderful performer, now teacher, that I was fortunate enough to reconnect with recently and is doing incredible work training future young artists. All strong women… all with unique challenges and circumstances… all important role models in my life.

All of us take our connections and circumstances for granted at some point in our lives. We seldom know what relationships or events are going to have the biggest, lasting impact on us at that time. This is why it is so important to cherish the moments, the people and the opportunities while they are happening. I’ve been reminded time and time again over the past few weeks exactly how important those experiences are in making me who I am today.