By Vanessa Bade
As a wee little amateur writer of thirteen years, I often came across what is called a mental block; a lack of creativity. I felt stuck; like I wasn’t able to produce anything new, original or interesting. In those cases, I would dwindle my thumb and wait, or throw down the pen and walk away. Nowadays, during a creative block, I have the option to open Instagram and “get inspired”. Instagram art abound, I can choose to indulge in poetry, cover songs, or visual art. But is this unlimited access to art a good thing?
We call ourselves the creative generation; we call ourselves musicians and artists and bloggers and believe uniqueness is the highest of virtues to aim for. With internet access, everyone can create (I mean, the right smartphone can make you a professional photographer overnight). A Pew Research study shows that many teens are indeed taking advantage of this; a rapid increase of content creation among teens occurs as they use social media to express themselves. But doesn’t this oversaturation make it more difficult to create something meaningful? The distinctions between professional and amateur, original or imitation, become very blurred; it becomes difficult to navigate the online space without a clear definition of what good quality entails.
Particularly Instagram poetry has received the brunt of criticism aimed towards art on social media. As insta-poetryis gaining in popularity, it is also gaining in critics; critics like Rebecca Watts. The poet took to RN Review to claim that online poetry is doing exactly what real poetry has been trying to avoid all along: it is “consumer-driven content”that does not require much thought or intelligent critical reading and is aimed mainly at providing instant gratification for the reader. Labelled “reductive, formulaic, shallow and lacking in form and content”, insta-artis often categorized as a lower form of culture.
One of the most famous instapoets, Rupi Kaur, has achieved world-wide fame through her work, but has not been spared from such criticism. Accessible and simple, Kaur speaks to the needs of her generation; the poetry is relatable, urging the reader to recall own experiences. As Miller explains; “while Shakespeare’s work is the art in and of itself, Kaur’s acts as a jumping off point to consider one’s own experiences as art”. This insta-poetrycan unite across boundaries; Kaur’s Milk and Honey,for example,uses symbolism to address universal themes of “abuse, femininity, love, loss, identity and beauty”. The key to Instagram poetry is it’s simplicity; it allows for a broader audience; it is poetry for the masses if you will.
Scrolling upon poetry on your feed by accident is a pleasant surprise; a sense of confession and intimacy become present in an otherwise often rather hostile online space. Isn’t this already quality enough? Social media is so often toxic, depicting unrealistic ideals and shallow content that impacts our mental health negatively. Shouldn’t we embrace its inclusion of art that expresses vulnerability and honesty? Yes, it may be more difficult to distinguish quality amongst all this quantity and perhaps a certain complexity and eloquence are reduced in favor of accessibility. However, at the end of the day, it is a reassuring thought, that you hold at your fingertips access to a community of artists. Artists that can turn a bad day into a good one, a negative situation into a hopeful one, and loneliness into commonality through their words.
Vanessa Bade, Class of 2019, is a Literature and Religion Major from Frankfurt, Germany.
Image Sources: www.Instagram.com/rupikaur
Anderson, Monica, and Jingjing Jiang. “Teens, Social Media & Technology 2018.” Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech, 31 May 2018, www.pewinternet.org/2018/05/31/teens-social-media-technology-2018/.
Flood, Alison, and Sian Cain. “Poetry World Split over Polemic Attacking ‘Amateur’ Work by ‘Young Female Poets’.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 23 Jan. 2018, www.theguardian.com/books/2018/jan/23/poetry-world-split-over-polemic-attacking-amateur-work-by-young-female-poets.
“Is the Millennial Generation the Creative Generation?” Phil Cooke, 27 June 2013, www.philcooke.com/millennial_generation/.
Khaira-Hanks, Priya. “Rupi Kaur: the Inevitable Backlash against Instagram’s Favourite Poet.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 4 Oct. 2017, www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2017/oct/04/rupi-kaur-instapoets-the-sun-and-her-flowers.