Editor’s Note: So You Like Movies is a series on a film critic’s first year in the trenches. Catch up on past editions here.
As a child, my father used to impart to me small words of wisdom that I assume he had either seen in a movie or had been told to him. One particular saying that has managed to stay deeply lodged in my brain is, “It is better to stay silent and appear the fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” Now while I’m not entirely sure where the quote comes from (and apparently no one is as it is ascribed to everything from the Bible, to Mark Twain, to a Chinese proverb), it was one of the few that really stuck around. When I heard about Twitter, this was my first thought.
I hated Twitter. Excuse me, I take that back. I hated the idea of Twitter. I was a begrudging accepter of social media. I created my Facebook account roughly a week before my first day of college, got LinkedIn because the career counselors at my school extolled its “astounding” networking capabilities, and finished up a Google+ page around the day it stopped being relevant. I had caved to so many plug-ins and apps, yet I had managed to proudly stand my ground against Twitter.
I wanted no part of this filter-less sharing, this stream of word vomit that couldn’t bother with coherent thoughts. I was content merely appearing the fool, while more than enough others removed plenty of doubt.
My outsider perspective saw Twitter as this unnecessary bullhorn for the vapid attention seekers. Those same people that took to Facebook to unsuccessfully shroud their need for validation as they relentlessly dug for compliments were on Twitter. The overly political guy that self-assuredly challenged the choices of his elected leaders, knowing full well that he barely earned his Communications degree from that safety school; he was on Twitter too. I wanted no part of this filter-less sharing, this stream of word vomit that couldn’t bother with coherent thoughts. I was content merely appearing the fool, while more than enough others removed plenty of doubt.
Nevertheless, as I attempted to mine the world of the film critic, I was immediately faced with my adversary. I sat across from real deal (like, in actual print) film critic Ty Burr and attempted to soak up any and all advice that he was willing to offer. The first thing he said smacked my pride right in the bathing suit area, “Are you on Twitter? You need to be on Twitter.”
My intentions were to take this whole film critic aspiration seriously, and in so doing it would be ruefully ignorant of me to trash the experienced advice I had been offered. I aggressively hammered on my keyboard, going through all of the requisite steps involved in the creation of a Twitter account. While I certainly created my Twitter account with a depressive anger, it began to fade with use. That’s because, for an aspiring writer with no marketing background or budget, Twitter is your best friend.
One of the most difficult aspects of writing is not generating content (although sometimes that can be a beast unto itself), but getting people to actually read what you have to say. Finding an audience can be just plain hard, especially as most of the time you start at places with limited to no dedicated subscribers. By searching through Twitter and posting links to anything and everything you write, you create a new avenue for others to find your stuff. But even more than that, you begin to get exposed to other writers, many of whom are on similar ground, producing some truly worthwhile content.
Follow, favorite, and retweet everything that you enjoy. Before you know it, you will be wasting an unhealthy amount of time just scrolling through Twitter, completely forgetting the vitriol you once spewed at its back.
Twitter is certainly littered with stupidity (e.g., people surprised that the Titanic really did sink) and hate, but honestly so is every other mode of social media, and life for that matter. Embrace Twitter for what it is: a community builder. Plumb its vacuous depths for interesting writing, new artists, and plain old funny people. Find and read pieces from those that are certainly smarter and more profound than you. Follow, favorite, and retweet everything that you enjoy. Before you know it, you will be wasting an unhealthy amount of time just scrolling through Twitter, completely forgetting the vitriol you once spewed at its back.
Without Twitter, I may never have found Next Projection, and as a result, you certainly wouldn’t be reading this. In this internet age, take advantage of all of the free tools that you can (who knows how much longer Twitter will be free, having posted $511 million in losses for 2013), and let Twitter be part of your marketing strategy.
Just be careful not to go removing too much foolish doubt.