Is Social Media Killing Creativity?

Is Social Media Killing Creativity?

In this post, freelance communication strategist Nicola Swankie ponders if the desire to seek validation on social media is creating a subconscious fear that is affecting our ability to think creatively?

Nicola Swankie
Posted by Nicola Swankie

I’ve been giving a bit of training recently about creative thinking for social media channels and it got me thinking about courage, about having the guts to try something that is in an unfamiliar territory for us.

To allow our minds to have the boldness to go somewhere new and trust ourselves as we venture there takes a surprising amount of bravery, and funnily enough, I feel that social media itself, which many of us are trying to be more creative for, has evolved a new mindset subconsciously that makes putting ourselves ‘out-there’ even more scary.

Social media, while it has brought so many benefits into our lives, I’ve also observed, has created a new fascination of judgement. Judgement around our thoughts and lifestyle, am I doing something of value in the eyes of other people? If it doesn’t receive the right amount of positive recognition, does that devalue it completely?

This thought was sparked by a friend of mine who commented on the fact that 14 year olds never look dorky anymore, that when we were that age we had bad eyebrows and strange fashion experimentation – now they all look picture perfect ready for the next selfie, that will live on a new feed right next to Kim Kardashian and co, competing in a world of photoshopped perfection.

The by-product of that, do all 14 year old girls now look the same? Are they losing that sense of self expression and identity that is so important in those formative years that leads us to experimentation and creativity?

Is validation within our social media lives creating fear within us that we might not be ‘good enough’ until we see those ‘likes’ and in real life we don’t have the phone or the keyboard to hide behind. Unable to filter our behaviour and watch the responses to validate our thoughts and opinions.

So what happens to ideas which are raw, incomplete? Projects we may be thinking about, but haven’t yet completed enough for other people to review them without us needing to explain them? What happens to them? Ideas we need to sketch up or discuss around table that are far from manicured perfection?

Do we give up on them in our minds because they are not perfect enough? Do we never finish them because we lack that courage and conviction in ourselves? Without validation do we talk ourselves out of even pursuing them?

What makes a thought valuable anyway? Is it always opinions of others? And at what point should they be allowed to judge us?

A great heroine of mine for her work in this space is Brene Brown. For those of you not familiar with her, she is a Shame researcher, yes that’s right, she is a Shame Researcher based in Austin Texas. She famously did a TED talk on the Power of Vulnerability and is actively helping people through her books and courses to embrace vulnerability and show up in life wholehearted – without the fear of judgement.

In her book ’The Gift of Imperfection’ she describes an encounter at a corporate conference she is speaking at. When she asks one of the other attendees what the most significant barrier to creativity and innovation is? His reply is;

“I don’t know if it has a name, but honestly, it’s the fear of introducing an idea and being ridiculed, laughed at and belittled. If you are willing to subject yourself to that experience and you survive it, then it becomes the fear of failure and the fear of being wrong.

“People believe they’re only as good as their ideas and they’re ideas can’t seem too ‘out there’ and they can’t ‘not know’ everything’. The problem is innovative ideas often sound crazy and learning and failure are part of revolution.

“Evolution and incremental change is important and we need it, but we are desperate for real revolution and that requires a different type of courage and creativity”     

To think more creatively in spaces we are not familiar with needs that wholehearted revolutionary courage that is absolutely needed. Where we can all feel more free to experiment without that fear of getting it wrong, as that can complete freeze us and stifle any creativity. Allowing ourselves and our teammates to embrace imperfection, especially as we learn together in a fast moving space that no-one can completely stay on top of.

Today look at where you might be holding yourself back, for fear of judgement, for fear of not getting enough ‘likes’? What did it stop you doing? What idea will never come to light? I would like to see this everyone embrace experimentation and imperfection just a little bit more.

Because, reflecting back to the 14 year olds – the ability to conform to look perfect is admirable, but is it just simply boring? Are we going to lose some out there thinking for fear of getting it wrong? Losing the thinking that actually drives technology, creativity and innovation forward into new and un-thought of places.