Answer by Jess Kimball Leslie, Chief Futurist at OgilvyRED:
In some ways, I think the Internet’s made it harder to become creative because it encourages us to be interested in all the wrong things.
(Note: I differentiate between becoming smarter–educating yourself on every topic ever, which the Internet is like freakin’ fantastic at, and being creative. Artistically putting yourself out there.)
Why my negativity around creativity?
The Internet wants us to cultivate “likes” and “followers” and “views,” and sometimes those things really impinge on our creative process. (Who among us hasn’t queasily deleted a post out of concern that ‘it’ll be too weird’ or something like that.)
When it comes to writing, for example, the Internet encourages the listicle above almost all other forms. ‘Listicles’ gets follows and likes and views. Listicles are easily published by popular blogs. Listicles are the hat trick behind some of the most “valuable media startups” in the world. (When I asked a friend recently about how on earth he became a hugely, hugely popular Internet writer, he responded, “I’m not saying everything’s a listicle, but…”)
Now, lists are fine–they certainly do give your eye a construct–but we’re not going to get the next Faulkner from a Buzzfeed list. We’re going to get the next Buzzfeed list.
I’m super grateful that I came of age before “follower ratios” and all that garbage because I LOVED the process of being an NYU creative weirdo for creativity’s sake. I always always co-writing stupid songs with my best friends that were intended for no one else to laugh at except us. Once we spent an entire weekend writing this terrible cat food commercial that doesn’t even make sense. I can’t tell you how long it took me to alter that cat food can, or how many times we practiced that four seconds of harmony, but we took being terrible truly seriously.
I have a theory that there’s going to be a Gen Z backlash to all this influencer heehaw. At one point I hoped Snapchat might be the start of that backlash, but the platform has become so insipid with all its Tastemade rainbow cakes and road trips sponsored by Toyota Scion and other corporate drivel that I think they’ve lost sight of what made them special.
I suspect that working in analog form will become more popular, as it’s an immediate remedy to the maladies of the digital world. There’s no followers when you’re working with a pen on plain paper. The artist Austin Kleon divides his work into an analog desk and a digital desk: I’ve started copying him, and it feels like it’s rewired my brain.
For someone who loves the Internet, I’m pretty terrible at it. I don’t post anything in any medium in a marketable, consistent way. I refuse to use hashtags normally and instead use them incorrectly because it endlessly amuses me. I once tried to buy 1MM Twitter followers just to see if I could. I guess these are the things I do to preserve the NYU weirdo in me, the part of me that would rather be entertained than be popular, the part of me who suspects the most fun they ever had was in writing a fake cat food commercial!
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