We spend hours on social media liking, retweeting and commenting on content that evokes an array of emotions - from cute videos which make you smile, to triggering arguments on heavy subjects. But have you ever stopped to really think about how the people you follow and the content you engage with influences your life?
Before the last few months I never gave much thought to the type of accounts I followed on Twitter and the content they put out. Most of them were friends and people who formed part of the typical online social bubbles shaped by factors such as age, geography or mutual friendship. However, at some point in the last few months I made a decision which changed the way I interacted with the platform and the feelings I was left with after each interaction.
It started out gradually. I followed two or three content creators from the Caribbean who often appeared on my timeline. I didn’t know them personally but I liked the work they shared and I enjoyed reading their tweets about the challenges, victories and thoughts that go into their work. In fact, I liked it so much that I started following more creatives from the Caribbean and initiating conversations related to their artistic journeys. I was not always immediately aware of it, but these exchanges usually left me feeling curious, inspired and invigorated. I admired their bravery in putting themselves and their work out there and it made me want to reach that level myself.
When I became properly aware of the positive impact of their tweets, I began to spend time actually curating my timeline, searching for and following people in my region with similar interests. My Twitter feed soon looked very different from what it was three or four months ago. I would open the app and see a lot more tweets about writing or content creation and each one quietly strengthened my resolve to put pen to paper and finally write the stories I always dreamed of.
More importantly, our interactions and my frequent consumption of their content emphasized something I needed to be reminded of- that the Caribbean is overflowing with talent and rife with material and inspiration for quality content. From writers to photographers, designers and vloggers, I found myself in admiration of how their work incorporated and showcased aspects of our region’s culture and natural beauty. I also deeply appreciated how they captured and reflected experiences that are central to how we see ourselves as people from the Caribbean.
Of course, as any creative person can tell you, it’s not just about the finished product, but it's about the journey to conceptualizing, executing and sharing your ideas. More than seeing their completed work, I enjoyed seeing and interacting with their tweets about the process. I liked having conversations with creatives who understood the challenges of following your dreams in a region where such pursuits are not seen as worthwhile… where the average individual may not have an appetite for poetry, graphic design or vlogs. Many of us were trying to assert ourselves as creatives while balancing the ‘real’ jobs we needed to feed ourselves while we chased dreams our parents did not understand.
I’ve always wanted to write, and over the course of my life I’ve written many things that I am proud of. But I never truly saw myself as a writer. Instead, I perceived and presented myself simply as someone who writes. Writing never seemed like a valid career in the Caribbean. It felt more like a hobby... or worse, a talent I may never fully explore. That changed over the last few months and a large part of that was because my interactions with these individuals validated my experiences and encouraged me to recognize the value in the content I want to put out.
What’s more, just seeing their tweets appear on my feed has transformed how I feel about the platform and how it impacts me. My interactions on Twitter have essentially become much more fulfilling. Instead of what often felt like hours of mindless scrolling, I now see and engage in conversations that are crucial to my development as a writer. I participate in discussions that make me view my own work with a more critical eye and I also interact with like-minded individuals who I can share my writings with and receive feedback. If I’m going to spend hours on an app, I might as well get something in return besides a few good laughs right?
Outside of being inspired to pursue my own writing dreams more seriously, I’m happy to report that tangible results have come out of my decision to be more selective in my social media engagement. Some time ago I followed a content creator from a neighbouring island whose energy and vibe I always admired. Over the last few months I’ve felt more comfortable speaking to her about her art work and even my own writing. I felt like I could relate to her and approach her - creative to creative. Anyway, to cut a long story short, we’ll soon be collaborating to make my first poetry collection a reality that is turning out to be even better than I once dared to dream. I certainly did not see that coming when I signed up for my first Twitter account over a decade ago.
Written by Amanie Mathurin