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Saving Face on Facebook

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To friend or not to friend? That is the question Facebook's many users are confronted with on a daily basis. It's even more of a quandary for actors, whose co-workers constantly change as they go from rehearsal hall to temp job to film set. The more names and faces and contacts you collect, the better for your career, right? That may depend on how wisely, and to what end, you use Facebook.

Facebook is the perfect platform for keeping your network of contacts informed about that play you're in or when your episode of "Rescue Me" or "The Big Bang Theory" will be airing. Do use it to post credits, photos from shows you're in, and even video clips. Use it to reconnect and network with former classmates and colleagues. But understand its limitations. While it can help you to stay in touch with folks you know, it's not the best way to network with those you don't, and it isn't a substitute for a website of your own.

"A social networking site is not as important as having a site with your own domain name," says Eric Brownstone of MyActingSite.com. "To me, it crosses a line that doesn't make a lot of sense. I haven't heard of anybody yet getting an audition because of what they said on Facebook."

Some Facebook users draw a clear line between the site's personal and professional uses. "My personal page on Facebook is just that," says casting director Marci Liroff. "It's for friends and family only. I don't think an actor who tries to befriend me on Facebook, or then tags me on their videos to get me to look at them, is networking. It's pretty annoying, actually."

Liroff recommends that actors wishing to contact her through Facebook do so via her fan page. "My fan page is a great place for me to interact with actors and give them advice," she says, "or steer them towards great blogs I've read about acting, a heads-up on an open call, deals on headshots…all sorts of things."

If you are connected with colleagues through Facebook—and really, who isn't?—keep that in mind and watch what you post and comment on, especially if you're wound up about something. Lambasting a director for an ill-conceived staging of "Timon of Athens" calls into question your discretion if she happens to be on your friend list—or the friend list of one of your friends—and it won't encourage her to cast you in future shows. Word choices could also offend. Tony winner Alice Ripley created an uproar recently when she used a gay slur in a status update that was responding to a criticism of her performance in "Next to Normal." (She's since apologized.)

As with most things in life, common sense and discretion are key. Don't reveal specific details of contracts and compensation or dish about what happened in the rehearsal room that morning. Err on the side of caution when it comes to the Internet. And save the diciest details for margarita night.   

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