Social Butterflies: The Use and Misuse of Social Networks

SocialButterflyAlthough it’s uncertain when the phrase was first put into use, a “social butterfly” was likely the forerunner of a “people person”

– an outgoing individual who enjoys the party scene and has a broad circle of friends. In the 21st century, social butterflies abound in electronic neighborhoods such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, allowing participants to connect with former classmates, distant family members and kindred spirits. This month’s exercises take a look at how social networking is impacting our lives for better or worse.   For younger students who haven’t yet mastered the basics of script structure, these lesson ideas lend themselves to extemporaneous storytelling and role-playing skits. Older students are encouraged to draft scenes into correctly formatted screenplays as well as film them for peer review.

SocialButterflyTABLE TOPICS

These discussion questions provide a good foundation prior to choosing which exercises to try first.

1. How much social networking do you do via the Internet on a daily/weekly basis?
2. How much social networking do you do in person on a daily/weekly basis?
3. Which social networks do you belong to and how do you primarily use them?
4. Do your parents have access to your social networking account(s)? Why or why not?
5. In your opinion, what are the best things about social networking?
6. In your opinion, what are the worst things about social networking?
7. Have you ever been “friended” by someone you don’t even know?
8. How important is it to you to have a high number of friends/followers on the Internet?


CAUGHT ON VIDEO

smileyballoonIt seemed like such a cool idea at the time – faking an illness in order to skip school and go to a party at the beach. The weather was great, the food was awesome and the games you played made for a picture perfect memory. You probably didn’t even give a second thought to that person with a video camera until the next day when you realize that highlights of the party have suddenly gone viral on YouTube.

Your assignment: Who is the first person to question you about your unexpected Internet fame – a parent or relative, a teacher, a minister, a movie producer? Write a two-page conversation in which you – as the lead character – either deny or defend those images on global display.

A LONG FATAL LOVE CHASE

LouisaMayAlcottWhen most people hear the name Louisa May Alcott, they immediately associate her with the plucky March sisters in her Civil War novel, Little Women. Two years before that book was published, however, Alcott was applying her talents to a much darker tale of suspense, scandal and stalking. Originally titled A Modern Mephistopheles or The Fatal Love Chase, the novel was rejected by her editors as being much too sensational and controversial for the sensibilities of female readers. The manuscript was set aside and did not resurface again until over a century after her death. In 1995, A Long Fatal Love Chase was finally released and became an overnight bestseller.

Your assignment: In Alcott’s book, the villain pursues the heroine across multiple countries despite her attempts to assume a new identity – and life - in each one. Write a one-page film adaptation synopsis in which all of the chasing is done in modern cyberspace. How the chase ends is up to you.

GARAGE BAND

garagebandMany an aspiring actor, musician or artist has used social media as a virtual portfolio to showcase talents to prospective employers and buyers. Where once upon a time they had to travel to where the markets were, an electronic platform now makes it possible to pitch their work 24/7 from anywhere they live.

Your assignment: The characters in your story – nerdy musicians in a garage band – are tired of being obscure and decide to reinvent themselves as a hot new sensation by donning disguises, creating a fake website with music video, and posting rave reviews about their supposed international tour. Write a one paragraph bio on each of the band members as well as a three-page scene in which they find out they’ve gotten their first “real” gig…at their own school. Should they fess up to the charade or attempt to carry it off and try to fool their classmates?

NUMBERS GAME

GirlcomputerThe quest to be one of the popular kids isn’t something that’s confined to school playgrounds and classrooms. Competition, jealousy and cliques prevail just as much in the workforce, in the neighborhood, in social organizations, and even in retirement communities. While there’s nothing wrong with being well liked by others, an unhealthy obsession with popularity can lead to bullying, susceptibility to substance abuse, deviant behaviors to win peer acceptance, and low self-esteem.

Your assignment: The lead character in your film is determined to add 50 new Facebook friends a week in order to prove that she is really popular. This goal, however, has been at the exclusion of her best friend with whom she used to spend all of her free time. Write a two page dramatic scene in which the best friend confronts her about the destructive downside of using Facebook as a substitute for genuine relationships.

ME, MYSELF & SPY

sunglassesWe like to think of ourselves as unique human beings, especially when it comes to our names. Have you ever looked yourself up on Google, though, and discovered that there are multiple You’s, some of whom may even share the same middle initial? Who wouldn’t be tempted to eavesdrop on their cyber-chats, posts and blogs if for no other reason than to see if they’re living a more interesting life than you…

Your assignment: The character in the TV series you want to write discovers that his/her boring math teacher has exactly the same name as someone who gets squillions of tweets on Twitter. What begins as a weird coincidence leads to the investigation that the tweeter is a popular author of spy novels based on personal experience. Create a cast list for the recurring characters in your show, identify where the series takes place (big city? small town?), and then develop two separate pitches to deliver aloud to your classmates as if they were prospective producers – one in which the student becomes a confidante to the former spy and the others in which the teacher only pretends to be the tweeter in ordr to be more popular.


ChristinaHamlettAs part of my ongoing commitment to supply great lesson plans for today’s classrooms, I always enjoy getting feedback on how the material is used and what kind of new content you’d like to see in future columns. I’m also happy to answer any questions related to specific problems your students may be struggling with. Just drop me a note at or through my website at http://www.authorhamlett.com.

Former actress/director Christina Hamlett is an award winning author, professional script consultant, and ghostwriter. Her credits to date include 26 books, 134 plays for young actors, and 5 optioned feature films.