Being such a space, social media begets a lot of implications - the discussion of social media is always so broad and there is always so much to consider: the inauthenticity associated with an online presence, the constant distraction, etc - even child predation if you’re an “e-safety” teacher (as they’re so endearingly named.)
Most of this discussion is humdrum. What I find most interesting about social media are the “spaces” it’s created, and the prevalence of “aesthetically” driven profiles. The latter is best described as curated arrangements of images and photographs, which culminate into a whole “aesthetic” (as it’s referred to.) Profiles with set “themes”; consistency and coherence, are prevalent within visually driven social media like Instagram or Tumblr. Online, personal galleries. We curate our own digital lives, with repercussions the same way the arrangement of a room can intimately betray a personality or a set of interests.
Although I “curate” and have curated since joining these social media channels, I used to hold some reservations about being so selective with what I would post or not. It seemed vain and stifling to restrain from posting a casual, lesser-quality photo out of the concern it would break your aesthetic - wasn’t social media meant for fostering social interactions, not for a teenager’s art project?
But what I realised, is that now! Now we have this space, for nothing, to flex our visual creativity. It’s so accessible and easy. It’s almost liberating.
Flexing visual creativity - outside of an art and design subject - as a youth, would be lacking prior to this. I can imagine it would extend to your clothing, your room. To be the type of visual creative you can be on such social media would be difficult - it would be akin to scrapbooks, photo albums: hefty activities.
But now! We have this infinite space for our aesthetics and art to spill out into! In such a simple, accessible way, requiring only the Internet and a device, we can carve out a record of our personal aesthetic vision, our own view of the world - and we also share it with more than our friends, with the entire world, and in such a free way, a much freer way than before.
Scrapbooks, photo albums - other related “aesthetic arrangements” - these have the burden of physicality and are difficult to share with others. And if you do share it with someone, it’s seen as an active thing to do - the act of physically sharing is notable and stands out. It isn’t casual and it can be jarring. But online! Digitally, it is a passive act and lacks all this emotional weight.
Which is another question. Is this passive, all-too-casual attitude good or bad?
The creation of these spaces has increased a youth’s experience with art tenfold. A Tumblr blog can be curated with thousands of reblogs, thousands of photos or pieces of art, thousands of pieces of poetry, recorded and documented - saturated. When a user reblogs a work of art, a Basquiat, how long is spent actually looking at it? Experiencing it? Or is the experience of clicking reblog and claiming it for your “space” greater than witnessing it? At times, users feel like filter feeders, casually and effortlessly sifting through endless content and consuming the ones they like.
And when you scroll through a curated Instagram feed, how long is spent looking at an individual photo? Has the user placed thought behind it aside from the consideration of its fit into their own aesthetic? When users post works of art on their profile, is it because they want to share the beauty and humanity to others, or is it because they want to appear cultured to their peers?
This has extended to music as well. We have amazing tools to listen to music, and we use them constantly - I listen to music for the majority of my days - but with this constant flow, this churn of art, the gratefulness towards music I think has disappeared. It’s been devalued. Music can be torrented within minutes and streamed within seconds. I can torrent an entire album and listen to the first thirty seconds, and if I don’t get a good impression I can immediately delete it.
It’s why artists like Beyonce are releasing their albums overnight and eschewing the current hit-single model of popular music - her recent album, Lemonade, is meant to be listened as a cohesive work of art, not as a hit single in the car radio - not aimlessly and casually. As a work of art it is meant to be appreciated, with time taken to explore it.
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