Does Social Media Impair Creativity?

If a post falls in a forest and nobody likes it, does it exist?

With one and a half billion users on Facebook, 284 million on Twitter, and at least 200 million people on Twitter, it is fair to say that social media is powerful enough to twist the fabric of reality as we know it. Its impact on the way human beings connect, share, posture, mate, learn and create is a sociological and philosophical game changer.

Let’s consider the influence of the feedback loop. Facebook alone calculates that there are at least four million posts per hour, followed by an exponential quantity of responses and shares. No sooner has an idea or creation been launched into the world, than the peanut gallery of humanity makes a spitfire assessment. Propositions are subject to an immediate litmus test. Offerings get sorted in realtime for their popularity and worthiness:  thumbs up, thumbs down, no comment, wow.

There has never been a time in history when creative output was so entwined with the feedback loop.

So, what affect does this have on creativity?

The creative process is delicate. Creations need time to gestate, space to become and room to unfold. Creators need privacy to falter and permission to fail. Nikola Tesla, who contributed to the application of electricity, was particularly concerned with the connection between solitude and innovation.

The mind is sharper and keener in seclusion and uninterrupted solitude. Originality thrives in seclusion free of outside influences beating upon us to cripple the creative mind. Be alone—that is the secret of invention: be alone, that is when ideas are born.” -Nicola Tesla

Worthy ideas and strong art demand courageous integrity. They cannot be oriented towards an endgame of mass approval or facile consumption. However, “what works” is the name of the new game, and for a myriad of reasons it is really, really, hard not to play.  Let’s imagine how this model of pandering to approval ratings might pan out:

  • The world is risk adverse = less travel into unknown territories = cultural stagnation
  • Content is responsive = lowest common denominator rules = deterioration of quality content
  • Process is desanctified = harsh conditions for new ideas = poetic paucity
  • Creativity is about marketing = loss of original voices = homogenious and soulless society

Some of these hypotheses are manifest already in the form of click bait, shorter attention spans, magic bullets and media junk food.

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These issues are not black and white- but to my point, as I write this I am aware that complexity doesn’t work in blog posts.  And while I could also write a book about how technology stokes the creative fire, the ramification of the constant feedback loop unnerves me.

Let’s end with these wise words by Oscar Wilde:

“I won’t tell you that the world matters nothing, or the world’s voice, or the voice of society. They matter a good deal. They matter far too much. But there are moments when one has to choose between living one’s own life, fully, entirely, completely—or dragging out some false, shallow, degrading existence that the world in its hypocrisy demands. You have that moment now. Choose!”

-Oscar Wilde, from Lady Windermere’s Fan


CREATIVE EXERCISE

In the spirit of innovation and Nicolas Tesla, this prompt encourages you to use your imagination and wander into new territories

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Join The Creative Hours community. Share your experience!

Email your work to thecreativehours@gmail.com or post your invention using hashtag #TCHinvention


Further reading:
The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint Exupéry

 

 
The Inventions, Researches and Writings of Nikola Tesla Presenting some of the marvelous findings and theories which made inventor Nikola Tesla famous. This fascinating book I ncludes lectures, articles and discussions, in particular those bearing on polyphase motors.