One of the most compelling arguments for the slow replacement of art with social media is that the trends of film and theatre have tended towards naturalism in the last 50 years, arcing closer and closer to getting to be real life.
With an Instagram or Snapchat story, you are capturing and consuming real life as ‘art’. Is this the peak of naturalism? Watching snippets of life is addicting and compelling, and social media makes these snippets bite-sized and consumable. Why watch a 2 hour play of people trying to act natural when we can consume the real thing in more palatable lengths?1
Maybe the job of theatre and movies, then, is to furiously stake its claim as being something more than naturalism. To reach for greater heights, greater feats of human creativity and exploration.
I’m not sure, though.
Hemingway wrote that “all good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened” – but I wonder if this will hold up when the truth of social media-cum-art and the Truth of Art are laid side by side.
I want to believe art offers something more, and I think at its best it does. It offers a window to the unconscious, an examination of our collective psyches.
But I also wonder if that’s not what people truly want. I wonder if all we wanted to see was others’ real lives, glimpsed as they actually are, so that we can feel less crazy, less alone, and more secure in our essential humanity. And if, strangely, social media-as-art offers this better than art-as-reality ever could.2