The generation gap creates rifts between perceptions of social media. Society’s majority, particularly its older half, has slapped a label on popular technology and many of the apps it has birthed as narcissistic, problematic, one-dimensional and perfunctory to the point of addiction. Many conversations have been had and many school assemblies have been held to little avail on the dangers of cyber bullying, online dating and living vicariously through the softly filtered reality of Instagram and other platforms.
But this conversation is a tired one. A ‘been there, done that’ kind of thing.
Admittedly, it is an indisputable fact that with the momentary eclipse from reality that scrolling down your timeline brings, one is also dealt a great deal of psychological baggage. The polished surface of the cyber-world can be hard to swallow in comparison to one’s mundane, nine-to-five routine. Evidence shows a correlation between increased use of social media and lower self esteem, irrespective of cases where adolescents were bullied online (Valkenburg, Peter, and Schouten 2006).
As plastic images are plastered to the forefront of our minds (which remain sharply focused on the small bright screens casting their lucent rays on us) we seemingly have no choice but to engage. We are encouraged to compare our bodies, our clothes, our lives, our relationships and even intangible things like our happiness to an illusory depiction of immaculateness. Millennials in particular are socially conditioned to compete with each other in hopes of emulating superficial people like The Kardashians as long as those people are verified or still considered trendy. As long as they bare the ‘royal livery’, the badge of coolness- a cerulean tick by their username or a couple hundred thousand followers at least.
Our society, like a petulant child, has accepted this fact in defeat. Yeah, we know its bad and kills your brain cells but its fun and addictive so just be as ‘responsible’ as you can while we humour you.
‘Oh, remember the good old days when primary school students didn’t have Snapchat streaks…But shout out for shout out btw?’.
However, playing ‘good cop bad cop’ when it comes to whether we should tolerate this excessive use of social media isn’t doing anyone any good. It’s only exacerbating the question of what sharing images is really worth. By treating this issue as one-dimensional, we obscure how much it can colour our lives.
Instagram and Tumblr (as well as Facebook and Twitter) aren’t just good for showcasing cash wads, cars and lip kits or sliding into DMs. They have evolved into instruments for creative nourishment. Artists, photographers, poets and aspiring filmmakers use these platforms as tools to make themselves heard. And seen.
As annoying as the word ‘aesthetic’ is when the generic hipster uses it to define themselves, Aestheticism is also a philosophical field interested in the refinement of beauty. It takes us away from an idolisation of perfectly tuned images to a search for an uninterested judgement of beauty and taste, as noted by the Philosopher Immanuel Kant.
Judging art gives us an ineffable satisfaction as we refine our taste. Therefore, access to interesting images challenges the socio-cultural norms that we are conditioned to accept. This other, arguably ‘deeper’ side of Instagram ironically counteracts the shallower end.
Users are enabled to delve past the artificial and into art. Whether we start off as amateurs or are already well versed in the intricacies of this creative field, we are given an opportunity to explore (sometimes literally via the Explore Page).
Some argue that the screen acts as a barrier, that seeing art “in the flesh” holds more weight (Gilles Dyan, founder of the Opera Gallery). Synthetic interaction pales in contrast to a real visual experience. The ‘social’ aspect dumbs down the cultural element.
Snobs may stick up their noses at all the uncultured kids now forming an interest in their world, but these apps have taken on a world of their own. Artists can now illuminate our eye-line simply with a few taps. The eliteness of galleries is slowly being eliminated and creators don’t have to go through an ordeal to bring their work to the public for appraisal. The playing field is levelled and the censorship is (mostly) gone as we are left to refine our own judgements effortlessly. Moreover, this is also a great way of looking into the minds of an artist as they break into our consciousness.
Even traditional galleries interact with this visual movement. London’s Saatchi Gallery, located in Chelsea, opened in October 2008 with many leading international exhibitions of contemporary art. A large portion of artists are young and unknown but gain an audience in the commercial art world after being displayed in Saatchi.
In the last five years, the Saatchi Gallery has presented 15 of the 20 most visited museum exhibitions in London.
Recently, the gallery has teamed up with Huawei to present “From Selfie to Self Expression”, the world’s first exhibition exploring the history of the selfie from the old masters to the present day. The show highlights the emerging role of the mobile phone as an artistic medium for self-expression and celebrates the truly creative potential of a form of expression often derided for its inanity.
The art world is evolving along with the conventional social media presence. By limiting their relationship we only limit our potential.
Six Artists (I) discovered through Social Media:
Disclaimer: As a Philosophy and Literature student, I’ve naturally sought to cultivate my cultural horizons without looking like a poser or cliché (not always an easy feat) and social media has helped rather than hindered. I also identify as one of those IG users who swears by their current theme, as sad as it may be, so that explains a lot of this article.
- Ege Islekel (@egeislekel)
This Turkish interior designer and graphic artist takes a classic and popular icon/idea and juxtaposes it with a modern canvas or trope to create a medley of ancient and contemporary turmoil, a fitting parallel to his combination of art and social media. He subjects infamous figures to modern circumstances in a series of cleverly manipulated photographs.
- Vanessa Poutou (@vanessapoutou)
Featured in the Saatchi Gallery, she is a self taught painter who focuses on the classical descripted depiction, painted in the contemporary manner. Emphasis is given to facial expressions and body movements, which is reinforced by abstract twists, strong gestures and, often, surrealistic elements. Vanessa explores human innerstates like loneliness, nostalgia, love and the need for freedom.
- Jana Brike (@janabrike)
Her main interest is visual art with a strong narrative and depictions of figure, mostly using the traditional medium of oil painting on canvas. She has also explored other mediums like drawing, animation, mixed media sculpture, installation and digital art.
The main focus of Jana Brike’s art is the internal space and state of the human soul – dreams, longing, love, pain, the vast range of emotions that the human condition offers and the transcendence of them all; the growing up and self-discovery. Her work is her poetic visual auto-biography.
- Emir Shiro (@emirshiro)
Born in the south of France, he is a multidisciplinary artist. As a trained graphic artist, he composes, produces and distributes his visual and sound art. After leaving the Beaux-Arts school in Grenoble-Valance, he began to maintain a close connection between sound and image and more particularly with the collage. Since then, this form of art has become one of his main forms of expression, and it is through this medium that Emir is known to the general public.
Uses manic brush strokes to create beautiful images surrounding femininity, erotica and, largely, people. I couldn’t find a name or any other information for this talented enigma.
- Marion Fayolle (@marionfayolle)
A French illustrator who creates wordless narratives through her sketches. Her book ‘L’Homme en pièces’ (In Pieces) of visual poetry examines human relationships through metaphors, allegories and symbolism.
“When I write my stories, I don’t really write. Everything starts with the desire for an image, which is often obtained through an association between shapes and words.
Things are written through drawing: I mentally project the images, not the words. The narration flows in the form of an improvisation. I perform the scene myself to find out what happens next – to think of a fall.
My characters have no voice. They are objects. Like glass vases, they can break. Like candles, they can be blown out. Like puzzles, they can be unfinished. Like cakes, they can be divided into equal pieces. Like a potted plant, they can be watered. But you can be reassured that they do not suffer. They don’t bleed. Everything is possible because they are not truly living, because they do not speak. They are mere playthings, humble puppets.”
My Fave Funky Instagram accounts:
All images are sourced by Saatchi gallery, the artists’ websites and their personal Instagram accounts.