Reconsidering the Relationship Between Social Media and Creative Practice

May 4, 2022

When I was little, I would people watch all the time. I would narrate what I thought they were thinking and doing. I would do accents. That sense of wonder and play and whimsy is essential to my work. Those moments alone or with friends when you’re playing around, you go a little too far and you say, “That should be in a piece.” Lately, I’ve been giving my mind an opportunity to experience that and wander again.

It started in 2020, when I felt free to do something I had wanted to do for a long time: disengage online. I thought, If the reason I came to social media was to promote my company, there’s no reason to do that, because right now there’s no work. Everything I had was canceled. So I took a four-month social media hiatus starting in August 2020. In 2021 I deleted Instagram and Facebook from my phone. I could still post from my computer. My latest break, which started in November, has been about trying to reimagine my relationship to social media in a way that’s healthier. And professionally, in researching my work, I’m trying to be conscious of this intimate relationship.

Rosie Herrera. Photo by Lydia Bittner-Baird, courtesy Herrera.

What I had noticed is that I was disassociating from the world. I wasn’t engaging in social media in a meaningful or sincere way. It was like a bad relationship. Social media and I were just passing the time together rather than finding a deeper intimacy.

I also noticed I never had an opportunity for my mind to wander, which is important to me creatively. That felt so sad. Whenever there was a quiet space, there was my phone. I need a couch for a piece—go to my phone. Haven’t talked to a friend in forever—go to my phone. Instead of calling her, my instinct was always to reach for social media. And when that wasn’t possible, I would think, Wow, who do I talk to?

“I’ll have this profound moment in rehearsal and think, I need to post this so people can see it. That’s bizarre.”

Rosie Herrera

I wondered, What are the questions, the answers, the fears I am asking social media to solve? Every time I’m questioning something, I want my phone to answer. That’s a lot to ask of a little object. So me and my phone are in couples counseling.
I also feel we’re in such a divisive time. I was starting to think what I was seeing online was a part of my life. And it wasn’t. I want to engage in a way that’s meaningful to me. Even if it’s just videos of cats that bring me joy—which they do, incredible joy, because I’m allergic to cats and I love cats. Everyone wants what they can’t have.

Photo by Adam Reign, courtesy Herrera.

The piece I’m making right now is about what we devote ourselves to and how we cast a more reverent gaze upon the things that occupy our mind and time. How do we navigate intimacy with technology? Where am I mentally, psychologically and emotionally when I engage with it? Imagine kissing someone and then asking, “So what did you think?” That’s what social media feels like sometimes. Or I’ll have this profound moment in rehearsal and think, I need to post this so people can see it. That’s bizarre.

I’m reimagining my relationship to my phone. How did it become a sacred object? Because if you’re in a long-distance relationship, your phone is a sacred object. I’ve practically wanted to make out with it.

I’ve been thinking a lot about physically integrating these concepts. You can curate a persona for yourself online. But if you haven’t taken time to integrate that identity into who you are physically, it only exists in the ether. When you’re a dancer, you use the idea of integration in a lot of ways. Dancing is so ephemeral. But, in dancing, what I feel and think becomes visible to you—the audience—when we’re together. It’s felt deeply and understood deeply.

What do we hear when we have space and time enough to listen, whether to the outside world or to what’s coming from inside of us? You can find beautiful truths. Or ugly truths that are important to confront.