Wildly Creative co-founder Shanta Lee poses the question of whether or not our creativity for its own sake is dead in the digital age.
The “it” that I am referring to is the popularity contest that everyone has entered into in the age of social media all in an effort to be seen or heard. Have we left the age of creativity for its own sake? Are people now creating in an effort to be seen and heard at all times paying the price of quality in exchange for tons of anonymous views?
Could any of the artists I mentioned be guilty of entering into or engaging in what seems to be a contest of attempting to gain 15 minutes of fame through a vehicle that allows anyone at any time to push their creativity out at any time? We don’t know because let’s face it, they are not here now for us to test this theory (and that is pretty obvious). However, it is easy to draw the conclusion that creativity and art seemed to exist for its own sake prior to all of the technology that allows anyone to post anything at any time.
It is refreshing to see Emily Dickenson’s poetry or look at anything birthed out of anyone’s truth or creative vision pre-Facebook and see a level of sincerity in it that we may have lost. At the same time that I make this statement, one could argue that it is a bit unfair to compare intention of creativity pre-and post internet and social media. After all, how would I truly know what I am seeing pressed out in mass posts from various creatives (be it images, words, or a video someone is making to share their latest creative moment) isn’t coming from a sincere want of sharing for creativity’s own sake?
While it could be argued that anyone I mentioned before all of the online hoopla was aiming for some fame and recognition (some monetary compensation does not hurt as well), my main point is that it just felt different. Recently, I was talking with a musician about this very thing as we talked about some of the work he was putting on Sound Cloud. We chattered in a crowded coffee shop about our disbelief and disdain over how everyone putting out their creative work seemed to be reduced to monitoring the number of “likes” or “views” they were going to get for music, visual work, or even mere words crafted into poetry, prose, or something else. We pondered things such as: What does it communicate when you put something out that you have created and no one responds? OR Does that dictate that value of the creative product?
Towards the end of that conversation, my friend used the term “digital shenanigans” to encompass what we were talking about. Digital shenanigans seemed to summarize the hamster wheel that we all seemed to be running on these days. Weeks later, the digital shenanigans entered my mind while I shared and re-shared some of my written work and thought about another recent conversation in which a friend asked me why I did not yet have a Facebook page for my photography website. My answer to her included the fact that I was afraid of not reaching the same popularity or “likes” that I’d seen for other similar types of pages. “Oh “likes”? You can buy likes!” she said with ease and yet that didn’t feel right to me either though I knew she was sincere in her suggestion.
In the age of our ability to buy likes and appear popular to gain an audience for our creations….is it all worth it if creating for the pure sake of creating is not at the very center of it all?
And of course, I still wonder what Emily Dickenson, Van Gogh, or Jean-Michel Basquiat would do in this technological age.