Consumption vs. Creation in the Age of Social Media
Written March 2014
A friend recently confessed that she didn’t want to start a Twitter account because, “I already have a Facebook, a Tumblr, an Instagram...a Snapchat, and a Last.fm...and an 8tracks.” I understand, I said, because I have just as many accounts to keep track of. I check all of them at the breakfast table before class and throughout the day, measuring the busyness of each day by how far behind I fall on my Twitter feed. Even as I increase my efficiency so as to spend less than 5 minutes on social media at a time, my disenchantment with it continues to grow. Is it because I’m getting older? I’ve been in the social media game since age 10 with your classic MySpace, Xanga, and LiveJournal. At this point, I’m about to declare social bankruptcy.
While it’s true that I like to limit my consumerism and that I strive to live the James Bond minimalist life, it’s also true that I get bored easily and that my life is too mundane, yet busy and socially connected, not to take part in these various interactions. At the same time, I don’t doubt the usefulness of Facebook, or Twitter, or any other outlet. Each serves its purpose.
The main problem with all these services being integrated into our (my) daily life is that we (I) have become more comfortable (and more consumed) with passively absorbing content than striving for original creation, especially outside the virtual landscape, and it allows us to become the idle critic instead of the active artist. When the New York Times interviewed Jack White in 2012, he said, “You ask a kid, ‘What are you doing this Saturday?’ and they’ll be playing video games or watching cable, instead of building model cars or airplanes or doing something creative. Kids today never say, ‘Man, I’m really into remote-controlled steamboats.’”
I felt so guilty reading the truth. “I don’t have time or money for xyz hobby,” we all claim. But we had time for all those Netflix marathons and money to buy those random $4 apps. A few years ago, no matter how talentless I was or how often I kept my creations to myself, I was still able to say things like, “I play music”, because I did. Now, it’s more, “Well, I used to play music...I think my Instagram is pretty decent?” This has led to a new, ongoing series of existential crises. Just ask my last roommate.
Can commentary and conversation be considered forms of creation amidst our culture of sharing and retweeting? Certain websites like Tumblr, Stumbleupon, Pinterest, YouTube, and now Adizu are more obvious sources of inspiration and instruction for users to create original content. Social media channels can only thrive if someone is creating content, so you could argue that they actually encourage and facilitate more creation than consumption. We don’t all have to be activists or artists, all the time -- entertainment can exist for the sole purpose of entertainment. Sharing knowledge is usually a good thing. But I’ve read far too many articles and quotes to know that inspiration is something to be sought out and creation is something to actively work towards.
So here I am, writing this and sharing it on a new social media forum. It’s spring break and I was planning to watch all two seasons of House of Cards. I haven’t been able to, it turns out, because I’ve also been using most of my nights to write a new screenplay (inspired by an album I've been listening to a lot! consuming!) for my Digital Filmmaking class, which started last week. Unlike all my other screenplays, I’ll actually be making this one into a short film. You know, because it’s required...for a class.