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Got the Digital Blues? Try live theater!


Reading + Entertainment

  • people at a live event

Shaun, Hespeler | March 1, 2018

I think I have the Digital Blues. Okay, it’s not actually a real thing, but hear me out anyway. Here’s the problem: the internet, with its billions of connections through countless platforms from Twitter, to Skype, to good old fashioned email, should have me feeling more connected than ever to humanity, right? Nope. Too often it has the opposite effect. Call me old fashioned, but to me people just seem less real in the digital world. So much content online is passed through filters (literally or metaphorically) to make it brighter, shinier, happier; more than perfect (or, these days, angrier and more ignorant). And while many people are drawn to the online world for its surreal nature, I find it somewhat isolating. I am looking for a level of human connection that the digital world cannot provide. 

Fortunately, I have an antidote: live, in-person events like concerts, sports, events, or games nights are perfect for reconnecting with other human beings, in a fun, tangible way. It’s amazing how life-affirming a shared experience or even just good laugh can be among friends. Much more than the somewhat insincere LOLs and OMGs passed around the internet. If electronic devices are put away and people are experiencing something together in real time, I’m there. And for me, if I’m looking for a strong connection to humanity, nothing beats live theater.

Part of what makes live theater appealing to me is that each performance is a unique, one-time-only event.  It only exists in the present in real time.  And it only works if the actors and crew are on their game.  If someone makes a mistake, there are no do-overs. There’s no “phoning it in”. There are no pause or rewind buttons, and when it is over, there will be no copies. Only you and the other people in the theater at that time will have experienced the benefits of the work that went into that particular show. And that makes it so much more meaningful. 

Another draw for me is the pure vitality of a live performance. There is a palpable energy watching a real, live human perform. You can feel it. And so can the other audience members. You feel it together. In fact, a recent study has shown that audiences are so immersed in a good show that the heartbeats of actors and audience members actually synchronize during a performance!  My hunch is that this is due in part to the absence of any screens or filters. There is no barrier between the actor and the audience. The actors must draw the audience in using pure human emotion. And pure human emotion is a powerful and complex. A good actor can stand on the stage in silence and have the audience captivated. In contrast, the most captivating thing online these days revolves around people eating laundry detergent for fun.

If you’re suffering from the Digital Blues, why not try some live theater? Heaven knows there’s enough of it if you look around.

Here are a few theaters in the area you may want to explore:

Here is some further reading on the topic of Digital Blues:

The End of AbsenceSensemakingThe Internet Is Not the Answer The Cyber Effect