Writing in Vulture magazine, Drew Zeiba asks if you can make it as an artist without plugging yourself on Instagram? For millennials, the answer is probably a resounding NO! For those of us who grew up without a constant online experience the question is how did we manage? The article raises three points which stand out for me. Instagram [ and other social media] negatively affect our spiritual and mental health. They are addictive and if our role as artists is to “create, share, and contribute beyond existing boundaries’ then how can an additive and anxiety producing medium work for us as creators? The second point he makes is that social media can make us feel like we are ‘turning into sycophantic clones‘
Borndal describes Instagram as “an unctuous platform,” with so many “pity likes.” More than just being irritated by the self-promotion and ingratiation, Borndal found that seeing and sharing on Instagram began playing with his conception of the world around him. “I started thinking everyone was thinking the same thing at the same time, that everyone was becoming more similar. It was ultimately diluting my own thoughts…..
Instagram is really “not a creative space,” as Borndal puts it. It is a space bound by certain social, aesthetic, and user-agreement constraints, all of them prescribed either top-down by Instagram design or policy, or more amorphously by cliquish consensus among a segment of users, in turn shaping the kind of content that might be made and shared. But even when you know it’s bad for your brain, it can be hard to quit.”
Over and over friends complain of the time wasting and anxiety producing social media yet they remain. One explanation could be addiction. I do know a couple of artist friends who have chosen to permanently remove themselves from Facebook and Twitter with occasionally posting on IG which is where I find myself today. The third point made by photographer Abraham Adams speaks to the most depressing aspect of Instagram and social media in general. Every stoppage, every moment is either an opportunity to produce or to check yours and other people’s timelines, photo feed!
There’s less time to simply exist outside of production and consumption. Life becomes limned by phone-pickups and the buzz of notifications. “If you could say marginal experience is a kind of public good, then the whole thing seems like a typical piece of neoliberalism. It extends the possibility of instrumentalization to almost all waking moments.” It reprograms us to seek out content to be recorded all the time, turning our minds into their own kinds of cameras, knowing that we could always be posting, hoping for the most likes. It also demands a certain immediacy, not only reframing how we see, but how we allow ourselves to process what we’re taking in, possibly turning the artist into a half-baked influencer chasing abridged ideas and images. “It requires carrying the possibility of using it along as part of one’s way of seeing all the time.”
If you are a photographer and desire an online presence or simply interested in creativity then I suggest VSCO is of far more value than IG – little or no selfies, some incredible creativity and most of all there are no ‘likes’ or ‘follows’ on VSCO so all you get is the image itself. Alternatively one could leave the camera at home, the phone in your bag, and instead walk the city seeing and absorbing and creating in your mind without actually turning the moments into yet another series of productions.