When was the last time you checked Facebook? Chances are, you are one of the 56 percent of Americans who have a profile on a social networking site and one of the 22 percent who use that multiple times per day. In fact, 23 percent of Facebook users check in five or more times in a day, according to the social media marketing service Convince & Convert (convinceandconvert.com).
Add that to all the hours you spend texting, watching videos on YouTube and playing online games, and that's a whole lot of time that could be spent on anything from homework to talking face to face with all those people you communicate with so often in cyberspace.
Cell phones and the Internet have changed the way people from every age range communicate, but it has affected none more than teenagers. The Whitmore Charter High School advanced drama class explores this topic in its original play "iTruth?," a collection of stories related to the many forms of social media.
The class of 16 has spent three months writing and staging the play, guided by a course developed by playwright Lindsay Price. The students began by brainstorming ideas that were relevant to their lives and found that all their best concepts could fit under one categorical umbrella: social media. They wrote monologues on the topic and improvised skits based on those. Finally, they broke into small groups to write scenes.
"It's totally from the students. I really tried my best to just guide so that this was very authentic and meaningful to them," said Whitmore drama teacher Gail Benge.
The finished piece is a fast-paced montage of 13 vignettes that show the good, the bad and the ugly of our constant communication. It covers cyberbullying, online gaming, false identities, miscommunications, online stalking and addiction to technological devices in a way that will entertain, amuse and make audiences think.
"It's how (social media) makes them feel connected, it's how it makes them feel disconnected or bullied, it's how we function with it and how we can't function without it.
It's how people see their own reality within each social media and how sometimes it's true and sometimes it's not true," said Benge.
Whitmore Charter is a university model high school that allows students from all corners of the county to take classes online, on site or through home-schooling. Its drama department has produced shows that range from musical theater to Shakespeare to Pulitzer Prize-winning drama. Benge said she felt it was time to attempt the feat of creating an original play and is thrilled with how it has turned out.
All right, you can get back to your smart phone now, the article is done. But while you are there, why don't you share this story? Who knows what might come of it? Through the power of our social connection, one click could change the world.
"iTruth?" performances are today and Friday at 6:30 p.m. at 3435 Don Pedro Road, Ceres. To reserve tickets, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Carolyn Stevens is a junior at Whitmore Charter High School and a member of The Bee's Teens in the Newsroom program.