POINT OF VIEW

As a huge loyalist of the world of social media, Akhila Krishmamurthy, Founder of Aalaap, shares some thoughts on the good, bad and the ugly and why dabbling with it, is a story of to each, its own

Over the last two-and-a-half-years or so, around the time we all burrowed ourselves into the security and comfort of our homes, while an epidemic gripped the world and rattled our senses, artistes and arts organisations from across the world, turned to social media as a means of refuge, a source of succour. Through the years of the lockdown, personal social media handles became platforms for artistes to share, showcase and amplify their work with a larger universe.

Some artistes had already built a brand identity on these platforms; while some others started afresh recognizing its power and potential for networking and as a means to build for oneself a brand of one’s own. A handful of artistes consciously opted to stay out of it, away from it, choosing to neither share nor express their points of view on the arts, or things off it, on these platforms.

Over several conversations with several artistes – those who used social media extensively, moderately or chose not to engage with it at all – I take home many mixed perspectives and recognize that like most things that are inherently personal, social media too is a matter of choice. And like all the best things in life that must not be consumed in excess, social media too, we can conclude is an indulgence where it is crucial to apply the principles of moderation and caution.

Thanks to Artificial Intelligence, my feed was exclusively dancers and all things dance. And while it was fantastic to discover young and new artistes from across the globe, I also grappled with a sense of angst as I wondered about the principles of good content, and how the ephemeral nature of social media was also crippling our brains and minds, shunting our focus, overloading our senses and making us inherently fragmented and distractible as human beings.

I realized the first thing I would do, when yet another dance video came my way was to check its duration; and I realized that on some days, even watching a two-minute video seemed like a Herculean task; the mind had already moved on and was restless to check the next reel, the next post, the next new dancer sharing her dance or the old dancer giving her dance a new spin!

But before you begin to question me about my value judgements, let me admit that I, as an individual and in my capacity as the founder of Aalaap, am hooked onto social media. It is where we have shared our joys and fears, our angst and anxieties, our growth and journey, our events and initiatives. As a performing arts magazine that was born in 2014, social media became a natural extension for us to curate content that we believe is honest, authentic, objective, inclusive, diverse and truly a celebration of the dance community, at large.

And we have been on this bandwagon well before the pandemic arrived; we didn’t panic when we had to transition into this medium because even before that, we have been busy on these platforms, bringing people together, amplifying their stories and ours and doing our bit to create a culture of happiness and harmony amongst the community.

But social media, we realise, one day after another, is a beast of its own and one that we need to negotiate our way through; it’s almost like a lover who will play hard to get (followers in this case) if you don’t water it consistently or allow it some outdoor so the sun shines its light for growth. Social media is a constant work-in-progress but also one that you need to think through in terms of the very principles of journalism – what, where, when, why, who, how! Everyday, we look through our content through these parameters and attempt to share content that truly elevates and brings joy.

With the world now opening up, some artistes who were insanely active on social media have abandoned it for the real world; some others – like us – continue to stay with it because this is what we know and can do and don’t have the bandwidth or funds to curate large-scale events that need patronage and sponsorship.

The best kind of growth on social media is also one that is organic; that believes in putting out good content and hoping for those who really find value in it to like it and share their comments on it. There are options aplenty to grow the numbers but honestly, what’s the point? Perception, perhaps? Would you like one million fake followers or a handful that truly engages with you in a manner that allows for mutual growth?

We just wrapped up a conversation with two young dancers who spoke about how social media in the years of the lockdown opened up possibilities aplenty in terms of networking and opportunities and self-growth. I want to smile because I know that those who are committed to it sincerely, have truly benefited from it; the fly-by-night operators have gone away, already! Maybe they are not meant to stay! And maybe it’s better that way!

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