Sunday, November 21, 2021

on community and social media

The past week or so, I've been spending considerable time winding down at the end of the day watching youtubes and insta reels from fellow Taylor Swift fans, which is fun since by and large, no one in my circles, in person or on the web, like her music at all. It's got me thinking about communities and how important the feel, esp when it comes to art, not just cultural things.  There's been a video going around on the internets of an artist who talks about eschewing social media--how she didn't think it served her well.  From the sound of it, she was an artist who was minimally involved in the first place, but then was told that she needed to spend time marketing work via socials.  Thus, found it time-consuming and not particularly rewarding, 

It kind of made me gasp, mostly because I could not imagine my life as an artist or a writer not tied in some way to the sorts of connection the internet provides--whatever that platform. I feel like my practice and work has been so wholly tied to the web the last 20 years, in various ways, that it is completely inextricable from it--whether it was my first forays into online publications, my first blog endeavors my first crudely built websites and lit journals. In that first decade, which was only the beginnings of what we call "social media" as we know it, there were still ways of connecting with fellow poets on the web--mostly listservs and livejournal & it's ilk.  Then MySpace and Blogger (the latter where I set up permanent residence here.) Then Facebook and Tumblr, both of which I've used as a way to connect with other artsists.  Even things like Flickr and Pinterest that are at times incredibly useful, for holding my portfolio and creating moodboards if nothing else.  Some of the people, even the ones that are local, I sometimes met first on the internet, then in real life--through places like Xanga, where my blog lived it's first three years. 

As someone who is pretty introverted, I knew no other writers when I moved to Chicago, and while I met a few at open mics and reading series in those early years, my greatest community was online.  As someone who had a job that put me in front of a computer on the circ desk for hours, I was free to engage and share and develop relationships with poets everywhere while working. Some of them have lasted through various platforms and spanned two decades.  Some I've even met IRL at conferences and such.  As someone who remembers what writing and submitting work was like in the 90's as a baby poet--a very lonely and disengaged practice-- it was so refreshing to connect with editors and other writers almost in real time...

It cuts across writing and art, since the first people who saw my early collage endeavors was the internet--snaps taken crudely with a cheap digital camera or scanned on the library scanners. It's how I grew dgp as press, how I made connections with editors that would eventually publish my books. How I found my loose tribe of fellow-minded folks across states and countries. When facebook arrived I was a late adopter (2009), but an enthusiastic one, since it not only allowed connection with creative folks, but family and friends, some of which I'd lost touch with.  Ditto instagram. (though I am still trying to figure out how to best use Twiiter.)

I'm not sure I am half the writer or artist without the means to showcase work via various channels to find that community that everyone needs in some way.  It's not an extra thing that takes away from art-making, but it IS artmaking sometimes if that makes sense.  I scoff when people talk about "content"--a word I hear often when watching youtube vloggers. No one wants to think of art as content, but it kind of is.  Or at least it is for me.  It's not only that--obv.-- and some is more "artful" than others.  I've been plotting an advent paper dollhouse project I want to do, and creating it is one thing, but the sharing it (in this case on Instagram) is just as important. When I share poems and pictures and such, that is just a continuation of the project itself.  

I remember sitting  on my bed in around 1995 , and wishing there was a way to share my poems. Not just poems, but books and images and music I was excited about.  At the time, I didn't really know about the internet (there were two computers that were AOL connected on the lab on the RC campus, but I was only using the lab to type papers and write-emails.)  When my grad school professors at DePaul introduced us to the web for research purposes, I was shook.  I dropped hours in the P&W forums between classes just listening to other writers chat.  This still blows my mind sometimes, even two decades later.  That this thing exists--that we get to talk to other in these spaces. As new platforms appear and dissolve, things shift, but I will always enthusuistically embrace new ways of connecting, whatever those are. 

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