Social Media and the Art of the Brain Fart

The best ideas come to you when you’re not looking for them. You’ve probably never seen anything truly great come out of a brainstorm other than a bunch of bickering and people trying to one-up each other for most ridiculous idea.

And when you sit down to create, that’s not always when the best shit comes to you either. It’s like, you can’t schedule when you’re going to be thinking about stuff and when you aren’t. You try, but that’s just not how the mind works. That’s why musicians get stuck in recording studios for years, trying to come up with something good. If they weren’t sitting there, with that exact purpose, it might be easier.

I was thinking about this a little bit today, when I made an off-hand remark, something I actually went ahead and tweeted, about weddings.

It was just something I was thinking at the moment, a split-second snapshot of a half-baked thought, which might or might not offend people. Not that I really care about offending people anyway, since the nature of having thoughts in the first place is that someone might disagree (the internet, sadly, is where groupthink reigns supreme these days).

But in the course of a day when I was otherwise not really thinking about anything that critical, having the ability to just shoot that off into the world allowed me a second to use Twitter almost like a notepad. I wasn’t purposely brainstorming, but a brainstorm became a byproduct of it.

I had a brain fart.

And after I did it, I went and wrote a couple of pages of funny stuff based on going to weddings. And that funny stuff, well, that can be turned into something workable, something usable, something I can eventually turn into, well, actual work. If I had tried to come up with that, to think of that, I would have never thought of it.

So, I think one of the great things about modern media and how we’re all empowered to use it, is that it’s always on, it’s always reasonably editable (although you still can’t edit tweets, which is insane), and crucially, it’s sketchpad-like nature kind of invites you to just always be thinking about things to say. In that sense, it keeps your mind working.

I know I’m not saying anything particularly new or novel or arguably even interesting here — you probably know all this stuff already — but it makes me feel the best ideas come from these quiet moments, when you’re not really searching for or seeking them out in the first place. It’s a reaction. It’s an observation. It’s an odd conversation that you’re stuck in the middle of. Something you’re seeing. Something you’re hearing.

That’s very different from how we traditionally think about engineering creativity. Ordinarily, again, it comes from a recording studio or a writing room or in the case of authorship, maybe from sitting in a countryside barn staring out a window at a lake. The point is, it’s very specific and purpose-driven. I am here to make this thing.

Social media gets a bad rap as a distraction, but if you think of these platforms as notetaking tools — not specifically using them that way, but just merely thinking of them that way (at least in hindsight) — it changes your relationship with them completely. You become far less resistant to using them, and you’ll find that maybe even what you’re putting there can inspire an idea with a little more permanence.

Because most big ideas begin as much smaller ones. And having a place to jot them down, even with the prying eye of others watching on, has a lot of value. Heck, the likes and retweets may even contribute to how big that little idea eventually gets.

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Wrote for the New York Times, New York Magazine, Esquire, Rolling Stone, Vice, Fader, Vibe, XXL, MTV News, many other places.

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