The Other Side of the Coin: On Creativity, the Internet and Facebook

This post is a response to these two posts:

I’ll get right to the point. I hate that Facebook is replacing the larger internet in most people’s lives.

The internet is an incredible place. Huge innovation, shared technology, community, design, art, typography, video, interactive technology, information preservation, the list goes on. Facebook is a pretty poor example of all of these things, with the exception (perhaps) of community. But even that’s up for grabs. My brother in law said it well when he said “I feel like Facebook is designed for me to go judge people.” Healthy community? Maybe. Maybe not.

For years, the youth culture was driving the innovation, the wild west frontier of the internet. But now a lot of kids don’t even really know how to go to other websites besides Facebook. It seems to me that the youth culture in which I grew up, creativity and artistry of all kinds were encouraged and praised, and the internet was a huge part of that. But at some point our culture has stopped taking joy in the potential of kids’ creativity. It’s no longer encouraged. In fact, quite the opposite.

Even art in schools like music programs are primarily oriented around kids learning to recite pre-written music and follow complex marching formations. It seems like now our culture only praises children for being “good,” following the “rules,” regurgitating data, obeying orders, and the like. Not that any of those things are bad in and of themselves. In fact, they’re often necessary in order to progress to creation. But I feel like we aren’t truly teaching our kids to be creative. We’re teaching them to take standardized tests so that we can grade their performance and shuffle them off to a school or program that suits their output quality.

I see very little encouragement for kids to be truly creative, and I see a whole lot of walled gardens like Facebook that make our kids consumers, not creators. I see a whole generation of kids being herded into consumerism, with their fire of creativity, joy, and drive to challenge the status quo all but dowsed in busyness and controls adults put on them.

Creativity challenges everything. It’s dangerous. When youth are creative, most adults respond with fear. Probably because it reduces their control, but more so because it challenges their comfort. Our God is a creator. He put his image in us. When the youth culture falls in love with Jesus, and gets creative, you better believe it gets dangerous and uncomfortable.

Facebook is just a symptom of a larger problem. And the internet is a symbol of a greater frontier.

How can we encourage, teach, and exhort sanctified creativity in our kids? And maybe more importantly, are we willing to deal with the consequences if we do?


9 thoughts on “The Other Side of the Coin: On Creativity, the Internet and Facebook

  1. This is definitely a problem! So, what can we, those who are in children’s ministry (at church, in schools, at home, etc.) do to encourage and help our kids use technology in more creative ways?

    1. Technology is simply a tool. True creativity, in the image of our God, is the goal. I just don’t see anyone encouraging this anymore. I try encourage the kids to be creative when we’re having youth group hangout time (inventing games is amazing), and also encourage artistic expression as part of the learning process (something academia doesn’t do well usually). I think the church is uniquely positioned to become, once again, the forefront of creative expression.

  2. Have you read any of Seth Godin’s stuff? He writes a lot about this kind of thing, especially in schools. His main point is usually that we need to resist the urge to simply conform to what we think of what’s expected of us or else we’ll never do anything that’s truly remarkable. His book Linchpin is one of the more recent things he’s written about it.

    1. I haven’t read it, but I’ve heard about it. Something else that stands in the way of creativity is ease of access or usability. We’re so enthralled with pragmatism or easiness, that we don’t like the messiness of creativity. But as far as I can tell, historically the truly exceptional developments have always come from those willing to wade through the messiness and mistakes of risked creative problem solving.

  3. Thought provoking stuff. Do you think the information age is overall good or bad for creativity? What are things that seem to promote creativity?

    1. I think the “information age” can be amazing for creativity and at the same time overwhelm it. A large part of creative expression is problem solving, even in the arts. It’s about utilizing the tools at hand to do something that no one has done before. Information, or knowledge, can be tools to solve problems. But I think that information can also lead to being overwhelmed or “clogging” up the creative process with too many options, or too many other good ideas (“How is my book ever going to make it, when there are so many other great books?”).

    2. Personally I think it’s good in the sense of adding yet another medium to the creative spectrum, also allowing seemingly unrestricted exposure for the creations which is encouraging to potential creators.

      Things that encourage creativity are shared by the nature of the internet in a few respects. The seeming lawlessness and lack of unified structure encourage creativity in my mind.

      @Logan: with your book example that goes both ways really… Think of how many bands have music on myspace… sure most of them are terrible, but their encouraged to create because of even the limited exposure their work is able to get because of how easy it is to make your work available.

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