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How To Get Away With Murder Star On How Social Media Affects Actors And His Fifteen Minute Rule

The Huffington Post logo The Huffington Post 9/03/2016 Quora

Does social media impact the professional or personal lives of actors? Can you choose to ignore it? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.Answer by Matt McGorry, actor, Orange Is The New Black, How To Get Away With Murder, on Quora.

It absolutely affects our lives. It really affects the lives of any one that chooses to engage with it though. With actors, you're just getting a lot more feedback and stimulus on it. It's been fascinating to note how actors, myself included, adapt to certain circumstances. As humans are prone to doing, one thing that would've seemed impossible and insane to us a year prior can quickly become your baseline and norm. Even 2 years ago, I remember when I doubled Instagram followers in one day. If you'd told me back then that I'd have 1.4 million instagram followers today, I probably would've shit my pants. I remember in the days of 13k followers I saw a girl, with a roughly the same amount of followers that I have now, post a photo and instantly get hundreds and then thousands of likes. I remember seeing her casually refreshing it and thinking "This is not casual! You are literally having thousands of people instantly interact and have feelings about a photo that you took on a whim 2 seconds earlier!" But again, you acclimate to it, which is very normal.

For me, it's been an incredible tool to promote various platforms of social justice. Having that reach does really make me feel like I can make a difference in the conversations that people are having. And I honestly never get tired of people's messages of how I've taught them something they didn't know, inspired to buy Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow, and made them take more action to promote equality. That has been the most rewarding part of it for me.

There is undoubtedly a down-side to social media as well. The amount that most people unconsciously check and refresh their accounts looking to see the engagement level of their posts is something that I think can ultimately negatively affect our lives. Science tells us that we get a positive hormonal response upon people engaging with our posts, but I think it's very easy to start needing that. That validation-level becomes a baseline and something we ended up being slightly addicted to rather than it just being a fun little side activity. And because humans adapt to it and certain levels of likes, retweets, and comments become routine for us, we end up constantly hungry for more. I don't think that's a particularly healthy need that I want to support in myself.

My schedule ends up being very busy and hectic at times, so I try to prioritize being present and available in whatever ways that I can.

As a result, I've established some routines that have been suppppperrr helpful. Once in the morning and once at night, I'll set a timer on my phone for 15 minutes. That's all the time I have in one sitting to go through Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to look at the responses my posts have gotten and find any articles that I want to read. I then will either pause the timer to read the articles and start it again when I'm done, or save the articles for outside of my "social media time." Throughout the day, if I want to post things like a picture or an article, I can do that, but I can't look at the response it's gotten until my evening 15 minutes. Also not included in the 15 minutes is figuring out which photos to post or what to write for the captions, which can sometimes take an embarrassing amount of time. I don't always stick to these rules but having it as a guideline is incredibly helpful for me and I'd encourage you to try it if you find yourself mindlessly looking through your social media accounts a lot.

The other issue with social media is that we are always trying to put our best foot forwards. It's become very important in our culture that we're living lives which appear very important (on social media) and that we constantly get validation for it. I literally will feel bummed if something got less likes than I hoped for. Which is fucking ridiculous. The same number of likes that would've given me a rock-hard ego boner when I had 26k followers would actually cause me to be slightly bummed now that I have 1.4m followers. And I think being aware of how nuts and potentially dangerous that mindset can be is very important. But truthfully, I have no idea if and when I would've realized that if I hadn't gotten to the place of having over a million followers. But take it from someone who has been there, don't get sucked into making it more important than it should be.

As for not having social media, I know a few people and actors who do this. Alfred Enoch, from How to Get Away With Murder, for example, has no social media. He also happens to be one of the most engaged and present people that I've ever met. Hard to tell if one is a result of the other, but I think it certainly helps when he's disengaged from the world of social media. That being said, "doing social media well" has definitely gotten people's attention and provided me with opportunities I would not have necessarily had otherwise. And speaking about the social justice causes that interest me in social media has acted as a bit of a bat signal for people and organizations that I've been able to align myself with in trying to have an impact.

And lastly, I think that there is a value to posting things that scare you. That make you feel vulnerable because of your transparency and because it might not align with how you've always wanted people to view you. Perhaps if there was no such thing as social media, we would just do that in real life. But in a world where most of us ARE engaged in social media, I think it makes a great deal of sense to take risks. I remember when I shot the pilot of HTGAWM, I took a photo of probably the most disgusting face I could make. In hindsight, this feels incredibly stupid, but I held onto that photo for weeks before I posted it. Until then, I had only posted photos where I felt I looked my best, and some part of me feared that by seeing me making a face with 38 chins, that people would think I was ugly or comment really negatively in a way that would hurt my feelings. But the result was that people enjoyed how it displayed my personality and the fact that I wouldn't take myself to seriously. So for people that do find themselves taking 30 selfies just trying to find the right light and angle, I would encourage them to start posting some that aren't "perfect." Because for those people that don't like the way you look...fuck them. If they're going to negatively comment on your posts or not hang out with you as a result, I can promise you that they weren't worth your time in the first place.

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