Is the Internet Killing Socially Awkward Artists?


General Photography

The other day, Aaron Hobson sent me an email with the subject line of this post, asking “I was wondering if art galleries, blogs, and magazines will soon only be filled with socially outgoing, marketing driven artists that also enter competitions?” If the social-media cheerleaders are to be believed the answer clearly would have to simply be “Yes.” (more)

But of course we need to separate the hype from what might become reality. For example, during the first internet bubble, in the late 1990s, people were told that we were living in a “new economy” where companies didn’t have to make a profit any longer. That didn’t work out so well for most of those companies. Shortly after, the idea of the “web 2.0” was born, which has basically led to the world we now live in. Not that I want to digress, but the idea now seems to be that content creators don’t have to be able to make a living any longer, as long as the “aggregators” make a killing (in another, closely related development, marketing consultants now seem to be making better money than most photographers).

Back to photography, though. We all need to be incredibly active in the world of social media, we’re told, because that’s the way to succeed. That’s great news for outgoing types, the kinds of people who at a party will exchange some words with everybody. But it’s terrible news for introverts, who, if they even go to a party, tend to stand in corner, sipping their drink. What is more, the cards are also being stacked against older artists who might be familiar with the web, but who might be puzzled by social media.

Clearly, what gets shown in galleries or museums should be based on merit - and not on the ability to work with Facebook or Twitter. Of course, what gets shown in galleries or museums was never really only based on merit - that’s a discussion for another day. But add the social-media dimension, and merit clearly is having a harder time.

Having said all that, I do think that there possibly are various correctives, one of them being the (dreaded) curator, whether s/he exists in the form of a real museum/gallery curator or as a blogger or online magazine publisher (no, I don’t want to have another discussion about the word “curator”). So I don’t think that social media will necessarily kill socially awkward artists - but it’s something we should be aware of, something we need to work against.