Death Of An Artist: How Social Media Is Ruining Creativity

by Stephanie Sharlow

If you think being a Millennial in the age of social media is difficult, try being a creative.

We’re navigating a world in which everyone is trying to plug in, but we just want to break out. We’re coveting hard-pressed positions in fields saturated with a million other 20-somethings chasing the same dream.

Others build careers on numbers or irrefutable facts, while ours are cultivated through someone else’s personal preferences.

I not only live this struggle every day, but also see it for my dear friends. It doesn’t matter the nature of expression -- visuals, movement, sounds, words; it’s all the same.

We are told "no" a thousand times before we get a "yes." We take one step forward and seven backwards.

Our work is ripped apart, thrown in the trash, criticized or flat-out ignored under the guise of honing our respective crafts, and we accept this because creatives have a fire in their bellies damn near impossible to find in other occupations.

We are the deep thinkers who read between the lines, who analyze the world and digest it for you, both the good and the bad. We are the words you read every day, the color palettes your eyes soak in, the sounds in your head morning and night. We are constantly observing the world around us, yearning for inspiration.

And, as we gaze around, all we see in every direction is a glowing backlight.

While social media has a lot of wonderful qualities, it seems increasingly likely it will be the death of artists for a multitude of reasons.

It perpetuates instant gratification.

There’s an old article from "The Atlantic" that has stayed with me for years, entitled “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” by writer Nicholas Carr. Essentially, Carr explores our technology-driven society, and how it has destroyed, in many ways, the human mind and how it operates.

People in this day and age want the quick and dirty version of everything. One photo, 140 characters or a quick status -- any longer and they’re out. Does that news feature have a page two? Forget it.

Standing longer than 60 seconds at that painting in MOMA? No way. But, by god, every person will Instagram a photo from there to seem cultured to the outside world, cultivating one giant, convoluted lie regarding our society.

There’s no respect for a craft, a process, a true art form anymore. What’s a singer to do if his or her audience can’t sit still for more than 30 minutes at a time? If they physically can’t not live tweet that symphony concert?

Most can’t even make it through a dinner date without checking their iPhones, so there’s no way they will survive the ballet.

If it can’t be Googled in 30 seconds or less, it’s useless. No one cares. They’d rather hit up the Meatpacking District and upload 17 versions of the same photograph than appreciate something that might cause them to exert some brainpower. And, when there’s no audience, there’s no art.

Real life lives beyond the computer screen.

In that same vein, society’s obsession with social media is quelling any sparks of inspiration artists might absorb and replicate. It's not romantic when someone messages you on Tinder at 11:47 pm, it's just sad.

And, it's more than slightly resemblant of Joaquin Phoenix; although, we know the voice on the other end won’t be nearly as sensual as Scarlett’s.

Pablo Picasso once said, “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” But, what happens when everyday life is Snapchat? What happens when everyday life becomes only dust? How are we supposed to dig ourselves out of this hole in the ground in which we’ve suddenly ended up?

I can’t adequately write about feelings and love when the only being that gives it back to me without a screen between us is my dog. I can’t comment on the adventures of the world when most people are too lazy to leave their Apple TVs and truly find beauty in simplicity.

I, along with my fellow creatives, are hindered by a lack of depth preserved by phrases like "YOLO," uttered often and experienced rarely.

Artists bring down artists.

Unfortunately, artists themselves are delivering the final blow, hammering that last nail in our coffins in this corded world.

Social media has come to serve as a platform not for engagement and interaction, but exaggerations and bragging, and creatives may, in fact, be the biggest offenders.

Instead of harvesting a community of collaboration, supporting one another, learning from others and blending ideas to form more impactful pieces, we use the Internet to puff our chests.

It’s a thin line between growing your personal brand and gloating, but when it’s crossed by others, it’s painful. It’s one more job that’s not yours. One more audition that didn’t go your way. One more interview you didn’t quite nail.

It’s a heartbreaking, sinking, pit of your stomach feeling that makes you doubt yourself, your training and your passion. You feel like everyone has found stardom but you. You feel like maybe you wasted years and thousands of dollars cultivating a form of expression that’s now rendered useless; someone else filled the void meant for you.

You resent the little shoebox apartment you pay through the nose for. Time to pack up and go home.

We are each on our own journeys, with our own paths to success. What works for one artist will not work for another. Doors will close; windows will open. But, it’s misleading if someone is purposefully sharing only one side of a story. It’s misleading to the small audience we retain, and it’s misleading to fellow gypsies.

Artists are here to tell the truth. So do that, or don’t do anything at all. The aforementioned feeling is fleeting for now, but with each Instagram filter, it lasts longer and longer.

The fire dims a bit more each time. And, eventually, it’s going to burn out. We’ll stop finding inspiration. We’ll stop seeing beauty. We will stop creating.

“True art is characterized by an irresistible urge in the creative artist.” – Albert Einstein

It doesn't matter if it’s the left side of your brain that’s dominant, or the right. It doesn't matter in which field you work. It’s our duty as citizens of the world to create a safe space for expression to flourish.

So, put down the phone, skip the next status and live in the world, creating an environment that celebrates creativity in all its shapes, sizes and forms before that irresistible urge we all have is too far gone to seize.