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Careers Clinic: How can I stop Twitter taking over?

John Byrne. Photo: Catherine Usher John Byrne. Photo: Catherine Usher
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I was once one of those actors who originally set up Facebook and Twitter accounts for no other reason except that my friends all had them. I then left them dormant for several years.

Eventually, after attending some casting director workshops and reading articles by you and others, I began to actually use my social media accounts to try to further my acting career.

Initially it had a very good effect. I made a lot of good connections, kept myself up to date with what was going on in the industry, and even got a few castings and at least one part as a direct result of a post I found online. So far, so good.

Over the past year, I seem to have spent more and time online and less time doing the other things that used to get me work.

I also find myself getting very agitated when I can’t use my phone in case I miss a casting or fall behind with my replies.

I still find social media very useful so ‘cold turkey’ isn’t an option, but do you have any advice on a healthy way for actors to use social media platforms but not be consumed by it?

JOHN BYRNE’S ADVICE We may all hate the ‘insecure luvvie’ stereotype but I don’t think many of us would deny that the desire for connection and validation are two big drivers behind a lot of the work we performers do.

In an industry where much of that connection and validation can feel like it is at the mercy of the next casting decision, it is not surprising that the quick hit of a ‘like’ or a comment on one of our posts, especially if it is from somebody influential, can keep us coming back for more.

The dangers of social media addiction have been fairly well publicised, but I would suggest that we performing types need to be particularly aware of them.

Social media platforms can be very useful in bringing us recognition, connections and even castings, but it is crucial to bear in mind that is not their primary purpose.

For the social media companies, the main reason they exist is to keep us online for as long as possible because this is how they sell their platform to advertisers.

Smart devices have no longer made it necessary for actors to wait by the phone.

Instead, most of us now carry mobile devices that are jam packed with clever strategies to keep us scrolling and posting even when we could be doing something more useful, whether that is writing a new piece, working on vocal or physical exercises or getting out to see an actual production. Filtering messages and switching off notifications can certainly help win some of that time back.

However, given that the average creative person is pre-programmed to invest passion in everything they do, even managing the apps that manage our social media can become one more distracting chore.

For me, and for a lot of actors I have recommended it to, the single most effective scheduling method is to have a ‘not to do’ list.

Rather than focusing on the many things I could be doing (which often leads to another trip online) I try to set in stone the times when I absolutely won’t do unproductive things.

When it comes to social media, that includes mealtimes, first thing in the morning, late in the evening and when I have a particular block of work, physical or mental, to do.

As with all addictions, it can be hard to stick to the rules at first, but as you start to make good use of the saved time, focus and energy, you should find that when you do allow yourself to go online, you will have far more concrete achievements to post about.

Contact careers adviser John Byrne at dearjohn@thestage.co.uk or @dearjohnbyrne

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