Everyone is clear that social media exists to turn us into passive consuming zombies feeding a higher digital intelligence at the service of Swiss bank accounts right?
And our kids? Compulsively plugged into YouTube and TikTok? Furtively staying up all hours to press the dopamine button over and over like junkies?
Will they turn out ok?
(Heads shaking sadly.)
BUT if culture really is the superpower of humanity. And culture is essentially sharing and connectedness.
We are now connected like never before.
My girl and I live about 99.9 percent in our visual brains. I’m sure the overwrought wiring in that department crowds out important functions. Like accounting. Like sports. And maintaining a respectably healthy social life.
But this unprecedented connectivity is incredibly rich visually. And, it serves my soul.
So I’m laying some gratitude at the altar.
I am not saying that Pandora’s box is not a wild beast we need to tame, fraught with dangers that we have never before had to grapple with. But we are, because of it, more connected than ever and I hope that will help us rise to the challenge.
Ads and overconsumption, addiction, political polarization. The insane sci fi horror potential of big data in the hands of big tech.
I hope we figure out how to govern it well and fast.
Because the value, I think, is still worth it.
For one thing, you can find community with other wing nuts obsessed with the same things you are.
I found a fellow colour fanatic and ultimately my ideal job on a fabulous blog about colour. I got there by surfing around, idly indulging my interests during those lovely but endless hours of breastfeeding, burping and snuggling.
Back in art school I had to skimp on groceries to maintain pricey subscriptions to art magazines to get a glimpse of what artists were doing. Now I follow hundreds of artists and designers I admire on Instagram interacting with them and their work in real time.
My girl follows incredibly inspiring and engaging young illustrators and creators on YouTube. They fuel her artwork, the validate what she does. She spends all her spare time creating and learning from other creators. It’s incredible.
At her age I was drawing the cat. It was the only interesting thing in the room. By contrast, she has a universe of stories and visual ideas in her head.
AND, while I was smudging out a sketch of a cat floating around on the page, she already has a Phd in dynamic composition. I had the Flintstones and the terrible palette knife sepia landscape over the sofa to study. She has been exposed to millions of images that already stand on the shoulders of Matisse and Warhol.
Granted, not all the content is at a level worth striving for, but seeing what’s not working as well is just as useful.
Culture is about collective learning.
And these kids are learning. I look at her drawings and I’m blown away. I constantly ask her, did you really draw that? Which she thinks is hilarious. Because yes, of course she did.
She was inspired by her online tribe to participate in Inktober. A challenge to do one drawing a day for the month. My child of darkness drew phobias.
There is a story in our culture that great art arises spontaneously out of the desicated soil of aesthetic deprivation. That it should emerge from monasterial solitude. Worlds created spontaneously out of individual genius.
It’s total bunk. Artist are scavengers not monks. The smart ones recognize what’s worth copying, what can be stolen, recycled, reused.
Copy the work of artists you admire, the places where you fail, those quirks are yours. (A much more constructive fragment that floats out there, not mine).
The misguided need to be absolutely original stymies artists and keeps them from creating at all. It’s a conceit that the individual can even stand without the group.
So, get over yourself. It really has all been done. But not by you. Clasp hands. Get busy with your mashup.