For younger artists trying to make a name for themselves in the age of social media it’s easy to get caught up in the hype. Doing social media right is an art in itself. Superficially, the relationship between social media and art appears to be a match made in heaven, but every rose has its thorns.
On one hand, the plethora of social platforms are magnetic. Free publicity, unlimited networking and potential career advancement and opportunities are at any artist’s disposal 24/7. On the other hand, social media aids in the mass production of trendy short-lived, hastily made art and the air of inauthenticity that is associated with a world of ‘@’ signs and hashtags.
Instagram is one of the most interesting platforms for artists to showcase their work, especially photographers. Trey Barkett, a photographer from Cincinnati, Ohio attributes his budding career to social media, “I started taking pictures because of social media. It introduced me to photography. I’ll forever be grateful for that.” His presence on Instagram engages the viewer through his use of GIFs, urban photography, color and black and white. He’s also branched out to another platform that is to date unconventional in the art world, Snapchat.
Social media has created a whole new world for artists looking to collaborate and promote themselves. Twitter is one of the easiest platforms to engage with others and create new network channels. Chicago based singer Jack Larsen uses social media, most notably twitter, to “generate relationships with artists all around the world.” He also mentioned that he hasn’t met 90% of the people who he has collaborated online with.
A lot of young artists rely solely on Instagram and Twitter to get their work out and develop a following. However, an often forgotten medium for exposure is Facebook. A lot of times posts go unnoticed on Twitter or Tumblr because the audience lacks a familiarity with the final product and the work that went into it. Mike Reiner, a filmmaker from Seattle, Washington found success through Facebook, saying, “I’ve made stuff in the past and just left it there on Tumblr, which is like a black hole when you have no followers. With Facebook you can get your stuff out to the masses because people get excited since they know you and want to support your hustle.”
One of the biggest battles young artists have with social media is how much of an emphasis these platforms place on immediate success or “blowing up overnight.” Instead of working hard behind the scenes everything is constantly on display, including your growth and achievements as well as your failures. Hashu, a rapper from Columbus, Ohio believes that social media adds a whole new level of stress to his music and art in general. “The idea of staying relevant, constantly trying to one up yourself and catch people’s attention, puts the emphasis more on your brand than your craft,” says Hashu. Another rapper, Ramsay Almighty, a Toronto native, likened social media to high school saying that “You see people trying really hard to fit in, sacrificing their own worth for likes and retweets.”
Chasing likes and retweets can be addictive and detrimental to an artist’s progression. Instead of continuing to work on and improve your art, you can stall with what got you the most retweets, or fashion your art around something that you saw on Instagram or Twitter. Developing and creating art that reflects you and your experiences is important and social media has the potential to chip away at that. “It’s important to understand who you are are. Otherwise you’ll just get wrapped up in others’ styles and trends and start mimicking all of it, whether you mean to or not,” says Sam Kotrba, a graphic designer from Kenosha, Wisconsin.
The beauty of social media is that it’s completely up to you what you do with it. The negatives affect you if you let them. As social media and art become more intertwined it’s important for younger artists to find what works for them and realize that retweets are ephemeral.