“You see, you can find all your friends. You add them. Then you can tag them in photos. And people tag you. And you can tell people what you are doing.”
“I can tell people what I’m doing on the phone. And I don’t want to be ‘tagged’ unless I’m reincarnated as a gorilla and it’s by the Dian Fossey Foundation.”
It was late 2008 and my friend Richard was desperately trying to make me understand the virtues of Facebook. As far as I was concerned I had my Hotmail email address (featuring a classic late-90s underscore), a Nokia 3210 and I was quite happy. If I wanted to see pictures of my friends, I’d get out the packets of Boots processed photos I’d never quite managed to put into albums.
I continued like this for a further three years as I developed a career in performance; clinging to buttons, pens, actual paper, anything tangible. People called me a Luddite; I gripped my huge Dell laptop even tighter. Then in 2011, I was taking a show to Edinburgh for the first time in years, with Mars.tarrab, the company I co-run.
We were paired with a brilliant young producer. “YOU DO NOT UNDERSTAND,” she said, like she was talking to her parents. “Edinburgh is about social media. You need websites, Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. Now.” My co-director nat tarrab stared at me blankly. “Don’t look at me. I live in a caravan. In Devon. We don’t even have dial-up.”
And thus necessity dictated my sneaking shame-faced into the Social Media Party. I used Weebly, a very simple build-it-yourself webpage system, to create a couple of straight-forward websites: one for the company and one for my own work. I still use them now, even if there are other newer platforms that might be a bit snazzier.
Facebook took longer to wrap my head around, but I was guided by the very brilliant Alex Menace of trash culture purveyor Amy Grimehouse, a woman who uses Facebook artfully to sell out brilliant events, create a community and never strays into posting photos of her lunch (unless it happens to look like Barbra Streisand). She explained I needed a profile for me, for the company and also a page for “Rachel Mars Performance” and I had to keep them active.
It all seemed overwhelmingly like a full time job. It’s 2014 now and I’m trying. I admit, I still fail to update the “performance” page as much as my own profile, and therefore the confusing blur between myself and my work remains as blurred online as it is in my life.
More sound advice followed from writer Shaun Levin. You wouldn’t run into a party, shout “I’m Rachel Mars! I have a show on! Come and see it!” and then bugger off, he told me. He advocated using Facebook like a conversation: listen, respond, ask questions. Basically, don’t be a self-absorbed arsehole. Good advice that.
Then came Twitter, and to my surprise I found a format that I loved. Short and perfect for attempting to be witty, it seemed to invite the wordplay and brevity that I delight in. I like Twitter, it feels effortless and fun. But best of all I have made friends through it. Real actual friends who I make work with and eat actual food with and talk to on the phone. A Samsung smartphone whose lack of buttons gives me daily fury. Then there’s the ridiculous predictive text suggestions and a reminder that not all digital advances are advances.
Oh bring me back my Nokia 3210 anyday … (but maybe with a tablet on the side so I can keep up with Twitter and Facebook).
About the author
Rachel Mars is a performance maker with a background in theatre, live art and comedy. She uses the autobiographical as a starting point to create performances that are funny, intimate, rude and sometimes heart-breaking. She makes performance work as a solo artist, collaborates with a range of artists including nat tarrab as Mars.tarrab and curates programmes of art and culture at the JCC for London. Find out more about Rachel’s work at www.rachelmars.org or Twitter: @rachelofmars