If you are a creative or sensitive person, you know this feeling. Technology creeps ever more closely into every single aspect of our lives. With every click or swipe or like, we put our human fingerprint on the digital universe. We live and socialize by our screens, letting the hours melt away in content detachment from the quickly passing lives. Even the internet slang acronym “IRL” meaning “In Real Life” seems to suggest that we have this duality of existence. One is the avatar we create in the digital world, and the other is the living/breathing person that still has needs; food… water... physical contact… exercise…shelter… work. There are also a great many of us who feel that some kind of artistic expression is also part of their natural human need, as well as spending some time outside in nature.
A recurring theme that has been discussed in my writing coaching sessions and within the Weeds & Wilderness Meet-up group, is the often confusing role of social media and continuous exposure to technology plays within the creative life. Everyone seems has a very individual relationship with social media and how they involve technology in their everyday lives.
Many artists, writers, and musicians like me, rely on media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, youtube and Spotify, and personal websites to sell their music, communicate with a fan base or viewers, discover new opportunities, network for jobs, meet new people, date, get directions, pay bills, work, earn a living. Your media platform is the face you put to the world, having a poorly setup website is kind of like wearing your pajamas to work, you might be amazing at what you do, but if you show up looking messy and unkempt, people might perceive you as unprofessional.
Technology can also be the greatest tool for inspiration or the greatest distraction. What may begin as a simple google search can suddenly become a youtube video extravaganza, leaving crucial creative or work hours squandered into wasted time. The flashy screen, with its algorithms priming us like helpless addicts. The internet is the perfect tool for stress avoidance. It takes our bad days and sorrows and anxieties and whisks us away into another plane of existence. We humans naturally crave comfort in times of stress and it takes huge truckloads of self-discipline and self-reflection to get away from distractions, and re-connect with our creative influences and begin to really work toward those creative goals.
On the flip side of inspiration is disconnection. It is easy to go on social media and look at snippets of other peoples lives and begin to fall into comparison. We others who seem like they are cruising through their beautiful experiences; making our real lives, seem small, insignificant and boring. It’s easy to forget that social media is an illusion
When we live our lives in comparison to social media standards, we can begin to feel anxious, that we are somehow not enough. We start telling ourselves that we will never be as good as our idols, and this can lead us to some dark places. In a state of comparison, we see darkness, irritation, lack and disgust with our own shortcomings. We get frustrated and feel ignored by a world that is already saturated with beauty. We think: “What’s the point of being creative when there are so many others who are better at this than I am.”
These dark thoughts and feelings quickly turn into inaction. We feel overwhelmed with the idea of living up to the impossible or illusionary social standards and we sabotage our own success, feel doubly guilty for letting go of our dreams and goals. It’s difficult rut to recover from. The feelings of self-doubt get deeply embedded within our psyche
I’ve had to learn that self-acceptance means accepting with some of the dark feelings like; fear, sadness, depression, anxiety, self-sabotage, anger, ill health, mental imbalance, and all kinds of other dissonant conditions. It takes a lot of uncomfortable self-reflection to re-route your mental habits away from self-abuse. It takes a willingness to risk coming out of the default comfort zone, to see beyond the present circumstances and into greater possibilities. The process is also counterintuitive because we naturally want to protect ourselves from vulnerability. In the days of the caveman, early humans learned to hide vulnerability to stay alive. If you showed vulnerability, the lions/snakes/neighboring villages would come get you. Humans had to be strong, healthy and confident in order to survive a harsh winter or impress a mate to ensure future generations.
Fear and anxiety come directly from the survival instinct, and sometimes, in order to move forward, we have to call on other instincts to override the feelings that make us want to run away or give up. If we can sit with and acknowledge our loneliness, anxiety, fear, and incompleteness; we can better appreciate the moments of contentment, balanced health, special time with friends and loved ones or even an afternoon of fair weather, or most importantly, focus our minds for producing creative work.
Social media can be our greatest tool, but it can also be our greatest weakness. Social media can build our business or ruin our reputation. Social media can connect us with the people we love, or pull us into battles we don’t want to fight. Social media can inspire us out of a creative rut, or it can enable our avoidance for important movements forward.
So, what should a creative person do when they feel overwhelmed or isolated by the fluctuating relationship with social media? Here are some options:
- Take some time to log out. Choose a day when you can unplug all day, and take a survey of what you have done. Revisit old journals or things that you have done before. Remind yourself of what you are capable of.
- Ask yourself what you really want from your life. Write down a list of your goals in detail, and focus in on the steps you need to do to achieve them. Make those steps a part of your daily/weekly routine.
- Get outside the normal routine. Seek out new experiences or try new activities. Go for a walk in a town you’ve never been to before. With your camera/sketchbook or journal, and record what you see. Life experiences fuel creativity. You may get some new insights, or see the world differently, just by paying attention to the small details.
- Meet people face to face and show them or tell them about your work.
- Reach out to leaders and experts who inspire your field of interest, and ask them questions about their artistic process. You may not be surprised that their journeys and questions might be similar to your experience.
If some of your mentors (like mine) were alive centuries ago, visit the books and artworks they created. Think of it as their special gift to you; they are expecting you to be inspired and they will be flattered that you are creating something new out of inspiration from what they created in their lifetime.
The most important piece of advice is, take ownership of your own voice and choices. Remember that inevitably only you can speak for yourself. As a writing coach, I can help lead aspiring writers down the right path, but I will never truly be able to know what is best for everyone. We are our the experts on ourselves and what we think is best. The ultimate gift that all creative artists can give the ability to convey your own unique perspective to the world.