Could it be that Marisa Mayer's announcement banning telecommuting and Shia Labeouf's exit from the Orphans cast were orchestrated by some unseen hand working to free us from the isolation that the reliance on telecommuting has wrought? Or a confluence of events designed to help my teenage son get a date? Maybe both.
Only a few years ago, telecommuting was going to be the answer to so many problems. For one thing, it was touted as a strategy that would help the environment. That hasn't quite panned out. It turns out people working at home get lonely. They leave their home offices more often for lunch dates or run errands to break up the day. Plus they're often in homes with old and inefficient heating and air conditioning systems so the carbon footprint is often larger than it would it if theycommuted to work every day.
The Mayer announcement has also provided a great opportunity to bring up research indicating that when people get in an elevator together or share time around a coffee machine this often leads to quantifiable results.
People don't immediately think about show business as an industry that's been affected by a growing reliance on Internet interfacing, but it's true.
Before the convenience of quick and easy file sharing, actors would trek to auditions where you'd meet with producers and directors to audition and discuss projects, but that face-to-face interaction is disappearing. It's fantastically helpful to be able to tape yourself and have a chance to be seen by a director across the country, but you lose the chance to interact and establish an in person rapport which can lead all parties to get a good idea if a collaboration will be a productive one.
This brings me to Shia LaBeouf's untimely exit from the production of Orphans heading to Broadway this March. As someone who was famously fired by Woody Allen, I know that no matter how many leaked emails or second hand accounts we're treated to, we'll never know exactly what happened and perhaps this situation couldn't possibly have been avoided.
When LaBeouf was dismissed or quit after one week of rehearsals, LaBeouf leaked numerous email correspondences and even posted a video link to his audition on the Internet. Why? One can only guess he did this to protect his reputation by showing his brilliance in the role. (Full disclosure: I happen to be huge fan. I worked with LaBeouf playing his mother in the pilot of the Disney series Even Stevens. He's a super star.) He memorized the entire text of the play for the audition and the tape is riveting and quite a tour de force. Alas, Orphans is not a monologue. A performance can't exist in a vacuum, particularly in the theatre. We have no idea how well he played with others from that footage. That LaBeouf even thought to do this, is worth contemplating as a sign of our times. It might be a cautionary tale.
Which brings me to a truly pressing issue. As my teenage son has told me, he too is relying on telecommuting to realize his current goal in life. He gets lonely in his home office, aka his smelly sock-strewn bedroom as well.
"I just want to make out with girls, Mom!"
"Any girls in particular?"
"No, mom, any of them."
Like so many Millenials, he spends hour after hour casting a wide net: Facebooking, texting, Skyping, AIMing, iChating, Snap Chatting on his computer.
On the rare occasion he actually makes plans and gets together in the real world, he reports that he is finding face to face meet ups "awkward." Ya think? This just in: dating is awkward.
That Millenials are losing their social skills isn't news, but between Marissa's missive and Shia's online assault, I took it as a wake up call for my own kid and his agenda. All that connectedness is making their relationships shallower and they're more isolated. Could it be that outside of truly important issues that face workers, like caregivers and new mothers who need to be able to split time between an office and their home, we've gotten a little too comfortable at home in our sweat pants in front of our screens?
That is why I just ponied up for twenty dollar tickets and will be driving my kid two and a half hours from our home in Los Angeles to Santa Ana next month to a Burgerama concert and to basically anywhere he wants to go to increase his chances of sucking face. Some times you just have to put in the face time. My son should thank Marissa and Shia. Me? Well, we'll see.