Does Social Media Cheapen How We Experience Art?
Updated: May 27, 2022
Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Tiktok, Tumblr, LinkedIn, - the list goes on.
Social media creates an essentially free system of sharing and networking for artists to grow on. And while it's paved the way for many incredible artists to build large audiences, the question then becomes does social media cause us, as artists, to create differently?
Algorithms, posting schedules, engagement, comments and followers all force us to view our work in a more systemic fashion. Often causing artists to look at their work as "posts" before the piece is even ready to be published.
At face value that can sound disheartening but this isn't necessarily a terrible thing. Artists who publish often have a tendency to think of the audience, the gallery, the potential buyers, the publishing agency etc. while working. Meaning, worrying about the receptiveness of our audience before we have something finished to show the world is not exclusive to social media.
But while that much hasn't changed due to social media, platforms like Instagram and Twitter subconsciously effect the kind of projects we take on and the style of work we commit to. When creating a piece of art for social media we're often trying to hit metrics such as:
Is this work shareable?
Will this get someone to stop and look at it in their feed. (Shock Value)
Can I piggy back a trend for extra exposure?
Is this impressive enough to share?
Artwork published online is consumed, analyzed and critiqued in a matter of seconds - which brings a different set of connotations to the table for creators. Because of this simple understanding, artists begin to cater their work to be consumed and assessed faster, forgoing long term projects for content that is consumable and eye catching. Leaving our portfolios wide, but not deep.
In short, to excel on platforms that are consumeristic by nature, artists get in the habit of tailoring their work for fast paced and shallow consumption. Again, this is not a bad thing, it's just the reality of the playing field. Which brings us to the next question...
Can we support long term artistic growth with short term, bite sized projects?
That depends. Often, the friction of social media comes from the deeply engrained idea of "looking your best" where we feel we must always be on our A-game, lest we be left behind. A few examples of this are:
"All of my pictures must look good on my feed, or people wont think I'm attractive"
"If I don't post finished, mastered music to my page, people wont respect me as a musician"
"I must always post my best drawings to my feed, or my followers will forget how well i can draw"
This stigma has a tendency to pigeon-hole the work we publish leading me to my next point, that social media is much more suited for storytelling. Yes, it's important to show yourself in your best light -sometimes, but what actually gets people emotionally invested is the story behind you at your best. How you made it, What your process was, where the inspiration came from.
Those answers fuel a more sustainable practice of using social media.
When we switch to a more process oriented approach, we open ourselves up to publishing the less than perfect. Allowing viewers to join us on our creative journeys rather than giving them the highlights.
Looking for a great way to shift your focus on social media?
Instead of working on short term projects with the intent of "having something to post" dig deep, find a project that excites you more than one-off pieces. Answer the questions that keep you up at night, and dedicate your time to projects that will push your limits as an artist.
Does social media cheapen the way we consume art or is it just a different manner of experiencing the work? As artists, it is our job to remain rooted in our craft and carve a lane for our work regardless of the platform we expect it to live on.
So in short, maybe it does "Cheapen" how we create and consume creative work. But the reality of it is, creating deep, insightful, personal work has always been difficult. We as artists are just playing on a different field.