Stewart Reynolds, better known as Brittlestar, has the dream job. A social media celebrity with over 400 million views of his content, the suburban father of two teen boys has created viral video videos for brands like Disney, ESPN, Subway, Walmart, KFC, and numerous others. As the self-titled (and well-deserved) "Internet's Favorite Dad", Brittlestar quite literally eats and breathes the internet.
Considering his line of work, grabbing your attention is Brittlestar's bread and butter — so how does the dad feel about social media and technology's pervasive role in our lives? In this exclusive interview, Brittlestar shares how balance really is the key to a healthy and productive relationship with technology.
M: How has your relationship with your phone and social media evolved over the last few years?
B: As with everybody, my phone is kind of indispensable. It’s how I'm confirming and communicating. It's how I'm entertained, getting informed and tracking mileage when I'm driving. It plays a huge role in my day to day and that has probably expanded because I can do more things on it in the past few years.
M: With that said, what advice do you have for young people who are tempted to use their phones to check texts and social media during class, for example, rather than pay attention?
B: You have to train yourself to prioritize what information is the most important at any given time. You have to make a judgement call, asking yourself, Do I want to be distracted? If I try to get more information from somewhere else am I going to miss something?
There is an etiquette aspect where I always say to our kids that there is nothing worse than the ‘Cocktail Party Handshake.’ This is when someone comes up to you and shakes your hand but they're looking over your shoulder for someone better to shake hands with. I sort of relate that to using your phone — You're not quite as important as something else. There's an etiquette aspect there we have to realize.
M: Then how do you feel about society's ubiquitous phone use and big moves like France's phone ban in schools?
B: I'm not in favor of the notion of abandoning or banning smartphones — I don’t think that helps the situation. That just means that when you do have it with you, you'll have less self control. That's why you must train yourself to check your phone only when you need to.
It's like people who ban their kids from watching TV and then their kids go to a house with a TV and they become totally hypnotized. You need to expose yourself and learn how to deal with things, and you can’t forcefully ignore something in one environment and hope that somehow translates into composure and control in another environment. The idea seems flawed to me because life isn’t just in one environment.
I get the idea that there is not an absolute — for example, you don’t want your brain surgeon whipping out his phone to check Twitter while he is in the middle of brain surgery. But when you go to business conferences and you're doing a keynote, there are people on their phones and on their laptops all the time — that's just part of life now. At the same time, if you're one of those people in the audience watching, you're thinking, Ok, I have to check this because life is moving a lot faster than it used to but I have to check it quickly because I want to move on and focus back on what I'm supposed to focus on.
I think that social media and smartphones are still a huge novelty for an older generation, whereas kids growing up with it are going to be (for lack of a better term) desensitized to them, and they will hopefully be able to prioritize real-life world interactions over their phone.
M: What advice would you give to someone who's looking to get into a career in social media and how should they approach technology?
B: There definitely has to be a balance. It’s all about that virtuous balance — everything in moderation. Once an activity, regardless of what it is, starts to affect your ability or your other activities, that's when you know you have a problem that should be addressed.
With a global fanbase, an invitation to the White House, speaking engagements across North America, TV spots, and celebrity collaborations, Brittlestar is living the social media celebrity dream — not bad for a Dad from the suburbs. When he's not making content, Brittlestar is giving keynote presentations for various business organizations and conferences including NextMediaNow and the Northwestern Innovation Centre. You can also frequently find him as a trusted expert and moderator on social media business panels at events like Social Media Week and AdWeek in Toronto, Mom 2.0 in Laguna Beach, California and Playlist Live in both Orlando and Washington, DC. Follow him on Twitter and elsewhere @brittlestar.