Let’s face it. Being online, sharing our work via various social media outlets, and waiting for those likes to pour in is the new norm when it comes to trying to determine how good our art is these days.
According to a study in April of 2019 by the Pew Research Group, 73% of US Adults use YouTube, 69% use Facebook, 37% use Instagram, and 22% use Twitter. You can find their whole study here.
Equally alarming is that, using Facebook as an example, more than 50% of those US Adults using Facebook check in several times a day. Instagram users are showing over 40% in that same category.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that we are all spending so much time online, endlessly scrolling our feeds, that we simply have adopted the addiction to the likes/shares/RT’s as a new normal.
A random Twitter conversation
I saw a random tweet pop up recently talking about how someone was annoyed with people sharing other people’s work on one specific platform, but it didn’t bother them in other platforms.
Since we all spend so much of our time on these platforms it makes sense that we’ll feel like we want to customize our experience as much as possible. But it got me thinking about something.
There is no doubt that the rise of the internet and social media provides so many opportunities for creatives, world-wide connections, friendships, access to much larger audiences for our work, the list goes on.
But at what cost?
Has it birthed a new generation of creatives that don’t care about the actual craft behind the work they create?
Everybody says they are a “Passionate” artist
Nine times out of ten, if you ask someone today what they do or why they make their art you’ll hear some variation of the phrase “I do it because I’m passionate about (insert creative pursuit of your choice here).”
As I thought about the tweet mentioned earlier I couldn’t help but wonder…
Now this isn’t to say that it’s a bad thing to be passionate about building a brand, business, or career.
Rather, it’s an idea that I think is worth exploring individually when we really think hard about our creative pursuits and why we do them.
After all, if we have tricked ourselves into believing something that is ultimately untrue about our own motivations and beliefs, how can we hope to thrive in the long term?
The ONE question you need to ask yourself
After thinking on all of this a bit I realized there is a pretty simple question we can ask ourselves that can help us more clearly understand our own motivations.
It’s a question that may seem trivial or silly on the surface, but the more you take time to be honest with yourself, to really examine WHY you create, you may find yourself surprised by what you discover.
That question is simply this:
Totally un-scientific analysis
I was heartened to find that upon posting this question to my photography friends on Twitter, the answer was primarily yes.
There were some comments and direct messages stating that they likely WOULD still create their art, but that the uncertainty of how they may or may not be able to share that work made them a bit uneasy.
I get that totally.
As my friend @rebeccalily_pro pointed out so perfectly though:
100% yes. I would want to keep sharing my work though because that adds joy to creating and is part of the purpose for me (putting good and beautiful things into the world). I would just do more exhibitions, prints, books etc.— Rebecca Lily (@rebeccalily_pro) September 12, 2019
She’s correct. Sharing our art is part of the joy of creating and to me the final step in the creative process is being able to share/release our creations out into the world for others to enjoy.
That’s how we are able to keep moving forward, growing as an artist, creating and expanding on new ideas. If we sit on the idea and hoard them only for ourselves we run the risk of growing stagnant as artists.
Still other’s replied with the beautiful truth that they would still make photos but would actually likely be more fulfilled as an artist.
Another fascinating thought, which I think will require a follow up article, came from my friend Thomas Skrlj.
Yeah. I’m curious how my style would change though. I don’t think I’ve landed on one that is actually “me” just yet— Thomas Skrlj (@Tskrlj) September 12, 2019
I think he’s on to something very interesting here. Would our style and vision for our art change if it weren’t influenced(intentionally or unintentionally) by the constant barrage of the millions of photos being shared everyday?
Something to think harder on indeed.
Here’s the thing. I’m not going to stand on a soapbox and tell you that social media is the worst thing ever.
It absolutely DOES impact all of us though. But if we are aware of that impact we are able to re-focus on where our passion truly sits. We can course correct if needed or in extreme situations we can stop wasting time on something we only THOUGHT we were passionate about.
I have a feeling we’d see quite a few people “hang up the camera’s” or “pack up the tools” if the online and social media aspect were gone. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just a simple fact that so many that have jumped aboard the creativity train online are doing so because of the likes/follows/etc. and that is ok.
Asking ourselves that one, simple, question is the best way that we can continue to self assess where we are at creatively in order to help us keep moving forward in the right direction.
At the end of the day, by asking and being totally honest with ourselves about where our true passions lie, we won’t have to look back 20 years from now with the realization and horror that we’ve wasted so much time and energy in something that we don’t really care that much about.
We need this regular self assessment to help ensure we are spending what precious little time we have on this earth pursuing that which TRULY brings us happiness.
Ask the hard questions of yourself now, learn to be brutally honest with yourself, then enjoy a much more fulfilling creative life with whatever answers you come up with.