Sam Radford

June 2, 2021

Fame vs. hard work (and what we truly value)

Having written yesterday about talent not being enough and the importance of hard work, I came across the following segment in an interview with Kate Winslet in the New York Times

Ms. Winslet has been known to warn young actors on a set not to confuse social media fame with the hard work of acting.

“I have certainly heard, twice, of certain actors being cast in roles because they have more followers,” she said. “I’ve actually heard people say, ‘She’s not who we wanted to cast, but she has more followers.’ I almost don’t know what to say. It’s so sad and so extraordinarily wrong.”

I’ve heard similar stories from authors too. Publishers are more interested in the author’s social media following and savvy than whether they can write.

You can’t help but feel this will come back and bite us all.

The end result will be lower quality acting in the films and shows we watch. And oh the books we’ll miss out on because the author doesn’t do Twitter or Instagram.

But it’s what it encourages too. Instead of motivating people to do the hard work of cultivating their craft, they’re ‘building an audience’; losing their time to the beast that is social media – a beast that can never be satisfied.

Hard work aside though, Winslet goes onto talk about the dangers of social media itself:

“I think the danger is not just for young actors but younger people in general now. I think it makes you less present in your real life. Everyone is constantly taking photographs of their food and photographing themselves with filters.”

She leans her face close to the camera, and noted her lack of filters, with an expletive.

“What worries me is that faces are beautiful. Faces that change, that move, are beautiful faces, but we’ve stopped learning how to love those faces because we keep covering them up with filters now because of social media and anyone can photoshop themselves, and airbrush themselves, and so they do. In general, I would say I feel for this generation because I don’t see it stopping, I don’t see or feel it changing, and that just makes me sad because I hope that they aren’t missing out on being present in real life and not reaching for unattainable ideals.”

Hearing people talk about the dangers of social media feels old news now. We all know it. And yet we carry on. Giving far to big a proportion of our time, our selves, our data to something (and the companies who run them) that gives little to nothing of true value back.

Then we say we don’t have time to do meaningful things with our lives.

I’m constantly surprised at the number of people who say to me: “How do you have time to read so much?” Or, “Where do you find the time to do all your writing?”

And it’s always the wrong question. Time is never the issue.

If you were to hand me your phone and let me check your screen time settings, I could find you a whole heap of time. And that’s one area of your life. They’ll be others.

We spend time doing what we value. And I don’t mean what we say we value. We see our true values by looking at how we actually spend our time and money. 

If you don’t have time to do something you say you want to do, I’d actually start by exploring whether you do actually value it. And, if it is something you do truly want to make happen, you will find the time. 

The problem with social media is that, more often than not, it’s a distraction. A distraction from other activities that would add greater meaning and value to our lives. A distraction too from doing the hard work necessary to build the kind of successful life that is not based on the flaky foundation of how many people follow us on social media. 

We end up pulled away from true life rather than pushed towards it. 

I suspect there won’t be many of us, come the moment we’re on our deathbeds, looking back at our lives, thinking, ‘I wish I’d spent more time on Twitter’.

–Sam

Got some thoughts on this? I’d love to hear from you – do hit reply or drop me a note.

@samradford | samradford.com