Creator? Curator? Procrastinator?

It all started with the Instagram bio. All of a sudden, if you liked arranging things you could legitimately* call yourself a ‘curator’; if you had an opinion, you obviously became a ‘consultant’; and anyone who liked to tell people what to do, especially if they were wearing pretty things was – natch – a ‘creative director.’ Most importantly, anyone who was anyone, became an ‘influencer’. Because who is going to challenge you? The Instagram Police? Your mum?

I think I enjoy ‘influencer’ the most. It’s such a non-term. If you take the term at its most literal, everyone is an influencer. The guy in Sainsbury’s who, with a wink and a nod alerts you to the chocolate BOGOF right in front of you; the Starbucks barista who suggests you try a new Colombian blend and you think “sod it, YOLO”; even the dry cleaner who suggests you come pick up your shirt on Monday instead of Friday because there will be fresh humbugs in the currently empty humbug jar when you come back. They’ve all influenced you. So are they influencers?

Oy vey! It has all become so gloriously easy to self-brand. Who needs LinkedIn, when a blog means that anyone can work in the media? In this avo and kale age (forget millennials, I’m calling it The Age of Avo ‘n Kale), what’s stopping you, me, and a digitally-savvy young girl from Idaho becoming all of the above? Nada, my friends, nada. In the same way a career can be borne out of meetings and events – “Me? Oh I’ve been taking meetings all day”; or, “today? I have three events?’ – it’s all too easy to apply some spit ‘n polish to your prosaic routine, in the lofty guise of curation.

But what does it all mean? The twenty-first century desire to curate is not without its pitfalls; curating your life in socially acceptable (and by that I mean, social(ly) media acceptable) terms becomes addictive, to the point where people ask if you’re Instagram is really ‘you’. Indeed, many of those flying high on a square-pic existence have Social Media Editors to aid and abet their self-curation. In a world of ‘curate and create’, even the curation of one’s own self needs an Exec.

The definition of a ‘creative’ has always been a thorny one. My mother is the most creative person I know, but she’d rather eat sushi for the very first time (“raw fish? Why would I eat raw FISH?”) than refer to herself as a ‘creative’. She’s a master baker, a brilliant knitter, a curtain-maker and flower-arranger to rival none. If anyone was to be entitled to call themselves a creative, it would be her. But I know if I asked, she would demur. She’d be hard-pushed to even classify herself as a ‘homemaker’ which she is, Susie, so consider yourself warned.

What my mother (and her gen) would baulk at is not the achievements themselves (though she would demur on her abilities, too) but the need to self-define. I’m as guilty of this as the next person. Hobbies are no longer quiet, amateur outlets of joy, but a way to contextualise ourselves in what we know to be an exhausting, reverberating world. White noise is no longer white noise; it is a deafening cultural clamour for attention.

No, it is no longer enough to have hobbies – they must be listable skills. But if you possess unlimited enthusiasm for filling up your iPhone camera roll with lattes and Autumnal parks, are you now a photographer? What is the boundary between the verb (creating) and the noun (creator)? Whilst I can only imagine how frustrating it must be to the bonafide creative directors and curators (and I am not basing this one age, there are indeed young curators) who spent years trucking away, perhaps it does not much matter. Unless you’re hiring somethone on the basis of their bio (not unheard of) I wonder if instead of questioning it, I should encourage this small sliver of opaqueness in an overwhelmingly transparent world. Maybe some things should be kept vague: if not the components of your brunch, then your bio.

*How legitimate is legitimacy? And so the meta debate unfurls…

Artwork by Natalia Bagniewska. 

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