You write so many words for people to like them
You have to post a thousand pics for people to notice one
You sell your soul to meet your goal and everyone thinks it’s fun
But there’s no more art because your heart
forgot what it means to make some
I wrote this poem a while back when I had to get out my feelings about what social media is doing to people. Granted, this is purely observation based on who I follow, but it really got to me. Even just looking at my own Instagram feed, I was so annoyed by the posts that got the most likes. I was frustrated by people doing “unique” things that were the same as someone else a few posts down. The last several days I’ve been pondering these ideas of comparison and support as an artist. Social media is one of those things that contributes to both camps and sometimes, at least for me, it’s difficult to see it positively.
As I scroll through Instagram, I have to admit that I laugh out loud in response to the irony I see. Socially, we try to encourage people to dig deeper, look past the surface, be more accepting, unique…and yet, when you put a selfie post next to one with a photo of the mountains with an inspiring quote from a book you just read, the selfie (or post with your face in it) will always be most liked. Go through your own account and see for yourself. My point in all of this is that social media is not really supportive of what we love, but it surely is of what it loves. We seem to perpetuate a culture of “look at me,” rather than one of “be me.”
I have to wonder how this affects artists. Does following successful artists inspire you or just stir the poisonous comparison pot? When you put your art up for the world to see and find that only 30 of your 1500 followers like it, does that encourage you to do it more? Especially when a post of the outfit you wore last night gets 130 likes? It feels easier to be admired for something that doesn’t stir your heart. Do you find yourself looking at what other people do more than sitting down and doing it with your own two hands? How many of us have pinned 1000 ideas to our Pinterest boards yet to actually make one? I’m raising my white flag right now because that’s me.
Maybe writing this shows that I still too often fall in that unhealthy artist category, but I don’t think I’m the only one that gets discouraged in this way. Even this blog can suck me in to the idea of people not really liking what I do. I had one post written in August that was viewed almost 300 times, which is the most views I’ve ever had here. My most recent post in this series only received 13 views. It’s easy to start to think people really got tired of me quick! And I fall into that mindset that I have to cater to what the polls say.
I don’t know the reasons certain populations like things more than others. But as artists, we cannot let that be a reflection on our own creativity. I’m not saying that fame is the goal, but this current generation is probably one of the first to be recognized for their artistic contributions while still alive. Artists and innovators of days gone by weren’t recognized, let alone respected until long after their deaths. If anything, they were ridiculed in their lifetime. I find it absolutely fascinating that they continued to work despite this lack of encouragement. Immediate satisfaction is never promised to an artist, but this generation tends to believe it is. Greatness comes with time given to our craft, not the opinions of those who don’t know how many tears we’ve poured into it.
Adjusting my perspective, however, shows me that social media gives the aspiring artist a platform like never before. We don’t have to wait to be accepted into gallery shows. We don’t have to worry until we receive that call from a publisher who wants to print a novel we wrote five years ago. I can write, record, mix and upload a song to Soundcloud in a day if I wanted to, bypassing any record label involvement. For the healthy artist, it is a miraculous and beautiful thing. It gives us the motivation to keep creating because we have a place to display what we create. We don’t have to wait on outside approval. We don’t have to endure critique (until later in the comments section).
As artists, it is important for us to be aware of the pitfalls of social media just as much as we are aware of their benefits. I think it’s okay for us to get upset in order to change the culture, to help people understand that sometimes it’s harder to, say, write a cohesive blog every day, than it is to put up an Instagram post of my face. And that kind of work deserves respect, at least. However, and I’ll keep saying it until I believe it myself, we cannot place our creative ambitions in the hands of the double-tappers among us. No, for that,
you gotta listen to (your) heart, it’s gonna tell (you) what to do
And to everyone else out there,
(we) might need a lot of lovin’ but (we) don’t need you
Tom Petty, always coming through for the close.
Read the Intro Post: A Journey of 31 Days
Next: You May Not Be Like Me