Does Using Social Media Help Your Creativity?

November 5, 2013
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When Twitter was born I vowed to boycott and shit-talk it as much as I could until it faltered and faded away like Friendster. I made the same promise when Starbucks started popping up everywhere, and you can see how effectual I was. Realizing it wasn’t going away, and upon the advice of my writer friends, I joined Twitter. “People want to keep up with what you’re doing!” they said. “Plus: only 140 characters!” they said. I am neither good at brevity nor resisting peer pressure.

Twitter doesn’t seem to hinder my creativity any more than anything else (in part because I’m not very good at it) – way less, in fact, than Facebook and Instagram. But there are those who view tweets and Facebook updates as creative bits in and of themselves. As a writer or performer, social media is now a significant part of building and connecting with an audience. So, it’s a separate part of the job, but, if done well (something which I have yet to master), it all feeds back into the work.

A New York based comedian and storyteller I know says that Twitter helps her write jokes as well as zero-in on shows and festivals to pitch her acts to. That in turn helps her crystallize her ideas and gives her deadlines to work towards. In addition, stats on her blog posts help her gauge what works and what doesn’t. When I asked her what social media gets in the way for her, she said, “All other writing-related activity.” Indeed, one memoir-writing friend told me that social media would kill her creative output if she didn’t have an Internet blocking app like SelfControl or StayFocused. I told her I’ve installed blocking apps too. The thing is, I actually have to turn them on.

All this social media stuff is potentially addictive. So the trick is finding a balance. Seems as though if you don’t slow down or lay low for a few days at a time, you wouldn’t have as much to work with in real life as you’d like. Then again, there are musicians who’ve become YouTube-famous and comics and humor writers who’ve gained thousands of followers by making those teeny looping videos on Vine.

Is Vine something I have to do now also? I don’t even have Twitter under control.

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