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Each week, I’ll be asking a member of the motorsports community about their social media usage. This week: Josef Newgarden of Team Penske’s IndyCar program. I spoke to Newgarden at Indianapolis Motor Speedway prior to the Indy 500.
I was just looking at your Twitter account. One thing that jumped out at me: You have only liked one tweet. Are you anti-like?
Well I guess everyone uses the platform differently, right? I’ve never really liked photos. I liked that one photo of all the helmets at the Indianapolis 500 lined up, which is a very cool photo.
You know, I’m like OCD almost. I’m either gonna like a ton of stuff or not like anything. I guess it’s weird that I have one like, but yeah, I’ve never really used it for that.
With Twitter, I more so use it for responding to people. It’s a great platform to answer questions — just cause people can ask you whenever — or just give out information about where you are or where you can meet, something like that.
I like a ton of tweets, because it’s my way of saying, “I acknowledge that.” But I always feel like if somebody was going to my account they’d see all these random-ass tweets that make no sense and have no order. So I kind of like your clean, uncluttered view.
Yeah, I mean that’s how I am. It’s very OCD I guess, but it’s just the way I’ve always been so I have not changed it. I’ll try to answer more, because I’m with you — a like is like an acknowledgment and it’s nice for someone to see that you like their post or that you at least saw it. But I try to answer as much as I can. I probably should answer a lot more, but if I’m gonna acknowledge it, I normally just answer to it.
Are you using Twitter as your newsfeed? Do you look at it every day in the morning?
Yeah, I do actually. I still think Twitter is probably the best social platform for quick news. (With) Facebook, you get kind of the same; it’s more blown up content and it’s kind of a bigger view of news. But Twitter’s really easy to just ramble through everything and it can always just give you a link to go somewhere to look at something bigger.
But yeah, I like it for (news). I like following informational sites (like) Wired.com if you wanna see something with tech. I mean it just can be any of these news outlets. I think it’s really helpful for that. So I like following it and then for me as a driver, I think it’s great for giving people information on what you’re doing or where you’re gonna be if there’s a meet-and-greet or something like that.
Now on the downside of this, Twitter can be sort of nasty at times. There are some trolls on there. How do you deal with that: Do you block people? Do you mute people? Do you just ignore it?
I just ignore it — I honestly do. I don’t even reply. There’s been a couple times where I’ve replied just cause I couldn’t help myself I guess, but I’ll never follow a reply. I’ll say something, have my two cents, and then just be done with it.
If it gets worse and starts spiraling out of control, I don’t continue. It’s literally one thing: That’s what I said (and leave it at that). And if I said something wrong, I’ll try to apologize, because it’s easy to get looked at wrong on social media for saying something that you didn’t mean or it had come across the wrong way.
But for the most part, I just ignore everything. There’s a lot of people that say a lot of stuff, and you just gotta be really good at just letting it go. I think that’s the best thing: To just let it go. And it’s probably the best way to handle it, cause these guys or girls, what they really want is a response. So if you don’t respond to them, it’s kind of the best thing to do, in my opinion.
We’ve all had situations where sometimes we’re following somebody and we’re like, “I don’t wanna follow this anymore. These tweets are irrelevant, they’re too much,” or whatever. How do you handle that? Do you just unfollow or do you mute people?
(Laughs) I think I’d go with the ignore thing again. I’ll see stuff I don’t like and I’ll just blow past it because I’ve gotten very efficient at scrolling fast. If I’m seeing stuff that I don’t wanna see, I’m just scrolling by it.
Even my girlfriend is like, “How are you even reading any of this?” And it’s literally just I’ll read one word and I’ll either like it or I don’t, so I just go past it. So I’ve not had to mute anyone, not really had to unfollow anybody because of that. I just ignore it.
What’s your take on Snapchat? I’ve seen you do some Snapchat takeovers, but do you have your own Snapchat account?
I can’t get into the Snapchat thing. I find it fascinating, because young kids now are — I mean, I’m a kid still I guess, technically — but you know, just young people that use Snapchat are so weird and hilarious, right? Like, people just have no shame. There’s no shame. And I don’t think people realize that if you put something on the Internet, it is permanent. OK? I don’t care if you delete it, it’s always there. You have put it out and into the world and it’s always in the world now. It’s gonna be there somewhere.
But people today, they don’t care. They love it. They want to share it. For me, I struggle because it’s like, Snapchat is a really constant thing. Like people want a photo here, photo here, video, video, video, like constantly little quick five-second blurbs.
So I feel like you’re missing out on the experience. I’d rather have one nice video or one nice photo of it and take the rest of the time to enjoy that experience. That’s why I can’t get into Snapchat.
That is true though. You go to a concert or something and everybody’s Snapchat is open. Or even here on 500 race day, I’m gonna walk around and anybody that’s under 20, they’re on Snapchat, and that’s the ultimate looking-through-your-screen thing.
Yeah, it’s a love/hate cause I’ve gotten sucked into the social media thing where I don’t post a ton — but I’m always on it. I’m always looking at it just cause I’m trying to understand it, what works, what doesn’t work, what people want to see, what they don’t want to see, what other people are doing. I get sucked into that game and I love and I hate it.
Social media is so great because it’s really a great tool, it’s awesome; the connectivity of it is amazing. But at the same time I also hate it because I just want to enjoy whatever I’m doing, you know? I want to be in the moment, in the present. I’m a little bit old school, I guess. It was almost nice when we didn’t have all this technology. So it’s a love/hate. I love technology, but I also hate it at the end of the day.
You said that you’ve tried to observe what works, what doesn’t, things like that. In your theory, what is your general philosophy on how much to share, what makes people respond to you, things like that?
I do think people want you to be real. I try to be as authentic as possible. Whatever I say is me; there’s no sugarcoating it. Maybe it’s a little bit politically correct sometimes, but it’s my opinion, so I’ll always be honest about that.
I’ve always tried to keep my personal life out it, which a lot of people think is a mistake because most people want to see the inside world that they normally wouldn’t, and that’s one of the nice things about social media — you get to see things that you wouldn’t normally get to see if you didn’t know a person, right
But I try to keep that separate. I use it much for more the professional side of, “Here’s what I’m doing professionally. Here’s what I’m doing in racing,” or it has something to do with racing. That’s all I use it for and I try to maximize that as best as I can.
I think I noticed that on your Instagram as well, because if you scroll through your Instagram feed almost everything is you at the track. It’s not stuff like, “Oh, here’s me doing this,” that kind of thing.
Yeah, pretty much. I use the platforms differently. Like Instagram I use more as an artwork page. I think it’s just beautiful photos of race cars, maybe some photos of me that people want to see within racing, but I normally like seeing photos of race cars myself, just really cool looking photos.
I’m a really big fan of photography actually. I’m not a great photographer, I’m not a photographer myself, but I really admire a lot of the photographers within the sport. Gosh, they get some awesome images sometimes, so I like sharing those and I also like seeing those.
That’s sort of what I use Instagram for, which really is what Instagram was originally made for: It’s a photo-sharing site. Twitter is more just, you can post a photo that doesn’t have to be beautiful; it’s just information, right?
Sometimes I try and be kind of random on my Twitter. I do try to show people my random side, which everyone I think has to some degree. You know, you’ll be eating fries or whatever one day and like you’ll have a thought on French fries and you just wanna share that. It has nothing to do with anything; it’s just a random sentence. I’ll sometimes do that on Twitter as well.
Is Facebook going the way of the dinosaurs like MySpace, or do you think that has a life?
I think it has a life, I just think it has an older life. That’s where all the moms, the grandfathers — it’s all old, you know? That’s not a bad thing: everyone has to have a demographic. I think Facebook’s just become more of an older demographic. There’s a place for that; you want to share with those types of folks as well. So I still get on it.
I look at Facebook and see a lot of things that’s going on. I do find it interesting (that) Facebook video has become very cool. For me, it’s become more of a younger reason to use it just because you don’t want to go to YouTube and search stuff; it’s really easy to see popular videos on Facebook now. I think they’ve done a great job with that. So if I use Facebook, it’s either to look at videos or to post a video. That’s, I think, one of the more useful tools for it.
From a sponsor standpoint and a team standpoint, are they telling you, “Hey, we want to see you on here, we want to see you doing this?” Is there a lot of that that goes on?
Yeah, for sure. I think you have to temper it. I think with either sponsorships or teams, you kind of measure your marketability. You measure how sell-able you are, how popular you are. It’s kind of terrible, but it’s just the way it is nowadays: everyone puts a value on social media. And so you have to have a presence almost, you’re forced to because of those factors, but I think I try to stay true to myself.
If there’s something I don’t wanna do on it, I just don’t do it. If it’s something that a sponsor really wants me to do and I don’t love it, then I try and spin it into something that is more authentic to me. I think that is always more impactful than just putting up an ad. You put up an ad and people can see it immediately like, “This is just a posted tweet that someone wanted you to put out.” And no one wants that — no one wants to see it. It’s not gonna help the company at the end of the day. So you gotta make it authentic and real, and I think that resonates a lot better with people.
Do you have one or two favorite people to follow on Twitter that people may not be following themselves right now?
I gotta say, probably the greatest person on Twitter, and I think a lot of people would agree, is Dale Earnhardt Jr. Now, he does the exact opposite of what I do — but he is a master at it. If you’re gonna go full-in and you’re gonna show people your world, I don’t think anyone has done it better than Dale Jr. He really masters it well. I think he’s fun to follow. For me, that’s why you follow someone on social media, is for that kind of stuff that I just said I don’t wanna do — and he’s probably the best at it. So I enjoy following him.
I just enjoy following all of the drivers because you get to see what everyone’s up to, whether it’s Jimmie Johnson or other NASCAR guys or it’s the IndyCar drivers like Scott Dixon. I enjoy following motorsports. Fernando Alonso, it’s been fun to follow him. Obviously, this is a new journey for him at Indianapolis so it’s interesting to see how he perceives the event, how he shows people the event. So I love following drivers.
Again, I like following news feeds, just different tech sites, any sort of news outlet that’s gonna give you good information on stuff that you’re interested in. I follow all those types of stuff.
Thanks to Dover International Speedway for sponsoring the 12 Questions and Social Spotlight over the past couple months. If you’re planning to attend the Dover race this weekend, please consider using my ticket link.