Mental Health for Creatives: Your Heart or the Algorithm?

I am writing this piece while reminiscing on life before we had access to this vast plethora of data on every subject. In the earlier days of music and film consumption, a lot of decisions were based on guts feeling, personal disposition, or the willingness to try “something new”. Fast forward to 2020, similar choices are determined based on stats and rating systems. This could also imply that we, as a society, could be consciously or unconsciously engaging with media based on what the metric finds cool. Why should this be a problem, and what does this imply for young creatives? The following points below will highlight specific key terms in the creative business and elaborate on their implications.

Photo by: Stas Knop

Taste-makers: The term taste-maskers describes an opinion leader in the creative industry who discovers new trends and has a reputable platform with an organization or independently and is capable of influencing and promoting certain aspects of culture through various media channels. In my opinion, the title could inter-changeably be a fancy term used to describe the modern-day gatekeeper. In the web 2.0 world, the idea that the internet completely decentralizes the stronghold experienced by creatives trying to delve into industries of their choices is well over-hyped. An upcoming entrepreneur is still required to have suitable connections and has to be savvy enough to get the attention of these taste-makers. The implication of validation by a few powerful gatekeepers is that the creative ecosystem can be manipulated as people sometimes given opportunities based on factors such as relationships, stats, and payola.

Filter bubbles: This is a much-discussed phenomenon in the current age of constant media exposure. It is no surprise to see the recent tilt towards a more polarized society. The latest social platforms collect certain tendencies from our behavioral patterns are detected and stored; hence we are being delivered media content tailored to these needs. Our so-called “tastes” are then fed to us and sometimes over-promoted to an extent where we subconsciously allow these media content into our daily lives. Through this constant exposure, our understanding of the world is shaped and filtered through those lenses, thereby reducing the chances of us discovering new media content.

The pressure to the stay-in-the algorithm: At least to a minimalist level, I believe that many creatives in the business of today are concerned about their stats and often try to get-in-the algorithm and stay in-the-algorithm. I have been a victim of this saga several times. Drawing reference from my career as an artist, I have had first-hand experience of how the algorithm favors consistency in terms of releases and records which taste-makers or the machine deems trendy. The downside to such practices is that the creative process is watered-down to meet specific commercial fulfillment hence creating less room for innovative ideas and groundbreaking content. This could also lead to anxiety and feelings of self-doubt when the stats or algorithm doesn’t meet one’s expectations or play in one’s favor.

Your heart or the algorithm?

Photo by: Burak Kostak

It is essential to reflect on how the creative industry is evolving and how these changes could impact the art or services we provide as young entrepreneurs. The pressure to be recognized and stay relevant is one that rarely ends. Achieving commercial success and being able to make a living from your passion is the dream for most of us. However, I firmly believe that it is important to reminisce about the driving forces which motivated us to begin chasing this dream in the first place. It is paramount to be aware of the effects which are beyond your control and not be tricked into making every creative decision based on the algorithm but instead based on love and a burning passion for creating art that you would be proud of years from now. Savor the great moments and be thankful to be in a space where you can inspire and reach people even if its only a few at the earlier stages. Lastly, always remember that your heart, family, passion, and mental health comes before the algorithm.

Good Vibes from Germany
Garey Godson

“discover inspire accelerate”

Garey Godson originally born Gare Anighoro is a Nigerian Artist and Creative Writer based in Berlin, Germany