I was walking down Queen Street with my four oldest kids a few weeks ago on our way to a wonderful little Italian bakery here in the city of Lancaster. We piled into the small store and I was all “Stop touching the glass Abra” and “Stop climbing up the stools Sam.” We stood there in a line at one point, all five of us, our eyes glistening in the light reflected from a case of deliciousness.
And I thought to myself, this will make a great blog post. I reached for my phone to take the perfect Instagram, a shot of the back of my four kids staring into the eyes of their next sugar rush, but I had left my phone at home, intentionally. For just that reason. Because I knew I’d be reaching for it, and, let’s be honest, sometimes we all need to take a break from those little plastic dictators.
But I was disappointed I didn’t have my phone and I was thinking of the different angles for the blog post and you know what? It just didn’t feel right. I’m finding it increasingly harder to enjoy the moment I’m in because I’m thinking of my audience ALL. THE. TIME.
That’s right. It’s your fault.
Well, not really.
* * * * *
My friend Nish Weiseth (who wrote an excellent book recently titled Speak) shared an article recently written by Michael David Friberg. One of the parts that jumped out at me was this:
I think because the space between creating and promoting has been so drastically shrunken by the instantaneous way we are able to share work we’ve made, we (people in my generation, myself included) have confused the two. The two are not the same. Making stuff is why we got into this in the first place but making stuff can take second place next to the small endorphin rush of a like or reblog.
And this isn’t just about the creation and promotion of books or music. This is the creation and promotion of our lives. We confuse the creation of a life and the promotion of a life. They’re not the same thing, you know.
He goes on to write
Being able to share work and consume work is amazing but the delivery system is not without costs. It is a system that rewards single, crowd pleasing images. It rewards pandering. It can make you aware of an audience before you ever even push the button. That is not a place I want to admit being and I doubt you do either but if you haven’t ever seen something amazing in real life and subconsciously thought, “this is going to blow up on instagram” while reaching for your phone, you are a better person than I am.
So what? you might ask. Who cares if we’re mixing promotion and creation? Who cares if we’re getting an endorphin rush from the likes and retweets of small things?
I have to care, because the fact is, I want to write novels. I want to write long stories. And the rush I get from being retweeted or Instagrammed can divert me from the work I want to do. The pursuit of likes is a timely one, and I’m becoming less and less sure that it’s worth the effort.
Our lizard brains are getting trained by the feelings we get from having success on these platforms. Since we are artists or photographers, we are all broken people subconsciously seeking validation and social media is the perfect delivery system for a false sense of importance.
This can happen to all of us, whether or not your a writer, an artist, a musician, or working 9-5. We’re all seeking validation, and there’s nothing wrong with Facebook or Pinterest (I’m not planning on going anywhere anytime soon). But is our desire to be “liked” interrupting what might be a really important moment in life because we can’t let it slip by without posting it on Facebook?
Is our pursuit of being liked or followed or pinned diverting us from the really important work we would rather be focusing on?