Will social media replace art?

I’ve been spending a lot of time on social media recently. (I’m taking a break till the end of the year, but that’s another story.) It’s kind of new to me, but I really like posting to my Instagram story. There’s something satisfying in always having a little ring around your picture that indicates you are doing something.

You are living your life and sharing it. Little funny things, or cool pictures, or selfies, or insights.

But lately, I can’t shake this quote from an interview that playwright Christopher Shinn gave a few months ago:

Social media - the ability to create and publish “art” from one’s life, and consume “art” from one’s circle - is going to further evolve and eventually overtake art as it exists today. My advice to writers starting out is, write as a hobby and choose something else as a career.

This seems cynical at first glance. But the more I interact with social media, the more I realize the truth in it.

We are beginning to turn our lives into continual performance art pieces, and social media is the document. In a culture of fingers pointing at the moon, the fingers are becoming the moon.

I don’t have a good answer to this. I think it’s plausible. I also think it means we need to make art – especially of the analog variety – with even greater clarity and intensity.

But the domination of social media is becoming overwhelming. It presents interesting opportunities: I like Twitter, and I like Instagram, and I like Snapchat. But it’s also concerning, because the co-opting of the word “Stories” by Instagram and Snapchat indicates a shift into narrative. (Twitter’s foray into narrative is through “Moments”.) Narrativizing our lives can be a productive and sometimes dangerous thing psychologically, and an interesting project artistically. But it begs the question: as Social Media stories become more dynamic, more inclusive, more creative – will there be a place for traditional artistic experiences outside of nostalgia?

It’s worth chewing on, if only to clarify your own reason for choosing to make art.


This post was published on . If you have thoughts, you can email me at gus@guscuddy.com.

You might consider signing up for my weekly newsletter, The Curtain. It's wide-ranging, but mainly I cover cultural psyches, media philosophy, performance and the internet. I try to make it feel personal, and hundreds of folks seem to love it. You can also browse through the archives here.