By Maia Castro-Santos
Many of us are spending more time on social media lately, as it is now one of the only ways to communicate with people outside of our households. I thought now would be a good time to talk more broadly about the role of social media in the lives of circus artists — the benefits of sharing circus online, the harmful parts, and how COVID-19 has changed circus-related social media.
Social media provides a very useful platform for professional circus artists to share their work and promote themselves to the public. Even for recreational circus artists, sharing performance photos and training videos online can serve as motivation to develop new skills and sequences. I film myself while training a lot. I find it useful because I can watch the videos back and notice parts of my sequence that look great and transitions that need work. Filming while training also helps motivate me to perfect a sequence enough to get a video of it that I feel good about posting on social media. I follow many circus Instagram accounts — from friends to coaches to professional artists that I have never met. I find inspiration from all of these accounts because watching other people discover new skills and tricks inspires me to do the same.
Additionally, receiving encouragement and affirmation on a post feels really good! If you work hard to achieve a new skill and you post a video which is met with enthusiastic comments from coaches and friends, you will likely feel even more proud of your accomplishment. Social media provides a platform for artists to support and encourage each other to continue to create and discover new skills.
While social media can be great for circus artists, it can also become problematic. Most Instagram accounts are highly curated, and circus accounts are no exception. The majority of public posts are not ugly videos or fails (unless the account is @notsoacrobats). This can lead to feelings of inadequacy if you are having an off day and it feels like everyone you follow is more skilled and advanced. Obsessive comparison to others can slow personal artistic development while also degrading mental health.
Additionally, if you are always trying to take videos of impressive skills to post on Instagram, you might not spend as much time on conditioning or exploration. Sometimes you have to try several transitions or skills before you find the one that looks and feels good enough to perfect. The pressure to put out content on social media doesn’t often leave space for this part of the creative process.
With most of us quarantined and studios closed, artists are hunting through old training footage to post. Besides posting throw-backs to when training space was readily available, many circus artists are creating at-home conditioning workouts and challenges. This can be a great way to stay motivated and active. However, there is a lot of pressure to condition constantly with the extra time the pandemic has provided. I know that I worry about losing my skills and getting out of shape while my training space is closed. This is a stressful time for everyone, and the last thing we need is anxiety about missing a daily core workout. Keep moving, get outside, and condition if you feel like it — but also know that this will not last forever and your abs will come back.