26 April 2021
In 2004, Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook and with it, came Youtube, Twitter, then, five years later, Instagram. Social media has undoubtedly changed the way humans communicate. It has also changed the way we create and distribute content. Digital creators have risen to the top of the creative food chain in the last fifteen years but unfortunately so have their critics. Despite the onslaught of criticism online creators are subjected to, the arts can still survive.
Ergo Josh on Youtube has inspired many young artists to create their own digital platform. His series of videos, “Roasting Your Art: Can You Handle Real Constructive Criticism?” remains among his most popular. In the videos, he critiques the art of various artists on social media and offers constructive criticism to help them grow. Film critics like CinemaSins, Dylan Is In Trouble, and Alex Meyers are also some of Youtube’s most popular creators because of their lighthearted, critical film and TV show commentary.
The age of the internet has introduced a hyper-visibility very different from the safe bubble of self-criticism creators are used to. A piece of poetry is exposed to everybody on the internet if it is posted. This can be a good thing for small creators (such as the musicians Boys World and digital artist Prinnay) who would not have been given opportunities without social media, but it can also be a negative in criticism. Deconstruction is rewarded in the world of Twitter and TikTok, where armchair critics have risen to the top. One of the questions creators have been asking recently is if this is good for the arts- does this help or harm creators in this new age of the Internet?
Content creator For Harriet on Youtube discussed this in the last eleven minutes of her video “Malcolm and Marie is a film for the moment. Unfortunately, this moment sucks.” She claimed that, “we need to be questioning the posture from which we approach entertainment. We need to think deeply about the amount of joy we take in deconstruction, the pleasure we find in tearing things down. But how useful is it? How productive is that?”
Rebecca Leger, a senior and co-president of the Creative Writing Club at AHS, explained how social media affected her criticism process, before and after creating a poem. “I used to put poems on my Instagram account. And it was like this anxiety like ‘what would people think? What if somebody doesn’t like it and then comments something rude?’”
The visibility social media has granted creators has had a negative effect on how creators view their work. Leger touched on comparing our work to other creators. “Whenever I see them [creators on social media] and then I look at my poems, I’m like ‘oh my gosh, I’m not even halfway at that level.’”
Rebecca had a hopeful outlook for art in the age of social media. In response to For Harriet’s question (Can the arts survive in an overly critical world?), Rebecca was optimistic. “I think it can,” she answered after a moments’ pause. “The arts evolve over time and it’s so much bigger than any negative impact that social media can have.”
Examining the stance we take during criticism as creators is just as important as how we approach the arts. Criticism is not inherently wrong. In fact, it is a vital part of the creative process. Sarah Pearl, a junior at Atholton and a social media presence on Instagram and TikTok, focused on criticism from the point of view of the critic.
“Social media can be intense,” Sarah admitted, “especially around cancel culture. Criticism should be all about starting conversations.” Sarah has a process for meaningful criticism. If it’s a video, she watches the full video, reads the comments, and “goes to both sides to compare what is different.” Pearl went on to say, “I think the reason why the arts have survived is because of criticism. The people at the top of the fashion industry are there for a reason, because they took the criticism and survived it.”
Can the arts survive in an overly critical world? Both sides, the creator and the critic, say yes. Writing, poetry, visual arts, and music have survived major historical events. They survived censoring, burning, and the shift from being recognized as a hobby to a full career. Social media could stand to be less harsh. Art is created by imperfect people; therefore the result will be flawed. But the arts are not fading because of this new age. Creators will adapt and come out better prepared for the future.
Rebecca said it best: “As long as there are people who think in a creative way and who express themselves in a creative way, then the arts will always be around.”