For a long time now I’ve held the view that Social Media, for all the positives, presents a very real challenge to creatives, artists and entrepreneurs. Typically I’ve framed this challenge as being about distraction and the correct allocation of time (for example, Is Facebook Making Us Stupid? and also, Responding To The Distraction Economy).
I still feel distraction is a huge issue, a threat to the working environment we need for creative work. But, I’ve recently started to identify two other key aspects with social media – the problem of voices and the problem of connection, which we should also consider as well.
The Problem Of Voices
In my photographic journey, I’ve tried to keep the voices I listen to, the voices that influence me, to a minimum.
I love to share photos I’ve made and hear what people think. As a photographer you can learn a lot from watching what images people respond to and why. But, once the conversation turns to how the image could have been better, whether it should of being cropped this way or that, shot in black and white instead of colour, or anything else then, quite bluntly, I only listen to people who have skin the game, to other photographers or visual artists who are good at their craft and have a public profile for their work.
There are biographical reasons why I choose to be guarded this way. I spent a lot, maybe most of my twenties and early thirties ion environments where I was forced to tone down, attenuate and soften my creativity. It was only when I went back to music full time, in 2004, that I realised how deep this wounds were.
Social Media opens you up to all sorts of voices and opinions about your work. Many will be helpful or at least, harmless. But, some, well some people just have an axe to grind, an agenda to push or their own issues to sort out. We sometimes call them haters, which is too much of a generalisation for my liking.
Managing the negative inputs on social media requires a skill set; ignore, block, put comments into perspective, you just have to learn to manage it or it will eat you up.
The Problem Of Connection
For many of us, the artistic drive is a journey of self expression; to express our ideas in our own way, in our own authentic voice. Often this goes along with a desire to connect with others. Our art is a way to build bridges, to share love, to join ourselves to others.
But, social media gives us a way to short cut the process, we can build the sense of connection without creating the art. We get the pay off, the reward, without the hard work, the sacrifice.
Of course, this is not as powerful an experience as the connection that comes through our creative work, but, much like fast food, it can satisfy us enough in the short term.
Call It For What It Is
I’m not suggesting we give up on Social Media (though many people have actually given up Social Media for Lent this year). But, I am suggesting we should stop to ask ourselves, from time to time, why are we doing this?
And, whatever answer we give, let’s be honest with ourselves.