How Social Media Hurts and Helps Your Creativity

colored pencils, a camera, and a cell phone with instagram

"God didn’t design us to measure the success of our creativity by comparing it to others."

For many of us, social media is a pretty significant part of life. Our loved ones use it to share photos and stories of their families and travels, businesses use it to keep us up to date on products and events, and our favorite artists and performers share their work and promote performances.  The result is millions of photos and videos and stories at our fingertips - visual media that not only inspires us, but has an almost infinite potential to distract us.


Here at YWAM Orlando we believe that Christians can leverage the power of media to advance the Kingdom of God, and we focus on this in detail in our Media Elective and School of Photojournalism.  We believe that social media can be used as a powerful tool, but if we’re not careful it can become something that dominates us, crippling our creativity and thwarting our vision.  Read on as we discuss three common unhealthy social media habits and explore not only how to avoid them, but how we can instead use social media for our benefit.


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Use Social Media for Inspiration, Not Validation


Social media is a powerful tool that connects us with artists that inspire us.  Creatives can, and should be, looking to the work of others to both celebrate the successes in our work and to gather fresh perspective and new ideas.  Sometimes nothing is quite so effective at inspiring me as an afternoon at an art gallery, or some intentional time exploring talented artists’ work online.  However, if we fall into the trap of comparing our own work to what we see on the Internet, we can quickly become discouraged. The cure? Look to the work of others for inspiration and not for validation.


 Young woman looking at photos on social mediaCreatives have a tendency to compare their art to what they see online, and when it doesn’t quite stand up to the work we admire, it can feel devastating.  We need to remember that fellow artists typically only post the best of the best of their work.  We don’t get to witness their growing pains, so we see only a well-curated display of their finest pieces.  Looking at art online and comparing it to ours is akin to chasing after the wind - there will always be art that is better than ours, and when we do find creatives who aren’t as far along as we are, the boost it provides to our ego is fleeting. This mindset is neither healthy nor sustainable, and for good reason: God didn’t design us to measure the success of our creativity by comparing it to others. Instead, we need to look to the Creator as our main source of validation.  When we recognize that God’s opinion of us is what really matters, it frees us from the fear of failure, and we can display and use our art boldly and with confidence.


If you find that your time on social media is leaving you feeling discouraged, it might be time to take a little break from it.  A couple of days away from the screen and immersed in your art can be refreshing. When you revisit it, make sure your time spent online is influencing your creativity in a positive way, and not leading to comparison.


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Use Social Media to Increase Creativity, Not Decrease Productivity


We spend a lot of time on social media and, by some estimations, the average user will spend over five years of his or her life on various platforms.  For better or worse, that’s an incredible amount of time!  Sadly, much of this time isn’t used thoughtfully. A lot of our online time is spent vegging out, mindlessly scrolling to occupy our attention during bits of free time - free time that we might otherwise use to develop our own creativity.  Unchecked, our social media use can keep us from getting stuff done. I want to challenge you to use social media to increase creativity, not decrease productivity.


Now, I’m not suggesting that we give up social media altogether.  Instead, by becoming intentional about how we use social media, it can become a tool for our benefit rather than something that steals time from us.  Here are a few ways to become intentional about your social media use:


1) Schedule social media time.  Resist scrolling whenever you have the impulse, and instead try scheduling social media time throughout the day. In the morning, for example, give yourself ten minutes to look at some of your favorite artists’ work or catch up with family friends and family.  Schedule a few minutes in the afternoon to work on your own upcoming posts. If you stick to your schedule, not only will you find that you look forward to and enjoy your social media times, but you’ll likely discover much more free time to be productive and creative.


2) Know your purpose.  If you’re not focused on the task at hand when you get online, you can quickly find yourself distracted.  Don’t let time you set aside to work on your Instagram post turn into thirty minutes lost on YouTube.


3) Be a thoughtful viewer.  Instead of quickly scrolling through images that inspire you, try to learn from them.  Pretend you’re in an art gallery: take some time to study and talk about the work that you like most.  


4) Be present.  If you find yourself bored in between classes, or on a break at work, or on the bus, don’t immediately reach for your phone.  Instead, take that time to brainstorm for your next creative project, keep your eyes open to inspiration around you, or just be in the moment.  Which brings me to my next point…


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Use Social Media to Enhance Your Relationships, Not Replace Real Conversation


Young women taking selfies in the mountainsAs inspiring and easy as time spent on social media can be, it’s important to use it to enhance our relationships, not replace real conversation.  God designed us to be present and in relationship -  if we’re not careful, social media can hinder us from experiencing both of these to the fullest.  A conversation with a stranger on the bus may not seem as easy or inspiring as a visit to Instagram, but real-life moments and conversations contain the stuff creativity is made of.  Not only can your conversation lead to ministry or a new friendship, but it could also lead to a stroke of inspiration that dramatically informs your next work of art. Thoughtful use of social media can certainly help us maintain relationships with friends and family from afar, but let’s make it a goal to not detach from the real world; it is worth our every effort to stay present and connected.


Written By:

Tommy Rutt | YWAM Orlando Staff