Social media has transformed showbiz, making it easier for young performers to express themselves, connect with fans and even get their big break.
A strong social media presence can even be used as leverage during the casting process.
But what do performers think about it? Variety surveyed those highlighted in this year’s Young Hollywood issue and got a wide array of responses: While some are pro-social media, others expressed deep ambivalence about its impact on society at large and the industry in particular. Cover star Cole Sprouse, who got his start on the Disney Channel with his brother Dylan and now stars in “Riverdale,” was especially passionate about the dangers of social media for younger actors, for instance, while “The Act” star Joey King was far more upbeat about it.
Here are some of the reactions:
“The impact of social media is one of the biggest changes in the world over the last few years,” says DJ and record producer Martin Garrix. “Social media is a great way for me to connect with my fans all over the world. It is also a new way to reach people with my music, which I think is a beautiful thing.”
“I use social media to put a smile on my fans and just the world’s face,” “Shazam!” and “Andi Mack” star Asher Angel says. “It’s helped my career 100% — even on the music side. If I post something, fans go straight to where it is and buy it or post it. Those fans go see my movie as well. That’s how it all happens.”
“Personally I love social media; it’s such an important tool and a way for me to connect with my fans at any moment. Social media has definitely helped launch my career and has been a huge part of my success so far,” says singer Zhavia.
“Definitely social media was a big indicator that the movie had reached quite a few people, and now I just really want to use it responsibly,” says “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” star Lana Condor, who uses hers to raise awareness about a scholarship for girls in Vietnam. “To me it has been awesome to be able to promote that.”
“I am who I am and I never really try to hide who I am,” says King, who posted an emotional video reaction to her Emmy nomination for “The Act” on Twitter. “I’m super extroverted. You kind of get a sense of who I am on social media.”
“I enjoy social media to see what my friends are up to but I am super into gaming so I’d rather connect with people on gaming platforms,” says JD McCrary, the voice of Young Simba in “The Lion King.” “I love Fortnite!”
“The older I’ve gotten, and the more I’ve matured in a way that I know how harmful it could be, I’ve tried to take breaks from it,” says “Black-ish” and “Little” star Marsai Martin, who signed a first-look production deal with Universal this year.
“I see how securities and insecurities are impacted by social media,” says singer-songwriter H.E.R. “We forget to live for ourselves, not for likes and views. It’s important to stay true to who you are.”
“I’ve gotten lucky in that ‘Stranger Things’ has such a massive following that I’ve been able to accumulate a lot of followers, and I’m not particularly active,” says Maya Hawke, who laments that “producers and production companies look at how many followers a young actor has and use that sometimes as the basis of how castable they are.”
“I’m really conscious about my intention,” singer Camila Cabello says of her social media use these days. “Am I trying to connect with my fans or trying to see what people think about me? If it’s the second, it always ends up with hurt feelings. And if there are things going on in my personal life, I totally avoid social media because I feel like I have to go into protecting-myself-being-normal state.”
“There’s ‘Euphoria’ world, there’s real life, then there’s Instagram,” says “Euphoria” star Hunter Schafer. “I really appreciate all the support and it’s really cool to know that people want to be a part of what I put out there. It’s really scary, too, I’m not going to lie.”
“I think our obsession with social media and follower counts is coming from a statistically-minded group of employers and CEOs that are looking at follower counts as butts in the seats and that’s not really the case,” says Sprouse, who points out that social media did not exist when he and his brother were starting out on “The Suite Life of Zack & Cody.” “I think it’s dangerous to rely on social media following of talent or success — I think it’s more of a publicity machine than an actual filter of talent and so I don’t think it’s good for actors.”
“The way social media is going isn’t great in terms of human connection; people spend so much time on their phones, spend so much time comparing themselves to what they see on social media which isn’t healthy at all,” says “Sex Education” star Asa Butterfield. “I think the negatives probably do outweigh the positives at this point, but people who have a presence on social media have the ability to make positive change and to influence others positively if they chose to, and that is the important part of it.”
“It’s definitely caused a lot of issues for our society, especially amongst young people,” says Greta Van Fleet’s Sam Kiszka. “I would hope that it’s not something that’s around forever, but for the way our society works right now with the massive explosion of the Internet and attention spans, it’s how our society is right now, especially with young people. It’s very difficult to reach a mass audience because there are so many people trying to reach that mass audience.”
“I’ve never been the biggest proponent of social media, says “It” star Jaeden Martell. “I wasn’t very and I still am not very active on social media. I did have to get used to having to post for things and having to keep up with social media.”
What are the biggest issues facing your generation? “Social media,” responds Ava Max. “Portraying a fake version of reality.”