Is Social Media an Auxiliary to Creativity or an Inhibitor?

Brooke Cohen
9 min readMar 14, 2021

Almost everyone uses social media these days, and art of all kinds is scattered across the platforms. But what is the impact social media is having on creativity? At first glance, it may seem like it helps to inspire creativity and for some, this is true. Although, when examined more closely, social media can be the barrier that halts one’s entire creative process.

Social Media’s Impact on Creativity

A Digital Native

I was raised in an ever-growing social media world. Facebook has been around since I was three, Twitter and YouTube since I was five, Tumblr, six, Pinterest, nine, Instagram, ten, and Snapchat since I was twelve. I have grown up with the ever-expanding world of social media. I created my first Instagram account when I was in sixth grade, which I thought was late, compared to my friends. I created my Snapchat in seventh grade, and my Facebook in 8th, which I only made to connect to an app to get extra coins for a game.

For most of my life, I can remember technology always being at my fingertips, from computer games to a DS, a Wii, an iPod, an iPad, and finally an iPhone. Just as I grew up with this, so did my peers. We went from making string friendship bracelets to filming Rainbow Loom tutorials or karaoke covers for our YouTube channel. We went from taking a picture for fun to taking 1,000 selfies for Instagram or Snapchat and hand painting to digital art. This was the new social media world I was growing up in, so new that no one quite understood the effects yet.

Positives of Social Media on Creativity

I have always been a creative spirit and growing up in an age of social media definitely impacted that. In fact, there have been many benefits of having access to social media and how that has impacted my creative journey.

Social media is an amazing source of knowledge, especially for creativity. It provides sources of education on numerous subjects and techniques, as well as tutorials for programs, shortcuts, and providing advice on materials. Social media also provides a platform for a world-wide range of perspectives, ideas, and sources of inspiration. Not only is it a source to pull from but it is also a way to share your own work.

Social media is a two-way street, where you can both consume and create content. Putting your own work out there can also be extremely beneficial to fostering your creativity and supporting your journey as a learning artist. There is nothing better than receiving criticism and feedback on your work. Hearing other opinions can help to improve your current art and create better pieces in the future. Lastly, social media is also a constant source of innovation, providing updates on the latest technology and new ways of designing and creating.

All of these things are so important and vital to any growing creativity. Social media can provide a community that fosters creative spirits and inspires people to create things they never thought of before.

My Branding Pinterest Boards

My Experience as a Designer

I have loved social media, especially in my role as a designer. Social media platforms have played a crucial role in my design process. Before I even start a project, the first thing I do is make a mood board on Pinterest. I use that board as a way to collect ideas, color pallets, imagery, and inspiration for my designs. It has become an essential part of my visual research and I never jump into a design without creating a Pinterest board first.

I also use social media as a great source of education. Sometimes I have great ideas for designs, but don’t know how to quite execute them on the programs. YouTube, Instagram, and even TikTok have become great sources of information for me to expand my skills and knowledge of programs and the tools I need for design.

On each of my social media accounts, I follow many designers and creators whose work constantly fills my feed. This has helped inspire me to create more and I have learned so much from their work and experience, which has helped expand my design knowledge and skills beyond what we are taught in the classroom. I have discovered new art styles, learned program shortcuts, and it has even helped me in my hobbies of photography and figure skating. Hobbies may not seem that important, but it is necessary to foster your hobbies just as much as your work because the happiness you find in them can help spark your creativity.

As a creative person, I have found social media a vital tool for me to learn, grow, and create, but even though there are so many positives, there are also many negatives.

What Could be so Bad?

Endlessly Notified

Unfortunately, the negatives of social media are just as impactful as the positives and they are something that I fight with daily, while on the platforms. Social media can cause a lot of distraction and consequently, a loss of time, being sucked into the endless abyss of content. The unlimited screen time actually limits us in our social lives outside our screens. We tend to spend less time with others, replacing that time with social media. Social media makes money off of us staying on the platform and continually interacting, and they won’t let us go without a fight. Constant notifications and the gratification of them repeatedly pull us back.

Even beyond that, on the platforms themselves, there isn’t always a positive response in people and the same post that can inspire one person can bring down another. There is an increased sense of competition on social media, who has more likes, more followers, more comments, etc. This competition can have many unpleasant side effects. It can lead people to lose their love for creating and instead create with the attempt at gaining followers or likes. People will change what they are making to please their followers or force themselves to work, even if they are feeling burnt out. I hear so often on TikTok, artists using sounds on their videos begging for a follow or a like because they spent hours working on something and they deserve recognition. People have begun to judge the value of their work completely off of the acceptance they get from others, instead of loving it for themselves.

Conversely, the competition can actually stop people from posting at all. The stream of constant content can cause people to start comparing their work to others. This can cause the fear of rejection or fear that their work is not good enough to show. When this is the case, and they choose to share nothing at all, it can be difficult for them to ever receive recognition and change their mindset about the worth of their creations. Not only that, but it also leads to self-doubt and a lack of confidence in their work, which in extreme cases can prevent people from creating at all.

Unfortunately, all of this can lead to deep unhappiness within yourself as a creator. Taking care of yourself and your mindset is key for creativity to blossom and these factors can be huge contributors to a lack of creativity or finding contentment in your work and the process.

Additionally, beyond just a mindset, social media can also be an overall detriment to individuality and originality. Oftentimes people see something they like and try to recreate it, instead of being inspired and simply taking inspiration but making it their own. I have seen so many digital drawings on social media platforms that look exactly the same. It can sometimes be hard to tell creators apart from one another because they all use the same exact style. Social media has become a melting pot for ideas and creative styles, but it is still important to keep your originality in your style that keeps you different from others. Sadly, originality is something that is seen less and less, which can make it harder for creative people to develop their own style.

My Experience with the Negatives

I am, unfortunately, the type of person who easily doubts my work and can lose confidence in myself, as a person, a designer, and overall creator. It can feel very difficult for me to post my work on social media and I always end up comparing myself to others and feeling as if mine just isn’t worth putting out there. This inability to share my work impacts me in so many ways as a designer. When I applied for an internship, the first thing they did was take a look at my social media. They saw my pictures, which displayed some photography skills, but nothing that displayed my design skills. I also shared with them my portfolio, which does show my designs, but my social media pages remain absent from this huge part of my life. They are so important for me to share and display if I want to get a job, and I know I need to have more confidence in the work I am producing. Even with this knowledge of the importance, it holds to my career, I still find I struggle to post. This paralyzation can lead me to not post at all, even content that has nothing to do with my design work.

The self-doubt I accumulate from comparing myself to others on social media has not only immobilized me from sharing my work but has also even prevented me from creating work. Even though I can become so inspired by what I see on social media, I can also become so lost. I sometimes have an idea and just want some extra inspiration, but after hours of searching through social media, I find I not only lose myself in my phone but also lose the spark I had to create.

I have also found that social media has made it difficult for me to develop my own style in my design and art. There are so many trends that cultivate the toxic “sameness” of style and art and I definitely see myself struggle to differentiate myself from other creators and make my work stand out.

Furthermore, social media creates constant noise. My phone never stops buzzing with notifications attempting, often successfully, to lure me into their apps. This constant distraction not only affects my ability to concentrate on my work but also impacts my ability to come up with new ideas. I find that the best ideas come to me when I least expect, on a walk, while driving, in the shower, or before I go to sleep. These moments of silence are essential to my design process and ability to create new ideas. With social media as a constant distraction, it becomes harder and harder for these ideas to seep through.

How to Navigate these Issues

I wish there was a simple and easy, clear-cut answer for what to do with your social media, but there is not. Social media has many great benefits that have been essential to my growth as a designer and inspiring my creativity, but with that, there have been equally as many downfalls that have prevented my creativity entirely.

I am still working through this difficult situation myself, but I did find a few practices that have helped me maintain a healthy balance with my social media. I do find it so necessary for my design process and I would never want to cut it off completely, but in order to also maintain a healthy level of inspiration, creativity, and confidence, I also need to make some boundaries.

The first thing you need to do is analyze yourself and assess your relationship with social media. Before you can fix the issues you are having, you must first know what they are. For me, I had to acknowledge the doubt in myself that came up from comparing my work to others.

Next, it is important to take action to prevent this from occurring. I have tried to limit my time spent on the apps, by opening them with a specific purpose. If I am looking for information on YouTube about a question I had on a program, I go into it with that specific intent. If I open Pinterest to create a design mood board, I limit myself on the time I will spend doing so, as well as only working on that, specifically. This helps to not only limit the distractions experienced on the app but also prevents me from getting lost in the work of others.

The key is to really know yourself and be constantly aware of when the interaction on social media turns from positive to negative. Creating boundaries and keeping perspective are great ways to help counter the negative impact social media can have on creativity and the work we produce.