As another Social Media Day rolls around on 30th June, the accusations of it diminishing our self-esteem and ability to communicate will inevitably be fired. But I’ll be taking a different view. As well as bringing us incredible connectivity, I believe social media has finally allowed us to unleash our creative potential and is shaping us into the most expressive versions of ourselves.
In a survey of British teens by the Royal Society For Public Health, respondents cited the benefits of self-expression and self-identity as the most positive impacts of social media, and I’d have to agree. The infiltration of these platforms into our everyday lives has given everyone creative tools at their disposal. Anyone with a social media account is a content creator and everyone is the creative director of their feed.
Before the internet and social media, not everyone would have had the means to transmit their work around the world. Now, the barriers are diminished. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that every picture of your dog or shower thought becomes a work of art that must be shared, but it can be.
‘Doing it for the ’gram’ may have become a Millennial trope, but I’m sure most of us can admit to working a bit harder than before to get that perfect social shot. Crouching for a better composition, taking the camera overhead for that perfect breakfast angle, or hunting for an aesthetically pleasing pastel wall for a selfie.
Some creative individuals have taken full advantage of the opportunity to accelerate and share their talents with the world. I only have to look at Vamp’s network of photographers, illustrators, stylists, digital artists, makeup artists and videographers – and how they have managed to monetize their skills through social – to see what an impact it can have.
Younger generations are embracing these tools for creativity more than any other. Just over half of Gen Z (51%) believe their generation is more creative than any that came before and 56% use social apps to express themselves creatively.
Whether they’re posting lip syncing Tik Tok videos, curating a beautiful feed of photography on Instagram, or sharing Snapchats overlaid with graphics, these digital natives are growing up creating and sharing, across multiple platforms, constantly. Sometimes it’s just for fun. Sometimes it’s to bring focus to issues like body positivity, climate change or Planned Parenthood.
Such widespread use takes this heightened creative output in a more meritocratic direction. While not everyone in the world has this privileged access, the global penetration of the internet is growing. Social sharing is increasing too and with it comes a wider sense of diversity and representation.
As with any cultural shift or social trend, savvy marketers have been quick to tap into it. Campaigns with interactive elements, designed to connect with an inventive customer base, are increasing.
Adobe’s recent collaboration with Universal Music asked its customers to design a frame for The Presets new music video, based on a lyric. The challenge captured their customer’s imaginations, inspired the use of their software, encouraged social sharing which boosted brand awareness, and ultimately created a lot of original artwork for the Tools Down video.
Campaigns around customization are also becoming popular. Vans encourages school children to use their trainers as a blank canvas for their annual Vans Custom Culture competitions. Meanwhile, fashion brands are setting ‘show us how you style…’ challenges to drum up UGC.
This burst of creativity spurred on by social sharing is now coming full circle and impacting the very platforms that enabled it. Over half of Gen Z (55%) say that they find social apps and the internet a more creative space than what they experience offline. Platforms want to keep it this way. In a bid to keep users engaged and loyal they are offering more personalization and room for expression. Song lyrics that flash up on screen are Instagram Stories latest offering, while Snapchat allows users to create their own custom filters.
Many experts are predicting creativity will become the most coveted skill of the future. When machines will be able to automate the majority of menial work, more importance will be placed on this very human ability. Like any skill, the more you work at it, the more it improves. So while many will argue time on social media is time wasted, you could see it as an opportunity to flex those creative muscles and connect with others that can inspire and that is, I think, something to be celebrated.