Frame of Mind: The Social Network

As much as my goals and ambitions are that of making real deal movies and shows like MindHunter and The Flight Attendant, I am also incredibly awful at watching movies and shows. For whatever the reason, it takes a lot for me to get interested. And, with an oversaturated market of superhero movies and one remake after the next, you have my intrigue at an all time low (what a band they were in the early 2000s, eh?). A film that I know I should watch but have yet to do so is the one named after this article, The Social Network. Now, if you pay any attention, over the next week or so, you are going to notice a trend where I title my articles after a movie I’ve never seen. There will be at least one more article (not Frame of Mind) written by yours truly named after a film I have not seen. With that said, I did not title this article in some obscure fashion like Taking Back Sunday and their song Timberwolves at New Jersey. Seriously, Adam. What the hell? No, today’s article focus’ quite literally on the title at hand: social media. 

One of my all time favorite series as directed by David Fincher and shot by Erik Messerschmidt, ASC.

Throughout these installments of FoM, I have periodically discussed my distain for social media and the pitfalls of utilizing the platforms. However, I thought that I would create my best attempt at an honest and sincere article explaining my unimportant thoughts on social media. First and foremost, I have to admit that what is to follow are all things I am unequivocally guilty of doing myself. I am not here to say I am better than thou, because I am not. I have done all the same shit I am about to complain about.

However, I suppose, the only difference is that I don’t do those things much more (at least I hope not). In general, though, the concept behind these social media platforms is really a fun thing. It’s a unique and creative way to express one’s individuality and share with friends what you are up to so that they can stay up-to-date with your life’s happenings. To an extent, you’re creating a life-long, live photo album for all the world and all of your friends to see whenever they want, wherever they are. Okay, shit yeah! That’s rad.

However, in 2022, it’s hard for me to believe that’s what these platforms are truly utilized for anymore. Instead, it’s turned into a cesspool of “influencers” selling you some bullshit pyramid scheme, it’s a place for “never made it” filmmakers to sell you their marketing course so you can start pitching and earning $10,000 plus client jobs if you only pay them $1,000 today. 

It’s a place to leave the nastiest of nasty comments on the page a celebrity or athlete without having the facts and hiding through your iPhone screen. It’s a place to watch people brag about where they are, what they’re eating, who they are with, what they are doing, and a place where athletes are forced to post atrocious sponsor obligated marketing ploys; it’s a perpetual cycle of everybody else telling you how cool they are and why you should “like just go follow me for like more info and for sure totally subscribe to my YouTube channel and podcast for the exclusive things and for sure even more when I have time because like you guys, oh my God, I am just so busy but like I will totally get back to you for sure when I can. Okay guys love you so much guys and anything is possible muuuaaah.”

If you follow my hall pass, Kaley Cuoco, you’ll know they just wrapped production on season two this week. And, if you have not watched season one, do that now. It’s amazing work.

For better or worse, I’ve mostly used my Instagram account for business purposes. I use it to post colored frames from client jobs and to post behind-the-scenes photos and videos from client jobs. I keep my personal life, well… personal. One of the reasons is simple: I don’t give two fucks for you to know what I am doing: eating, drinking, relaxing, working out, vacationing, etc. Not your business and why do I need to tell you AND, why do you even care what I am doing? Most follow me because of my work, so I’ve kept it almost entirely about work. However, over time, it is real easy to catch yourself getting involved in the numbers game. How many followers do I have? How many likes are my posts getting? What is the best time for me to make this post so everybody sees what I am doing? What are the best hashtags to use so that I can get more unique eyeballs and more followers? What is going to be the best photo or video I can post so people will like it? Stupid, right? Right.

In late 2011, I officially joined the vurbmoto crew and, during that time, my Instagram following sky rocketed. Being in my mid-20s at the time, I was loving it. It gives you sense of importance and value. Granted, over time, you realize it’s all false and not real (none of that pays my bills). However, when you move on from one of the most popular dirt bike websites in the world to focus on having your own business with your own clients, that social media growth slows down. People do not find you quite as interesting or cool because you’re not part of some “inner circle” or clique. Yet, you’re still focused on your stats. You want more to make yourself feel validated. Validated for what? I have no idea. 

In 2017, I started to venture outside of motocross a bit and into other topics of documentary work. I shot an hour long doc on a Fresno, CA police officer, another on a minor league baseball player for the San Diego Padres, and a third on a small, two-piece punk rock band based out of Los Angeles, CA. Quickly, I learned that when I posted about these pieces of work on social media, nobody that followed me cared. If it wasn’t a dirt bike post, they didn’t give a shit. It was an odd pill for me to swallow and, honestly, it took me several years to realize it and just say, “Fuck it. I give no shits about it.”

A doc piece I shot and edited on a small, two piece punk rock band. This one took five years to complete. No joke.

In 2018, I began moving into the scripted narrative world. I’ve shot one feature film that I hope you never see, and three short films. Again, if I post about those projects, nobody cares… because it isn’t a dirt bike. Maybe I am just a unique case, but if I follow you, I am going to be keen to see all of the things you post and are interested in. But, hey. That’s just me.

I would say it was around late 2018 that I started slowing down on my social media posts. Nowadays, I maybe make a physical post on Instagram once a month. I should also state that in 2017, I deleted my Facebook and Twitter accounts, so all I have is Instagram. It’s glorious. Why did I stop posting frequently? I started to realize that I never actually got any work out of Instagram posts. All of my opportunities came from clients actually watching my work on a website or by word of mouth. I’ve never had a single client tell me, “Oh, because of Instagram…” Because of that realization, I started to taper back my posts. And, there are a few other reasons…

Narcissists and social media. This is what our world has come to because of social media platforms. Enjoy the laugh, but also know it’s painfully sad, too.

Straight to the point, social media is a toxic environment. Studies have shown that 13 to 66% of teenagers and young adults have a higher reported rate of depression when compared to those that spend the least amount of time on social media. For me, it was easy to get sucked down the Instagram rabbit hole and look at all the other dirt bike filmers getting jobs and working on this or that. Meanwhile, I walk away feeling insecure, pissed off, and believing that everybody is better than me. Instead, I should be feeling happy and stoked to see others getting opportunities and experiencing growth. But, that wasn’t the case. It spun me out. This niche of dirt bike filmmaking is small and oversaturated. It’s not an ideal situation. Especially when you are an individual like myself that is not good at networking but instead letting the work do the talking. This all falls into being good at social media and being able to bro down with the” homies.” Something I don’t do. I’ve always been a bit of a recluse in that regard. I’ve grown up and lived within five miles of the ocean my entire life. So, that means I have an hour commute to and from the tracks. I show up to the track, do my thing, and leave to be back home and live my life. Motocross is NOT my entire life. I have friends, interests, and a whole life away from the track and away from the camera. I always have and I always will. On the business end of things, sure, it has probably hurt me. But, it’s not something I will change. 

Eventually, I started to realize that I was still getting work without posting a lot on social media. That then turned into the realization that I am the busiest I have ever been in my career, and I am posting nothing on social media. Throughout the last three or so years, I’d also been thinking about how I could use social media in a positive fashion? Everybody uses it to show what a narcissist they are. As I mentioned at the top of this article, everybody uses it to brag about how cool they are, or what they doing with this person while eating that thing at some fancy place while buying some car and staying at a five star hotel. It’s all about “Hey! Look at me! Hey! Look at me! Seriously. Hey! Look at me.” All the while, I am wondering what in the hell they do for a living to afford such an extravagant lifestyle. It’s damn easy to make those looking at your content feel insecure and jealous and as if their life is a failure and they are not good enough. This can easily spiral and cause an individual a serious bout of depression. I wasn’t sure how I could post something that made a positive impact, but I did know that posting work officially felt very narcissistic, and “Hey! Look at me.”

So, I just stopped. And, if I was going to post something work related, I was only going to post what I thought was cool and interesting to me without giving a shit what time it was posted or who liked it. And, to further take it to another level, I turned my Instagram page from a business account into a personal account and set it to PRIVATE. Because, the reality is, I just don’t care about the numbers or likes.

Clincal psychologist, Jordan B Peterson talks about the trappings of social media.

After the release of No Runners in September of 2020, I realized that it was a bit hypocritically of myself to create a piece about mental health but also not doing anything to help my own struggles with mental health. I had always wanted get help, but I never dedicated the time to seeking out help and making it happen. So, at the end of 2020, I decided to commence that journey and, in January of 2021, I started seeing a psychologist, which I still see once a week to this day. In going down that path, I realized I had an opportunity to use social media in a positive fashion and open up “publicly” to those that follow me about what I am dealing with and that I am currently in the midst of getting help. It’s something most would not do. But, for whatever the reason, it felt like the easiest and most genuine thing I could use my small platform for. So, I did just that. Essentially, I’ve dedicated my Instagram page to sharing monthly updates about my journey, what we discuss, how the recovery process is coming along, and more. It’s also a bit of a way to throw a middle finger to most everyone else that uses social media to promote their brand or brag about how they are doing some “cool” thing. Again, the whole, “Hey! Look at me” bull shit. None of that is genuine, sincere, or real. And, I felt like being able to be as real and genuine as possible would be the way to show how social media can be used in a positive fashion. In doing so, I’ve had quite a few people reach out to me about those posts and quite a few people, because of reaching out to me, have since started getting help for their own mental health issues. That was what I’ve called a positive, yet unintended consequence of going public about such a matter. 

An abstract take on mental health that was the catalyst for a lot of things to come for me.

Everyday, I watch my follower count on Instagram drop, and it makes me giggle. In the last month alone, I’ve lost roughly 30 followers. All of which I assume is because I don’t post. I am not an exciting follow, and I couldn’t care less. Occasionally, I will post a story and those stories are very random things that make me laugh. But, let’s be real: we can make our lives look far more exciting and interesting on social media than what the reality is. We can use social media to tell everyone how damn busy we are, but the reality is if you’re that busy, you’re not posting on Instagram to tell people you’re busy. It’s all a show.

Life is hard and nobody wants to admit that and show it on social media, so we hide the ugly. For whatever it’s worth, I’ve been saying, “fuck that” and talking about the reality of my mental health struggles, I post weird ass stories because they make ME happy. And, when I do decide to post about work, it’s because I have something I deem as cool to myself, or it’s a challenge from my therapist to speak positively about a piece of work I shot that I am proud of.

As David Goggins said, “Our culture has become hooked on the quick-fix, the life hack, efficiency. Everyone is on the hunt for that simple action algorithm that nets maximum profit with the least amount of effort. There’s no denying this attitude may get you some of the trappings of success, if you’re lucky, but it will not lead to a calloused mind or self-mastery. If you want to master the mind and remove your governor, you’ll have to become addicted to hard work. Because passion and obsession, even talent, are only useful tools if you have the work ethic to back them up.”

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