Journalism or Invasion of Privacy?

1 Mar

An interesting point was presented on NPR today regarding the role of social media sharing, the arts and privacy.

Patti LuPone was speaking about her broadway career on Form when a listener asked about her 2009 reaction to an audience member using flash photography during a stage presentation of “Gypsy.” LuPone’s response gave a very new perspective to me on the role that social media has in privacy and the arts. In short, she explained that while the flash is a very distracting thing to both audience and performer that isn’t the main annoyance. The issue is really in the invasion that social media has made into the theater and the demystification of a sacred place.

Its been a long time since I’ve attended a show of any sort where I wasn’t subjected to the glow another audience member’s LCD screen or even worse the persistent buzz created by text messages on vibrate notification (just because it doesn’t ring doesn’t mean its silent). I understand the general annoyance that comes along with our increased use of technology but until this forum, I had never thought about the implication it had for the sacredness and privacy that a performance is supposed to hold.

The arts are a special subset of our day to day life, they are the closest thing that we as adults have to magic and wonderment. When the auditorium doors close there is an unstated (and in some theaters well stated) understanding that while inside this space you are separate from the rest of the world. Bringing social media into that space is not sharing your experience with the world, rather its destroying the sacred privacy that is intended only for those inside the doors.

Many arguments can be made for need to share the arts but none of them support the use of audience created digital media. While in many situations having a smart-phone can make you into an instant social media journalist, the theater is one place where real time updates need to be left at the door.

The full broadcast of forum can be found here:


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