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Social Media is the Best Source of Professional Development if You Know Where to Look

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(Hint: It’s not on LinkedIn.)

My first exposure to Casey Neistat was in my freshman orientation class. I remember our mentor showing us the filmmaker’s short Bike Lanes, where Casey filmed himself intentionally crashing his bike into trucks, construction signs and police cars obstructing New York bike lanes to prove a point about unfair citations by the NYPD. Four years and a college degree later, I rediscovered Casey, now a burgeoning aesthetic icon in a growing world of YouTube vloggers using the platform as a legit source of creation, distribution and income.

It became my morning ritual at my first job out of college to immerse myself in his daily, borderline-life-threatening longboarding commutes, irreverent mail-opening technique and raw rumination on creativity, doubt, entrepreneurship and family. Vlogging had always seemed lame and cheesy to me before then, probably because of my own insecurities and doubts about my ability to be creatively vulnerable at the time. Casey’s vlog changed all that; whatever he was doing, I was addicted to it.

“I regret my failures. But I would regret more a failure to try.”
 — Casey Neistat

Around the same time, it came to my attention that John Mayer (yes, that John Mayer) was a Bonafide Hilarious Person. His witty social media style and zeitgeist-y humor — which I first discovered on Snapchat and have later appreciated on Twitter and Instagram — came in hot, seemingly out of left field and borderline worthy of a late night talk show. The cerebral, meta, observational sense of humor Mayer slings and his knack for dissecting frivolity while simultaneously reveling in it hit me (and still hits me) when and where I needed it most. “Do you follow John Mayer on Instagram? You need to” has left my lips at least a dozen times in the last several years.

Musicians are allowed to be comedians? Who would have thought?

“The days of consensus are over…Find your audience, love them, play to them, but protect yourself from the certain injury of trying to bring the larger world to agreement. That pie is sliced so many slivers now. Enjoy your slice of the pie.”
 — John Mayer

These two make sense, because at the time I really start binge-consuming their stuff, I was already somewhat familiar with Casey and John. On the other hand, my relationship with the Instagram page of Mason’s Creamery, a gourmet ice cream shop in Cleveland, makes zero sense.

I started following the shop and the young couple who own and run it, Jesse and Helen, a few years back. I don’t remember how I was led to start following them, or when — I think I just have Instagram’s discover page algorithm to thank, but I’m not sure.

That almost makes it all the more “magical” — and quite random — that I still follow them now, even though I never have been and probably never will visit Ohio. But I was drawn in by the unique, unorthodox flavors they produced and the familial feel of their page, and I grew jealous every time they would post about collaborations with other local shops, ramen pop-ups and community movie nights. It’s been like watching a blueprint be produced in real time on how to run the quaint, successful family business of my dreams.

A few years ago, Mason’s posted openly and apologetically about a few preparation mistakes and equipment malfunctions that forced them to close their doors for a few days; like a viewer of the Truman Show, my emotions ran the gamut of “Nooooo!” to “Why do bad things happen to good people?” to “How much are tickets to Cleveland so I can fly there and give them a hug?” But it’s their vulnerability that drew me in in the first place, and exactly why I knew they’d be just fine. Their earnestness in treating their customers like business partners and friends on their journey is clearly paying off and is impossible to not smile at — I mean, just watch this video.

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