I’m sitting in an intimate theater with a bunch of teenagers at the opening performance of the play Tagged. As you would expect, the teens are loud as they sing along to the blaring pop music as we wait for the show to begin. It reminds me of my teen years going on field trips and thinking “yeah, nothing we haven’t heard already, but we get a break from classes, right?” I was totally that type of kid. What we were about to see is something we’ve all heard about: the dangers of sharing on social media. While social pressures haven’t changed much, social media has changed everything. Thanks to smart phones we are able to upload and share every moment of our lives because “everyone does it.” How we feel, what we eat, where we are, who we’re with… in mere seconds our social networks are privy to our lives. Tagged asks the audience to think about where we draw the line. When does funny become malicious? The harsh realities of cyber bullying are explored in Tagged as an Officer investigates two teens, Jerri and Webber, after photos from a house party goes viral. Jerri, the popular girl who thinks she’s above the law doesn’t have time for all this nonsense because it was all harmless fun. Weber is a wannabe YouTuber who is looking to gain more followers and likes on his posts. The party scenario unfolds through flashbacks between the police interviews and unravels a story that is far too familiar. Do these teens actually understand the consequences of their actions? Have the police even caught the right people? How responsible are we for the words that we type and what they lead others to do? Torn from the headlines, Tagged dissects the dangerous potential for harm that exists between social media and young minds.
“She’s going to be famous, isn’t that what everybody wants?”
Explains in a Q&A session with the kids that when he was their age, he had the same types of social issues with peer pressure and bullying. “But we could go home and not have to deal with it and take a break for 12 hours or so and hope it goes away,” said Dave. “But today because of social media the issues are non-stop and don’t ever go away.” “But what’s the big deal?” a line from the play, but one we also hear all too often in real life. We all know just how big of a deal it can be regardless of age. Social media can be scrutinized, dissected and torn apart under a microscopic lens in mere seconds.
“Now she’s trending.”
I was curious as to how the play would be received with the teens… after all, they are the main audience. Judging by the emotional reactions from the teens at this performance, Tagged appears to have stirred something up. Their reactions were immediate and honest. Not surprisingly (but concerning) most of the students in the audience knew someone who was in this situation either as the victim or an active participant in social sharing. In 50 minutes, the play had reminded teens (and us adults too) to pause and think about what we post online and makes us questions why we do these things? I had a chance to chat with Dave Deveau after the play mentioning that if he’s able to draw emotion from even just one teen, then he’s on the right track to get kids to stop in think. In this particular audience there were a few tears.