Social Media – Positive or Negative for the Creative?

Social Media – Positive or Negative for the creative?

Contributed by Neleisha Weerasinghe.

Social media has taken a life of its own and for some people it has become even more real than life itself. While it definitely has positives, it has gained its fair share of negative impressions as well. With social media induced suicide and self destructive behaviour on the rise, experts are taking a closer look at how negative associations with this form of communication and interaction can be harmful and how to avoid them.

Looking at the positive side, it has opened up ways of communication for artists and other creatives, bringing new opportunities and avenues to showcase their work to a wider audience. But is it putting too many images in front of our eyes? Is it becoming a case of us forgetting quality over quantity? For example, you might remember images or artwork that you saw years ago in magazines or publications. Why would that be? Is it because the number of images published was selective and limited with only the best making it to these print pages? Now we are exposed to a lot more, from the amateur to the expert and sometimes this bombardment can be excessive. 

Yes it’s a science

Apart from this, another major topic of interest is the impact social media has on creativity. How does it impact, artists, writers, photographers, etc?  Creativity just like any other form of activity needs time. A person needs to allow his or her brain to dream, to imagine and to get the creative juices flowing. Too much of social media can block this.

The feel good factor hormone, Dopamine is released and at work every time something makes us happy and according to science little bursts of feel good factors induced by social media can be damaging to long-term creativity. Another negative aspect is that it can be addictive. If you find yourself constantly looking for the amount of likes or comments you have got and feeling down or unhappy when you do not receive the expected results to your posts, then chances are you are being affected negatively. The social media business model is designed on being distracting, so much so that you can get sucked in with a lot of meaningless content, losing track of time and your creative mojo.

Decision making issues

We need to replenish our energy each day and the same goes for creativity which involves decision making. Science says that our most creative and best decision making hours are the early hours after waking up. If these vital hours are spent on social media and unimportant tasks, precious time is lost, killing the creation process. Another important negative factor is that we can often make decisions based on social media posts and not on constructive thinking.

Other negatives on social media

  • Distraction: The time spent on social media could have been used to sketch or take that photograph, instead of  looking at other artists’ posts and feeling a little jaded or even a little bit envious.
  • Too much inspiration: Being too inspired by someone else’s work can slowly drown your own voice. So if you look up instagram for inspiration to do your next drawing or painting, chances are you are getting too influenced, which can be a negative thing for your creative journey and growth.
  • Validation: Need for validation is another problem. Many social media gurus will advice on how you should post and how frequently you should do this to get more likes and followers. But this only adds to the pressure you are feeling. You will feel compelled to post and when you are unable to do so, you will feel less effective.
  • Comparisons: Not feeling good enough is a major setback. You will obviously see many amazing works by different artists and creators. They will all be at different levels on their creative journey. But human nature and the exposure, to so much content can impact you negatively by making you compare your work to others and feeling not good enough.
  • For likes: Posting for others is another problem creative’s run in to. Creating work that you want to post just so you get more likes will definitely get you that, but it will hurt your work and your unique identity and sooner or later you will feel the pressure to make art that gets liked more as opposed to staying true to yourself.

Positive solutions

So how do we stay creative and not get sucked into the social media game.  A good thing is that our brains can be trained (there is no age limit). So with the right tools and knowledge you can use this important tool in a better way that does not harm your creative process. In doing so you must remember why we use these tools, they are to work for us and not the other way round by taking over our lives.

  • Create for you: don’t fret too much about who has more likes and followers. Don’t simply create to get more likes either. You need to make a conscious decision to create for yourself and be free from looking for validation. So simply do not make art to get likes.
  • It is ok not to follow trends: you need not respond to every social media post or request on facebook. There will be various games and posts that are shared asking you to take part, so it is ok to say no sometimes and be selective in what you respond to.
  • Schedule it: If you find yourself constantly responding to notifications immediately, there is likely a problem that needs to be addressed. So if you find it hard to resist, turn off notifications and look them up only once or twice a day.
  • Don’t compare: sometimes you can get envious or feel jaded looking at the content online. You may come to a point where you wish you were making more art like others online or even doing the things or going places others have been to. But be aware that what is online is not the whole picture so when you are compelled to compare, stop right there.
  • Put a boundary: discipline yourself everyday to limit your time on social media. Take practical steps to correct your actions. For eg: instead of Whatsapping friends, call them instead. Put the phone away when you are with family, friends or pursuing a creative project.
  • Be real: nothing beats real interaction and face to face discussion. So make time to meet people and most importantly sharing your work in real time with people in off line settings. So do not neglect gallery visits and even art markets or simply going out for a few hours to walk in the park.

We can conclude with saying that social media is not bad, it is how you make use of it that is making it good or bad. So with conscious and thoughtful actions and behavioural changes we can grow with this technology for the better, making it work for us rather than take over our lives.