Art and Social Media

Considering how nearly everyone today has at least one kind of social media site, whether its on a public venue like Facebook or something more professional like LinkedIn, it’s not surprising that artists have started to explore these social media sites as means for creating art. From my perspective, it makes sense that artists today would address and utilize these new technologies because whether we are aware of it or not, these sites not only give insight into the human psyche and even the human condition, they also end up having an effect on us.

I am talking about how these social media sites have now started to influence us in return. Sites like Facebook have created certain features that end up having a kind of impact on us, leading to dilemmas we might encounter in life because of them.

Allow me to give an example so that this notion might make sense. Let’s take a look at the Relationship Status function on Facebook.

My freshman year of college I started dating my first boyfriend, but one of the things that made me happiest was his removing his relationship status of “single” on his Facebook page. Looking back at that moment I must admit that I feel a little stupid that something like that would make me happy, but today many people look to relationship statuses on Facebook as a resource for confirmation. The labeling of Facebook as a source of confirmation in turn led to the coining of the term “Facebook official”, or “fbo” for short.

At the time I was dating my first boyfriend I did not care very much about posting that I was “in a relationship” with someone, but I did wonder about it at times. The fact of the matter is that many people now need these statements of being “in a relationship” because it is seeable proof of a commitment which can be known by anyone who has access to their Facebook page.

Returning to this idea of confirmation brings me to my main focus on the effect that claiming a “relationship status” has had over us. The act of choosing a certain relationship status has come to have a certain weight to it, because it has now become a sort of dilemma. It can be a slightly awkward situation, because people do not know whether they should just go ahead and claim to be “in a relationship” with someone or if they should ask the other person first. In an alternate case, tension can be created between a couple if one person is putting continuous pressure on the other to change their status.

But the claiming of being “in a relationship” on Facebook has grown to be more than just a simple confirmation. A relationship can now be tracked on Facebook since Facebook now shows information concerning relationships like how long a pair has been together, when their anniversary is, and Facebook will even create a page made up of pictures of the two people together. To me it would seem that this would add weight to the decision of changing one’s relationship status on Facebook, because you have to decide whether you want people to see all that information.

As I hope this all illustrates, these social media have started to have an effect on us outside of the Internet. It’s sort of a fascinating subject, because it also involves this dialogue about how people create themselves on these social sites, creating an alternate version of themselves which they can change to reflect how they want people to see them.

Not only do artists use these new social media as the subjects of their arts, but also as the material with which they create or form their work. A art exhibition called “The Social Graph” featured a number of these artists and their works. The social media machines featured in this exhbition included Twitter, Skype, and Facebook, while artists such as Man Bartlett and An Xiao participated in real time with the gallery goers through video chats.

If you want to learn more about this exhibition and the other artists who participated, here is the exhibtion write-up for The Social Graph by ArtNews: http://www.artnews.com/2011/06/01/the-social-revolution/

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