Survival Of The Loudest

Saturdays With Shivani

Writing changed a lot of things for me. As one blog led to another, then a book followed and now art; my relationship with social media also underwent a metamorphosis. An erstwhile private profile became public and I stopped sharing my family pictures, especially my daughter’s. I took leaps of faith and there was an immense amount of courage that had to be summoned to reach out and interact with strangers whose profiles I liked.

“You’re an extrovert. It is so easy for you to initiate conversations.” That’s a standard remark I often get. I used to be defensive but now I save my breath for more important issues. While it’s never easy for anyone, there are some who are worse off than others.

For those of us who are trying to make our foray in creative fields, embracing social media is not an option but has become a compulsion. We are a generation that grew up with adults who never failed to extol the virtues of humility. My mother still has a hard time trying to understand why I have to talk about myself or my work. Imagine how conflicting it is for us, when we are told that if we want ‘visibility’ of our work, we have to put ourselves out there.

When we do, we realise what an uphill task it is; from figuring out the algorithms, the right time to schedule posts to juggling the keywords and hashtags. This takes a lot of mental space and keeping up with the rapidly changing trends makes the fatigue very real. Two years ago, when my book Hiraeth was published, I was happy doing Facebook lives and making posts about it there. Now Instagram and God-knows-what-else is the place to be. Its hard to keep up.

Maybe all of that is still manageable if we commit to it but how do you respond to it when an artist tells you that making an insta reel or a video is so stressful that it takes away the joy of creating? When marketing encroaches upon creative space, it’s like a squatter who refuses go away.

An offshoot of this situation are the influencers who offer ‘packages’ of ‘follows’ and ‘likes’ for a price. They promise the world in the form of visibility in media, print or otherwise, book sales and whatever else they can to entice. How much do they deliver? I am not an authority to comment since I could never bring myself to avail of their services. I don’t judge those who do but for reasons of my own I couldn’t.

There is another thing that I can’t help talking about. People who are adept at marketing their creations seem to get noticed. Their work, never mind the quality, goes places. Sometimes I feel that in all this noise, genuinely good work loses out to mediocrity. This is not a rant but a mere stating of facts that I felt like sharing because often it feels it’s not the fittest but the loudest, consistently no less, who survives.

Dr. Shivani Salil