Last year I deleted all of the social media I was attached to. I couldn’t stand it. It felt invasive. It felt uncontrollable. It felt like just another system I had to master, be a part of, participate in - even when I really didn’t want to. I needed a real break. And so I deleted all of it, without any fanfare. The hundreds of millions of users went on with their lives without knowing or caring that I no longer participated.
This “break” from social media was just part of a larger “break” that I was giving myself to figure out where I wanted to go now. A total unplugging so to speak. A time to be mindful and reflect in a pool of the best objectivity I could muster. See “Ebbs and Flows” for further on this.
I was an early user of Facebook and Instagram, specifically because it was a wonderful connector of artists. I had an Instagram account way before I had a smart phone., which was interesting to say the least. I loved discovering and connecting with artists I knew and artists I didn’t. With the huge audience and the constant demand to post or lose followers, I began to dread it. And when Facebook founder Sean Parker and former Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya both spoke about the addictive qualities of social media and their negative effects on culture, my doubts were further confirmed. I began to question my own motivations for using these modes while complaining about them. The questions Parker and Palihapitiya pose are these: when does popularity become truth and how can truth be influenced?
My question is: how do I navigate society and stay rooted in my truth without the influence of popularity? Popularity is a very addictive thing. Even when we say we don’t subscribe to it, secretly we sorta kinda do. Everyone wants to be liked, have their work admired and be supported by the biggest and the best in their field. Part of being an artist and putting your work out there is because you want it to have a life outside of you and your studio. And that requires other people to like what you do.
The problem becomes when the need for approval, the need for followers, likes, attention and comments supersedes one’s own vision for the work. This is extremely hard to navigate. The ability to critically think gets put aside in the swarm of busyness, schedules and admirers. Social media is merely an amplifier of this, not the cause.
It is human to want to be liked. Social media capitalizes on this. I realized that the social apps weren’t the problem. My attitude was. And I needed time away to realign my perspective and re-evaluate my way of keeping that perspective in check. When I was ready to get back “on”, I promised myself I would only engage if it felt right and genuine. I would only engage with truth and integrity. The rest would work itself out.
Social media, like anything created by humans, is a mirror we hold up to ourselves. We are the ones who get to choose what we see in that mirror.