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Leaving social media, choosing creative freedom
We live in an interesting world. One where we have the freedom to create what we want to create and offer our unique work to many using the Internet. Yet, in a way, this way of creating our work in the world feels less free. We give up much of our time creating to create for a social media algorithm in an attempt to get our work in front of others, and yet, we’re connecting less than before, our creativity is more greatly impacted by outside influences, and we are giving up time for connection and creation. We’ve lived with it for a while, but the time has come to seriously consider social media’s role in and impact on our lives.
It’s been about a month since I made my last post. I’ve been working on sharing my voice using YouTube for the past few months, and I burnt out. I needed some space away. Part of that time included an inner journey exploring how I want to share my work with the world. It’s a common belief that we need to be on social media as artists, creative business owners, or visionary entrepreneurs. As with all things, I began to unravel this belief for myself. This latest experiment with YouTube led me to decide it’s time to share my work without social media, which ultimately led me to leave it personally for the most part too. If you desire to be a maker or creator rather than a consumer, it’s worth reconsidering your relationship with social media too.
We know social media is bad for mental health
We all know social media is bad for our mental health, yet still, we find ourselves sucked into it and consumed by it. Social media has rarely felt good for me, yet still I continued to show up for it. It’s addictive, and even against our best intentions, we get lost scrolling the feed. It’s a form of numbing out and escapism that leads us to look away from what’s really going on in our lives. It prevents us from digging deep into what’s going on with our inner world. Instead of looking at ourselves and what we need to tend to our physical and mental well-being or the state of our lives, we get caught up looking at what everyone else is doing with their lives or creative work. We may compare ourselves to what we see online, causing us to feel anxious, beat ourselves up, or feel dissatisfied with our own life. It’s hard to know what we need or want when we are filling our time zoning out on social media.
Social media gives us a distorted view of the real world
Social media gives us a distorted view of the world. Aside from the fact that we see a curated feed, a so-called “highlight reel” rather than a full picture of someone’s life, social media has become much like news media in that we have become heavily divided by our perspectives. It’s easy for us to find others who believe what we choose to believe and separate ourselves from those who disagree. We find ourselves living in a vacuum – an echo chamber that consistently reinforces these beliefs. Instead of pausing to think for ourselves, we find ourselves taking up the narrative going around on social media and becoming a part of groupthink. I found myself caught up in this for a time too, until one day I woke up and realized what was going on.
If we are able to disconnect from these narratives on social media and look around in the real world, we may find that, in reality, things aren’t playing out quite as social media portrays them. The news is designed to stir the pot and generate outrage and social media is no different. Problems aren’t solved through increasing division but by creating opportunities to see the real world, our fellow human beings, and consider that things maybe aren’t as simple as the two sides we’ve been divided into. That perhaps there is another way that has yet to be widely considered, but first, we must get past our need to divide through the dominant narratives rampant in the news and social media.
Social media is a toxic way of connecting
Social media has given us a false sense of connection. While social media allows us to connect to more people than ever before, these connections don’t run deep. We can even feel like we’re connecting with others as we scroll through the feed without actually connecting. Perhaps worse yet is that negative connections run rampant on social media. Putting up screens and platforms and technology between human interaction allows people to hide in safety while also seeing others more as objects than humans. We see that disagreements lead to people saying things to others online they would likely never say to their faces. It’s become quite a brutal place.
As social media gives us just a snapshot of our lives, it also gives just a snapshot of who we are and what we stand for. People are quick to judge and react to these snippets without having the whole story – a story they can never fully know but have already made assumptions about. No wonder it can feel hard to show up and share on social media – it isn’t a healthy place to share our voices and perspectives. It’s a place where criticism and bullying run rampant. However, we’re led to believe we should just keep doing the mindset work and showing up and it will get easier. We wouldn’t give that same advice to someone in an abusive relationship, yet we tell people to stick out the abusive social media relationship.
This is beginning to spill out in real life. As we’ve become less humane online, we are becoming less humane in the real world too. Our combativeness and judgement and division that began on social media have us connecting less in the real world. As we wouldn’t normally say some of the things we do online in real life, this line is beginning to become blurred. Things that happen in real life are taken to social media where they are ripped apart by others and vice-versa, where arguments originate online and continue in real life or cause relationships to deteriorate or dissolve. We’re beginning to see others for what we see of them on social media – the profile, the post, the divisive issues instead of the human being, and the issues that matter in the real world.
Social media takes us out of the present moment
Whether we’re consuming or creating on social media, it takes us out of the moment. We know this as we see that people prefer to scroll their phones at a restaurant than talk to the person sitting across from them, perpetuating this trend by moving from paper menus to digital ones, and ordering online instead of through the waitress or waiter. There are so many other moments we miss out on in life when we connect with the latest updates on our phone rather than those we’re within the moment. We miss out on what’s right in front of us.
This is true when we create for social media, whether sharing our personal lives with friends and family or sharing our creative work with our fans and followers. We move from fully experiencing the moment we’re into asking ourselves how we can document this moment and share it online. This is true in the creative process, when we’re engaged in the act of making but have to pause to capture it to share, or whether we’re letting our followers into more areas of our lives in order to try to build a personal or lifestyle brand. This era of oversharing is cutting into our experience of life, as consumers and creators.
What’s interesting is we rarely even remember anything we saw on social media. It’s truly zoning out, numbing out. There are no milestones and no markers to notice how much time we spend in an app. Just as life flies by when there are few memorable moments – we experienced this in recent years, especially when the ability to create experiences was hindered, time flies by on social media without anything to show for it.
Losing time for more meaningful things
Not only does social media rob us of the present moment, it robs us of our time to focus on more meaningful things. Most of us spend hours a day on our phones, consuming content. Getting lost in what’s going on in the world or other people’s lives takes us away from our own lives and what matters most to us. We zone out on social media and other apps instead of finding meaning in our lives. When you come to the end of your life, will you wish you spent all those years mindlessly consuming content on social media? Years, yes. It’s what it adds up to. How might those years of your life be better spent? What are all the things you could create and make with that times, the dreams you could pursue? How would it feel to spend that time creating for ourselves and engaging with life instead of consuming what others have created or done? Imagine all of the possibilities.
We live in curious times where we can spend so much time-consuming content. Previously, we were producers, not consumers. That has shifted with the Internet and social media especially. Ask yourself if you are spending more time consuming than you’re creating. For many of us, that’s true. Let’s take back our time, let’s take back our human nature as makers and producers rather than consumers.
What would you create instead?
Social media has us tricked into thinking it’s a great place to share what we create, our own unique perspectives, and self-express. Sure, it’s a place we can share art, photos, poetry, thoughts, and ideas, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re there sharing what we’re here to uniquely create and share. Each platform has a way we’re expected to share based on not only the functionality of the app but the algorithm as well. This guides us into what we create, sometimes even dictating so. We’re able to see what everyone else is making, the other people and brands we follow. This bombards us with what others are making, has us comparing our creations or being influenced by other work in the world. We may judge our creations if they don’t get enough likes or engagement. Our creations may shift more towards what others want instead of what we show up with joy and excitement to create. All of these influences impact our creativity and dilute our own unique creations.
What would you create in the world if you weren’t doing it for the platform, algorithm, or likes or reduced the influence of others on your work? How would you show up and share your creations, freely, uninhibited by these expectations or influences? Because that is what you are here to create. Not content for social media. Not for likes. To make what you want to make first and foremost. If you choose to stay on social media, choose to create first, without the platform or algorithm or likes in mind, and share in a way that is authentic to you and your creations. That’s finding purpose. That’s finding self-expression.
How I’m moving forward
For now, I’ve decided I’ll be focusing on my blogs, here at The House of Lost Arts as well as sharing my creations on my personal blog here. I’m continuing my weekly ritual newsletter, Tend the Fire (sign up here), as well as my mostly-weekly artist’s newsletter (sign up here). I’m keeping my social pages up for people to find me, but using those pages to direct people to my blog and newsletter. I may post seasonal or annual updates on those pages as things grow and change, but I’m not putting a focus on creating regular content for social media. On the personal side, I check in briefly once a week to tend to notifications from friends I’ve been in contact with there or to access groups I’m actively using. I’ve been culling a lot of friends and accounts I follow, but as I’m not spending time on my feeds anymore, I may or may not continue that process. I enjoy sharing through video, but I’m still weighing what that means moving forward. YouTube was simply too time-consuming for me, taking away from my other creations.
Social media has been a big part of our lives in recent years, but I believe we’re in a transition period where its popularity is declining and where more and more people are reconsidering their relationship with these platforms, how much time they spend there, how they connect with others, and how they share their work in the world. Hopefully, this trend will continue. I’d love to see a world where we spend more time outside than behind screens, more real and deep connections than inhumane ones, and moving back towards being makers, creators, and producers rather than consumers. I hope this post inspires you to reconsider your relationship with social media and where you show up to connect with others and create your sacred work in the world.