Monday, 1 September 2014
The curse of social media silence
The internet is my creative playground. If you're reading this, the internet may well be your creative playground too. Hello. Good day to you. There's something quite extraordinary about this place.
The problem, however, with the extraordinary, vast, creative playground of the internet, is that sometimes it feels as if you're existing on the outskirts, skipping and waving and shouting 'helloooooo, I'm hereeeeee, come and play with me!' but to little avail. It's not difficult, particularly within the blogosphere, or when you're trying to establish a presence on social media, to feel as if you're waffling on to an audience of one: yourself. I'm a firm believer that talking to yourself is a total marvel during a Thursday morning hoover, or when you're in the shower contemplating life philosophies, or even when you're just in an overtly enthusiastic 'I LOVE LIFE' mood and feel the need to declare to oneself how much fun it is to have breasts that exist and swing and bounce and how wonderful it is to dwell beneath a sky full of wispy clouds and sunshine and magpies. But, when you have a message to share, a message that you fully believe to be important or witty or captivating or inspiring, talking to yourself doesn't quite have the same appeal.
It's easy to invest a substantial amount of time in creating something. It might be an idea that your curious mind conjured up weeks ago. You became pregnant with that idea. You made plans for it and fed it and grew it. You delivered that baby straight from the depths of your love canal and you fell in love with it. You nurtured it, you crafted it, you spent hours perfecting it and preparing it for the world, and then you put your baby out into the virtual sphere. And....Erm, nothing. No tangible response. Your nan phoned you up to tell you that she loved it, but you can't help but feel that's her obligation. In less than 24 hours, these words that you put together can go from being a literary explosion of near ingenuity and lasting sentiment, tonic for the idle mind, perhaps, to being the shittiest idea you ever had. That born and bred wordsmith within you: the fiercely passionate writer who is definitely going to do some good in the world, is suddenly scratching at an empty page with a half-chewed pen that doesn't work. You turn into a disheartened, frustrated failure, who vows instead to spend the rest of time drinking gin and eating crisps and 'NEVER writing again'.
As creatives, I think the craving for acknowledgement and appreciation is inevitable. Although we can see traffic and statistics, the desire to connect with others on a personal level is intrinsic to our human nature. If we made someone else in this world think, or if we inspired somebody to do a naked cartwheel, or even if we just made someone chuckle and splutter into their Cornflakes, we want them to tell us about it. We need that validation that actually, yes, our efforts were worth every second and we're alright at what we do, and there's reason to keep doing it. Ultimately, the approval from people we've never met is where the magic's at, and social media is the perfect platform upon which to deliver and receive it. Social media silence, therefore, when you've put so much of yourself into something, is one of the biggest curses of modern day creativity. It sucks. A lot.
Let me tell you something about social media silence and the flawed theory that it breeds. So, nobody tweeted? Nobody commented. Nobody sent you an email about it. It's easy to assume in that case that your work was absolutely bloody pointless and that nobody is interested in your particular brand of creativity, even though it's your most loyal passion, that one, all-encompassing thing that saves you from mediocrity and keeps you in love with living. Nobody cares. It's an assumption that I've made many times. It's an assumption that you've made many times.
It's a complete and utter illusion. I promise.
The number one rule of creativity is that you do it for you. Everything that you create has a purpose in serving yourself. You took an idea out of your head and turned it into something that cleared your mind and made you less insane. Good for you. That shit is never a waste of time, regardless of whether you feel it has an audience, which, irrefutably, it does.
Take a moment to think about the way that you personally consume creative content online. How often do you favourite a piece or return religiously to a particular blog or read or watch something and think 'THAT WAS SO AWESOME'? All the time. How often do you actually go and credit the creator or share their work or tweet them your praise or email them to tell them how ridiculously in awe of their talent you are? Probably not so much.
Just because your post doesn't go viral, or because nobody tells you that they enjoyed it, it doesn't mean that nobody's enjoyed it. I absolutely guarantee that there is somebody out there who cherishes every single word that you write and adores your little, virtual world. Even if you have only one reader that you're aware of, that one reader might be absolutely gutted if you ever decided to stop creating. You might bring light to that one reader's day where nothing else can. And if you know from your traffic that you have a somewhat established audience who just don't interact much, it's ignorant to assume that they are less inspired or less grateful because of that. You are making a difference. There's always an audience for creativity, even if they're not as present as you'd like them to be.
And so I guess the moral of this is to embrace what you do. Don't even toy with the idea of giving up on your craft. Be conscious of the fact that somebody, somewhere, perhaps without the preface of a Twitter handle or bloglovin' account, has fallen in love with your creative consciousness. Perhaps we should all be a little more optimistic and believe in ourselves the way that our returning audience believes in us, and perhaps we should all make a little more effort to not always be the silent consumer.
Go and let someone know that you love what they do; I dare you. And go and bloody do a naked cartwheel to celebrate. (Don't forget to tell me all about it.)