Here’s a controversial topic for your Monday.
I contend that social media hurts creativity. Change my mind.
Yes, I understand the irony of writing a blog post about this topic, if you consider WordPress a social media platform.
I thought about this while browsing my Instagram feed over the weekend, scrolling through endless photos of vintage book covers and pictures of author’s laptops exposing their word-count related victories. I feel like the modern writer (hobbyist or professional) needs to be more wary of the negative impacts of social media.
One of the earliest (and best) pieces of writing advice I ever got was “don’t talk about your work until it is finished”. Meaning, complete drafts and only show them to a select few trusted peers like an editor or critique group until they are ready for a wider audience. Social media and the incessant chirping from marketers about “building a platform” run totally counter to this.
Social media is all about instant gratification, and a feedback loop of exposure for quick responses. Alex Posen wrote a great piece about this on The Creative Hours, and I am buying what he is selling. Ideas need time to gestate and change without outside interference. I see so many “aspiring authors” posting raw first drafts on social media and I just want to scream “STOP!”. It may feel nice to show people your accomplishments, but it’s a trap. As soon as you invite a wider audience into that process, it becomes compromised. I don’t feel like that intrusion is worth a few “Likes” or the occasional comment.
My other, more curmudgeon-y, reason is simply a matter of the strange, nearly universal narcissism that social media has spawned among creative-types. Yeah, the irony alarm is about to sound again, but I had to say it. Most people (myself included) are just out here having fun tossing our thoughts and words into digital space. Very few authors are gaining a regular new readership and selling large numbers of books via social media. The ones who do have usually found success via other channels already. For every one success story there are millions of people posting about how they just can’t find the time to finish (or start) that 1st draft.
This isn’t to say social media is all bad. I love spending a few minutes each week interacting with this community, or looking at old horror movie VHS artwork on Instagram. The takeaway is you need to be vigilant and selfish with your creative hours, and realize these platforms are time-sinks BY DESIGN. Don’t let them compromise your creative process. As J.T. Ellison puts it, “don’t let social media kill your creative spirit”.
What is your take on social media? Do you feel like it stifles your creativity, or is it something you couldn’t possibly live without? Let me know down in the comments.