It’s undeniable that social media has a big impact on our lives. Many of us spend time each day scrolling through timelines and feeds. Whether it’s reading the latest headlines or looking at pictures of our mates lunches it is a part of our daily lives. With social media shaping the way we see and interact with the world, it was inevitable that it would impact on how we experience art. In recent years theatres, artists, museums and galleries have all been embracing social media and I’ve been taking a look into this. Social media gives us the opportunity to create a ‘profile’, an online image where we can share photos and our thoughts (sometimes in 240 characters or less). This online presence has been embraced by many arts organizations and artists who use this platform to increase awareness of their activities, interact with audiences/potential audiences and undoubtedly aim for ‘Likes’ and ‘Shares’. These social media spaces are where people perform identities and ‘a space in which theatre and theatre-makers perform themselves’ (Patrick Lonergan, Theatre & Social media). Link in bio Social media has been a platform where artists can make a career. Visual artists no longer have to rely on galleries and the formal art world for recognition. Many artists use instagram as their virtual art gallery, posting images of their work, works in progress and gaining fans. Vogue magazine explains that artists are ‘playing both dealer and curator while their fans become critics and collectors’. Musicians are also taking advantage of platforms such as youtube to launch careers. In addition to artists who found representation when they were ‘discovered’ on youtube (including Justin Bieber and Alessia Cara), many artists are using youtube to sell singles and get gigs. As Sophie Moss explains - ‘the internet provides all musicians with access to an instant global audience’ (Sophie Moss) However there is a downside to this. Chris Reed examines that social media is detrimental to musical creativity. He says that ‘Everyone’s worried about being different. The thing about different and unique on social media is that it’s either gonna work amazingly, or you’re gonna be the weird kid that no one wants to follow. And it’s like no one wants to take that risk, musically.’ With the whole world ready to give their opinion, taking risks can be intimidating. Also many artists have concerns about their images being used without proper credit and without their permission. 'A screenshot of your work could be passed around so many times that your name (and credit for the work) gets lost in the shuffle.' (Artwork Archive) Everyone’s a critic Within seconds of leaving the cinema, theatre or concert people have the power to share their initial opinion with the world. In this digital age, anyone can declare themselves a critic,
and the sheer number of these opinions can drown out credible critics (Maya Abbott-Smith). These 'reviews' are often knee-jerk reactions as a 240 character tweet takes seconds to write, a thought through review takes a lot longer (Mark Shenton) Positive reviews are regularly retweeted and shared by venues and companies as a clever marketing tool. However negative views and trolls can have a huge detrimental impact on the performance of a piece of art. With the ability for trolls to ‘tag’ people and crticise them directly, social media can have a negative impact on the mental health and wellbeing of artists. If you went somewhere and didn’t post about it, did you even go? The picture of the stage with your ticket, the short video of your favourite song at a gig, or a quick photo of piece of art are just some of the posts that say that you were there. These ‘I was here’ posts can take many forms, and can happen in all arts spaces from cinemas to galleries. Many venues are picking up on this trend and creating ‘selfie spots’ for audience members to use. ‘Traditionally spaces have banned photography for fear of damaging precious pieces, violating copyright or to simply protect the atmosphere. It is now not only allowed, but often actively encouraged by museums and galleries.’ (Alex Boulton) However some artists think people have gone to far. It has been reported that artists such as Adele and Beyonce have asked audiences to put their phones down during their concerts. Recently Madonna made headlines as she banned mobile phones from her london performance. (ITV) Instead of watching the performance live, many audience members are viewing it through a screen, many filming and posting directly to their social media pages. Ingrid Langston says that “people will mediate their experience through this little screen. I think people become really fixated on documenting their experience and that takes them out of the present moment.” People can get so fixated on documenting their experiences for social media, that they stop being in the moment and appreciating the art not through a 6” screen.
Social media isn’t going away anytime soon. It’s ingrained in our lives. For all the postivie impacts it is having on the art world, it’s always good to look at it through a critical lense. It’s important that every so often we take a step back. We ‘perform’ this other version of ourselves and sometimes we are so preoccupied about taking that perfect instagram shot that we forget to take in the moment.