Let’s play a game of pretend.
Pretend that it’s late and you can’t sleep. You roll over and grab your phone. No messages, no one to talk to. You open Instagram. You scroll. There’s someone from undergrad playing a part you wanted. You keep scrolling. Someone started a podcast about that topic you’re always saying you want to start a podcast about. Still scrolling. You see a YouTube channel featuring content you always joke about writing. More scrolling. Another friend in another role you wanted. Scrolling. Scrolling. Scrolling. Someone turned that idea of yours into a reality. Scrolling. Scrolling. Scrolling. Stop. Phone down. Now you can’t sleep.
How did that feel?
The average person scrolls three hundred feet of social media content a day. That’s three hundred feet of other people’s lives, of stuff you “should” and “could” be doing. You spend the day jealous of some trip Becky took to Miami or in awe of golden chicken wings you just wish you could eat. As an artist I often find myself feeling envious of other working artists and projects I see on social media. I follow other actors, playwrights and directors for inspiration but, sometimes, one of them does something I’ve always thought of doing. I look at the post and I feel a slight pang of jealousy somewhere in between my heart, my soul and my ego. Then, my head tells me to shut up and go create something.
The progression often goes something like this:
First, I’m excited. I’m fired up to see that something positive is happening in the arts community. I am proud to know that people like me are creating new and amazing projects. Next, I have a moment of self pity. I talk down to myself about how I could have done the same thing if I acted on my ideas sooner. Somewhere towards the end of self-pity I feel reassured because all of the reasons why I didn’t act on the idea are instantly proven wrong. If someone else made this thing that people like then surely they’ll like my version of it. Now I’m feeling better, I’m realizing it took them time to put the project out just like it’s taking me time. By the end I’m still beating myself up a little bit for being afraid to leap but, I’m feeling confident that I’ll have my time, too.
We’re living in an era where it is easy to compare yourself to others and become intimidated by the way they present themselves on social media. At the end of the day, we all have demons and struggles that we’re not posting about. We all have ideas that never make it out of our heads. Artists are artists because they are so unique that the whole world can’t stop watching. We look at the world in a different way and turn it into pieces of work that people care about. People who make art are able to do so because they are so much themselves that pours out onto a page or a canvas or a stage.
FOMO is real, especially for artists. All you can do is stay in your lane. There are billions of people in the world doing billions of different things. Odds are one of them had the same idea as you. The gag is, they aren’t you. You can’t allow yourself to be crippled by what other people are posting on social media. It might feel like you’re missing out on all the best ideas sometimes but your an artist, you have dozens of new ideas everyday. One of them will be the one and the rest will be history.