Motivation For Creation
Social media's impact on (my) creativity
My photography story isn’t that different from other’s stories. I’ve always loved the act of taking a photo; from the time I was old enough to hold a camera. But, I didn’t really dive deep into it until I was in my 20’s working at a photo lab. Then again in my 30’s when I found blogging and eventually Google+.
In my 20’s I’d take photos of my family and pretty things and post them, of course, to Facebook. My family and friends would always compliment my work and tell me that I should do more with my photography; mainly because they had no idea what they were talking about. They’d say I need to be doing portraits for a living, but it just wasn’t something I saw myself doing. Taking photos of your loved ones is easy, because you love them and see the best in them. You know how to capture their true spirit. But taking photos of strangers, that’s a skill I didn’t have.
But with all that positive feedback on my photography, in my 30’s I eventually attempted my very first Project 365 and began blogging about my journey. I’m quite certain only my immediate family ever read that blog, well maybe not even them really. But, I enjoyed putting more words to my photos than just a Facebook comment. In this way, my love of writing reemerged and I was hooked! Sadly, I didn’t finish that project 365 and that blog has long since been deleted, along with some pretty cringe worthy posts, I’m sure. It’s all a part of growing and evolving after all.
During that time though, I was invited to Google+ (back when it was invite only) and I started posting my photos there, and getting so much feedback and interaction. I began immersing myself in the photo community, and my photography evolved accordingly. I learned so much in my years in that photo community, and made some pretty great friends along the way. When I left that platform (just before it died) I had about 30,000 followers, a verified checkmark beside my name, and a pretty inflated ego to boot. I had also picked up a pretty hard habit to break.
That habit being that my motivation to create began to morph into my motivation to post something people will like on social media. And for the last 10 years or so, I haven’t been entirely creating for myself anymore, and instead I’ve been creating in order to “show off” my work on social media and get that dopamine hit that comes from all the positive feedback and interaction. If you are one of those people (like me) who says “no way, that’s now me. I’m in it for the love of photography only.” and yet you still post your images to social media, then yeah, you’re also in it for that dopamine hit. You might fool yourself, but you aren’t fooling anyone else.
This isn’t entirely a “it just dawned on me” moment, as I’ve seen this evolving over time, and have tried to curb my social media usage accordingly. I’ve also posted about this topic before. But at first I didn’t relate the overuse of social media to why I was creating what I was. It took a lot of introspection and in some cases, some deleting of apps to see just how skewed my creativity had become. I was no longer taking photos for the love of the photos, but rather for the reaction they’d get on socials. It feels gross admitting that and typing it out here. It’s like I’m a sell out and there’s no art left in my photography anymore. It’s just a process… take a photo, post to socials, soak up the positive feedback, repeat. And…
I don’t enjoy it. In fact, I quite dislike it. And it’s one of the reasons that (erroneously) led me to change my camera systems So. Many. Times! I was searching for a way to recapture that spark again, and to love taking photos again. And let me tell you, changing camera systems isn’t the way to do it. It is however an expensive way to lose money on practically new gear. I don’t recommend it. It also does nothing to cure yourself of this social media induced creation motivation. In the end you have new camera gear from which you will be unpleased because it isn’t getting you those banger images you think you need for socials. And you’ll still be unhappy because you still aren’t creating for you. You’ve still lost sight of your passion for the simple act of taking the photographs.
I’ve learned this lesson the hard & expensive way. And I’m still not sure how I am going to get back to that place I once was. The place where picking up my camera was a joy no matter the result. The place where I was happy because I was doing something I loved. The place where I wasn’t selling my practically new camera gear on Kijiji every 6 months or so. The place where photography was fulfilling and I didn’t care if anyone else liked my work or not. It wasn’t about pleasing others. It was about creating photographs of the beauty around me so that I could preserve those memories. It was about creativity. It was about me, my vision, and my passion.
And that’s why I’ve sometimes (ok maybe a lot of the time) seemed scattered in the last few years. Jumping from one camera system to the next (I’ve just about used them all at this point), going from one website platform to the next, populating a blog with months worth of entries, just to delete them on a whim, yada yada. With each new change I’m always hoping to get that spark back. And I do, for a moment. That is until it all comes back around to being about posting to socials instead of being about the joy of creating. And then it all comes crashing back down again, and I begin to look for that next new beginning. Sigh…
It’s exhausting. Always chasing something you already have, but never seeing it because you are too consumed with what the world tells you that you need to be doing with it. Social media has thoroughly killed my joy of creating and I’ve just about had enough of it. Enough to delete it all and be done? Im not sure; maybe. But certainly enough to take a step back and reevaluate how I use social media and make changes from there. What I do know is that if it isn’t sparking me joy (thanks Marie Kondo) it has to change or go. I don’t have anymore room in my life for things that don’t bring me happiness and fulfilment.
What do I like about Instagram these days? Well, it’s certainly not posting photos to my grid. I do, however, like posting to stories and looking through reels. So basically, I’ve learned to embrace the direction the platform is going and use Instagram as a TikTok alternative. Perhaps I should just ditch Instagram and go hangout on TikiTok? Nah, I’m too old for that shit! But, I will perhaps evolve the way in which I use Instagram, or just eventually delete it and move on. But… it’s difficult to give up something you’ve invested your time in for so many years. I have, however, started the transformation already. I deleted every photo on my public account and have started posting just those photos that I have taken in 2022. There isn’t much there now. And over on my private account I’m having photo books printed of my past posts and as each new photo book comes in, the posts in which it covers get deleted. With the exception of the videos. I haven’t figured out how to save those yet.
And that just leaves me with Twitter, as I very long ago got rid of Facebook. I’ve been on Twitter for almost 14 years now. Yep, my Twitter account is a teenager! And though it is far from perfect, it is the one social media account that I’ve always seen for what it is. It’s a place I can go to catch up on news, gossip, and the like. And every once in a while I can post photos, but mostly I post links to my new blog posts. And that works for me because there is very little commitment involved.
I guess the point of this blog post is that in this day and age (how old does that make me sound?!) sometimes taking a look at what motivates you to be on social media platforms can be eye opening. It can make you realize you’ve lost sight of the things you love in exchange for 5 minutes of accolades on social media. If you’re honest with yourself (and most of us have a difficult time being so), you’ll likely see ways in which you’ve buried your head in the sand of social media, and perhaps maybe want to start digging your way out. If so, just know you’re not alone. If not, give it some time. You’ll eventually wake up and stop lying to yourself.
Until next time, be loving, be kind, be better!