”Written byHannah Mitchell
“There is a purpose and, most importantly, a passion behind what we create; a meaning that might only need to be understood by ourselves. But humans have an innate need to be accepted. That’s where the catch-22 comes in.”
“Which One Of The 5 Alternative Aesthetics Are You?” asks a BuzzFeed quiz. Of course, I’m intrigued. There I go, clicking on a couple of badly selected stock photos that can provide a neatly compartmentalised definition of who I am (I’m apparently a hippie, by the way). Have a cheeky browse on Pinterest, and you’ll find that “alternative aesthetic” solely entails the same outfit of fishnets, plaid skirts, and Docs. It sure does make life easier when being alternative simply means being different – in an aesthetically pleasing and unambiguous way, of course.
I highly doubt that I was the only one who grew up being slightly eccentric and somewhat cringey rather than being gracefully alternative. “Wacky, but in a good way,” as my sister once so eloquently put it. As I begin to accept my individuality, I’ve found it difficult to find my place within the more typical creative circles. Where I thought I would find the most acceptance, more often than not these have been the places where I felt the most judgement for not being “alt enough”.
Human beings are wired to crave connectivity – not just from individuals, but from belonging within groups. The way we interact within interpersonal relationships is different from how we approach group dynamics. Our social identity forms a substantial part of how we understand ourselves, our ambitions, our thoughts.
Think about it. You don’t just define yourself based on what you think of yourself, but also from what you know others think of you and the groups that you belong to. Creativity itself is so intricately linked to our self-perceptions. There is a purpose and, most importantly, a passion behind what we create; a meaning that might only need to be understood by ourselves. But humans have an innate need to be accepted. That’s where the catch-22 comes in.
“We take from what we observe in groups and unconsciously we mould ourselves to fit into the expected cookie-cutter way of being and doing. As creatives, we aren’t exempt.“
We take from what we observe in groups and unconsciously, we mould ourselves to fit into the expected cookie-cutter way of being and doing. As creatives, we aren’t exempt.
Social media has many groundbreaking benefits. We are creating communities of people who see the world through similar grainy film filters. We are actively expanding our range of influence and inspiration. We can create rich psychedelic sounds that transcend genres; to create art drawing on inspiration from boundless artists across the globe. It should be the perfect platform to enhance the creative process. But it isn’t as simple as that.
Social media is an echo chamber. We exist in the bubble we have created of like-minded people, of what the algorithm has computed we’d most likely want to see. Your feed can be seamlessly aesthetic – and don’t get me wrong, that’s an expression of your creativity, and is still fully valid. The issue does come in, however, when we begin to curate a singular style of expression that is bound by the rules of perfection. When we allow the rigidity of Acceptable Use Policies to redefine what creativity is. When it becomes a prerequisite, not a choice, to be defined as a creative individual based on how many film pictures you have on your feed or if you have a fully thrifted wardrobe.
Creativity is not always going to fit into a definite number of pixels. It’s not always going to be a soothing flow of colours and spacing, of coherence and delicately typed captions. The most challenging and transformative work often comes from when we dig deep into expressing the brutal, raw and ugly.
“Creativity is not always going to fit into a definite number of pixels. It’s not always going to be a soothing flow of colours and spacing, of coherence and delicately typed captions.”
Now, please don’t take offence – I have my fair share of film dumps on Instagram; I love to sponge from my roommate’s corduroy closet. You will find me frantically bidding on thrifted dungarees and putting a bit too much thought into what I post next. But that’s not what defines me, nor you, as creative. It’s rather how we find meaning in the mundane. How we channel our innermost thoughts, no matter how painful they may be, into something that helps us grow.
It’s not that I think that to be “alternative” is becoming “mainstream”. Instagram provides an unprecedented platform for us to express ourselves. But one has to wonder, what is the point if we all start defining our creativity in the same way? Will we continue to be challenged, or will we perpetuate the hive-mind that social media inevitably fosters? There is no singular aesthetic for individuality. The power comes in being consciously aware of how as palatable as it might be, beauty is not the foundation of creative growth. Discomfort is.
We are all human, after all – we don’t enjoy change and we avoid challenges to our sense of safety. But nothing in life is constant; and in being comfortable with discomfort we are able to challenge our perceptions. With new experiences come new landscapes and new sounds – and most importantly, new emotional awareness to spark your creative process.
There is no right or wrong way to understand yourself. There is no right or wrong way to express yourself. But social media requires black and white. What is liked and what is scrolled past. What is appealing and what is not. Authenticity, and the creativity it encourages, are so much more than what looks good.
Social media has become an invaluable part of allowing myself to feel understood by others who have not always felt comfortable in expressing themselves. There is truly something incredible about the way we have been able to connect with those we may have never met. But it’s not the singular blueprint for how you decide to cultivate your creativity. That’s all within you already.
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