Whether you’re shocked by invasions of privacy, selling of personal data, an overabundance of propaganda, or simply tired of algorithms, there are plenty of reasons to quit social media. If you’re an artist or small business, there are probably even more.
We’re told that we must be on every social media channel going, that we should create and plan content calendars, keep up with trends and network to grow our following. But how much of what we do on social media is within our control? If an algorithm decides who sees your art and when, are you getting the benefits of those several million (or billion) potential followers?
Being your own brand advocate, marketing manager and analyst is no easy task. Keeping up with posting, brainstorming posts and getting feedback is all great short-term, but if you’re anything like me, you might be getting a bit fed up with it all. It feels like a Sisyphean task, filling up your feed in the hopes that someone will fall in love with your work. Not to mention the wormhole of comparing, dead scrolling and time-wasting we all inevitably fall prey to.
Recently, and after having been more active on my social media channels than usual, I’ve realised that I don’t actually get any joy from having my art out there anymore. A post feed demands my daily attention instead of a new technique or diving into my art books, or finishing that painting project. I compare, I criticise, I get distracted, I wonder why that post didn’t work, and of course, I scroll, and scroll….
There are artists and small businesses that do exceedingly well on these platforms, but is this because of social media? Were they simply successful already, and their fans simply followed them in these new digital realms?
For me, it feels as though the amount of effort that gets put in is not worth what I’m getting back. I’m sure I’d be told that I’m not marketing myself correctly, or I don’t have a voice or I’m not consistent or active enough. But I could also argue that, in my experience, the majority of people that follow artists on Instagram are other artists. Hardly our target audience. Hardly going to provide us with the leads and sales we’re looking for. They follow us, probably for the same reasons we follow them. To be inspired, to compare, to figure out how to be successful. It’s unhealthy, and it’s not what these channels were designed to do. Art becomes simply another flyer of junk mail dropped on everyone’s doorstep.
Yes, you have a free online portfolio, access to almost unlimited eyes 365 days a year. But you also have unrealistic expectations, distractions, and dishonesty (we all set up the perfect photos, edit, filter, make sure our house is spotless in the background – this is not reality).
(Don’t get me started on the ads)
However, the most damaging thing about social media is that we seek its validation. Our art is not good enough unless we get enough likes, DMs, or comments. We believe what we do is valuable only if someone tells us it is. What happened to being your own critic, to appreciating your art on your own merit, and simply getting lost in the creative process, instead of wondering what type of painting or what camera set up with get the most engagement. Whether that painting is blue enough to get more likes (on Instagram, research shows that bluer images get up to 24% more than red or oranges). We end up creating what we think others want, instead of what we want.
I’m guilty of all of the above, and with a new baby, finding the time to paint is tricky, without added pressure. So why should I waste that time scrolling, planning and fretting, when I could be in my studio getting my hands dirty and painting all those things that have been niggling me?
I won’t be deleting my social media accounts just yet, but I’ve removed them from my phone and have disabled notifications. I won’t be posting, and I certainly won’t be scrolling. It’s a difficult habit to wean off of, but I have plenty of books, painting supplies and blank canvases to keep me occupied. I’ll be less afraid to make a mistake, and to take risks, as I will only be accountable to myself.
I will continue to post art updates and share thoughts on my blog and newsletter, where interaction is far more intentional and genuine, so make sure to follow the blog using the button below or sign up to my newsletter if you’d like to keep up with me!
What are your thoughts on social media as an artist or small business? Is it doing more harm or good? Let me know in the comments.