Love in the Electric/Digital Age v. 2.0 : @MyTwitFace I Love You!

Note: On Monday, Production Dramaturg Kristin Leahey posted a blog that posed the question: how did relationships change as a result of the invention of electricity and the new technological devices that emerged as a result? Has the advancement of technology brought us closer together or further apart? It is a question to consider while viewing Sarah Ruhl’s In the Next Room or the vibrator play. Today we continue that exploration, looking at the same question from a different angle: social media and relationship-building marketing.

My friend Josh – fresh out of a break-up – said to me over a pitcher of Sangria at Bar Pilar last month, “When you’re single, Facebook is great. It’s a flirtation tool! And, it’s a way to just keep in touch with people you wouldn’t normally keep in touch with. When you’re in a relationship, it becomes a stalking device. Where are you, what are you doing, why did this girl write on your Wall…”

It was hot that night. Temps dropped to around 90 degrees. I looked across the DC bar table at my friend who I had met in NYC several years ago, who had moved to LA almost two years ago, and I, I moved from NYC to DC about three months ago, and I said to him, “I love it. I mean, I adore you Josh, but are you someone I would keep in touch with over the telephone?”

“Probably not,” he said. I smiled back. “I can’t imagine,” he continued, “All the times we would have missed hanging out together if we didn’t have this little technology tool.”

Then, deep in the back of my mind that fear crept in – is a friend really a friend if you don’t call on a regular basis? Do I have a closer connection with most of the people in my life because they are active Facebook users, or am I actually lonely, detached, alone? Of my 770 Facebook “friends” how many are actually Friends?

The real catch is: at Woolly, I get a paycheck to develop relationships with people using online tools. It is my job. I say that a lot, “I love Facebook! It’s my job!” Social networking tools are changing the way we do business, especially in marketing. Today, the savvy Facebook user can see right through a “sell” status, or a “Josh suggests you like His Latest Project” invite. Therefore, at the core, these social networking tools are not sales-generating tools. They must be used as relationship-building tools, and everything I do to satisfy the “new media manager” half of my job must ultimately result in relationship-building.

Even as I type this I doubt the authenticity of my intentions. If I get more “fans” or “likers”, or “followers,” or whatever we all are now, did I do a good job? Do I actually have a relationship with these people? Am I actually closer to the Woolly audience? And, because I am in the marketing department, there is that horrid question I hate to ask myself: Did this relationship sell tickets?

At my old job, where I ran an audience development program at the TKTS Booth in Times Square, I was able to use Twitter in such a way that inspired people to come find me in person at the Booth. Suddenly, “followers” became people. They were tall, short, blue-eyed, brown-eyed, shy, bubbly. They had names – first AND last! They walked around without @s in front of them and spoke in long sentences that certainly exceeded 140 characters. I might be bold enough to say that we developed a deeper relationship with each other when this happened, when they came and visited, and I hope the same experience happens at Woolly.

I love Facebook. I love Twitter. I have my eye on Foursquare. They are my job. But no matter how many fans or likers or followers or check-ins I get, nothing will ever make me feel as successful as someone coming up to me in person and saying, “Hi, I’m So-And-So. I follow you on Twitter,” and reaching out their hand for me to shake it, to touch, to connect. To really connect.

~Alli Houseworth, Communications and New Media Manager

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Filed under Communications and Connectivity, In the Next Room or the vibrator play

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