I was born at an interesting time because my generation has grown up right in the middle of the internet age. I remember learning how to use Internet Explorer on a bulky desktop computer in grade school, and by the time I finished high school classrooms were beginning to get iPad minis and 3D printers.
The internet has changed many aspects of our everyday lives. How we learn, how we communicate, how we access information, and the list goes on. I want to talk about how the internet has become a game changer in how we view art and other forms of media.
As a millennial artist, I have to be very familiar with the internet and social media. It’s my best option to launch my artistic career, and every young aspiring artist has already realized this.
That’s why teen musicians upload their music to Youtube or Soundcloud, teen filmmakers put their work on Vimeo, and teen artists are all over Tumblr and Instagram. It’s not an uncommon thing for young artists to already have an online portfolio, personal website, or run multiple social media accounts.
Social media provides multiple user friendly platforms for millennial artists to promote themselves: on Facebook I can share my art updates with friends and family, on Twitter I can share links in a witty tweet about my work and hope it goes viral, on Instagram I can post pictures from my studio and get new fans each day. It’s incredibly easy to put work on the internet and the feedback is instant.
The likes and comments start to flood in only seconds after I post a photo and by the next day almost everyone in my network range has seen my latest post, and if I use multiple hashtags then I can reach even more viewers outside my network. It’s easy and efficient, but with a large portion of the art world now digital, there are new distractions for young artists that didn’t exist before.
Because the feedback is instant, it’s easy to get caught up in the numbers and the hype. I know very well that there are young artists who fall under this trap. It’s not uncommon for people to experience a kind of buzz from the number of likes they can generate on social media the very same way a smoker gets a buzz from tobacco. That’s why social media can become so addicting.
In this day and age numbers matter more than they actually should. How many followers do I have? How many likes did I get? How many comments do I have on my latest status update? How much hype can I generate?
Eventually “look at what I just made” turns into “how many likes can this get?”
Hype builds ego. It’s the same reason why music artists that were once good at the beginning of their career start to make formulaic radio hit singles just to stay in the spotlight. The fame and hype reaches their head, and suddenly it’s no longer about their art. Some artists lose their concentration with this distraction and will cut corners just to please their audience before they’ve even come close to mastering their craft or reaching their full potential. There’s a certain kind of danger that exists when you start to put your happiness and satisfaction in the hands of others.
That’s also why I’ve personally decided to cut back on my social media use. I deleted my Twitter and Instagram account and temporarily unpublished my personal website and online portfolio. My logic was that I don’t want the hype and numbers to distract me while I’m still developing my craft. I want to be a master in my field, so I don’t have time to get caught up in a distraction that shouldn’t exist. I want to be a great artist someday, and that won’t happen if I become satisfied by likes and nice comments from being a “good” artist.
Social media is every young artist’s best friend and worse enemy. It’s hard to escape the distractions of the internet because it’s also the best place to start our artistic careers. Social media is just another canvas for millennial artists, and how we paint our online presence and usage is another art form in and of itself.