For An Artist, Social Media Can Be A Foe, and How to Make It A Friend
Depending on who you ask, social media is the best thing that's ever happened to mankind or a blight on humanity altogether. Either way, one cannot deny its impact on the world. When it comes to creating and promoting art (no matter the genre), the reality is that social media can be absolutely vital. Gone are the days of gatekeeping (in terms of who is allowed o present their works to a wider audience); the only thing one needs today to showcase their talent to the world is a computer, internet access, and a social media handle. In this regard, social media has truly changed the game in the art world. However, as artists, social media often becomes a source of anxiety, bad feelings, and even the reason artists stop creating. Why is that? I'm sure there are many reasons for this, but from my own personal experience, it stems from the pressure for 'likes', for acknowledgement and relevancy, and even from the natural tendency we have to compare ourselves to others.
The act of creating, be that taking a photo, drawing, painting, sewing, designing, and so on, is one of the greatest joys a person can experience. Being in the 'moment' of creating is pure bliss; it seems like time disappears and you are transported into another world, free of worry and one filled with absolute peace. However, sadly, these feelings often disappear and are replaced by their worst counterparts after the creation has been made. Inevitably, even if we are self-critical, artists see our crafts as gifts, and with any gift, you want to share it. But many times, the act of sharing is the exact opposite of the act of creating. This is particularly true when that sharing is done through social media, where the anonymity of the internet allows for any and everyone to offer their nonconstructive or unsolicited opinions about the merit of your work with reckless abandon.
On the other side of that, social media "hype" means that the masses can often be swayed by popularity, bells and whistles, and how savvy someone can "play the game" rather than on true substance. I think we can all think of popular figures in pop culture to whom this applies. If you've ever wondered, "how could so and so have so many followers" or "why is so and so famous", it's most likely because they have learned how to navigate (and manipulate) social media to their advantage. The problem for an artist, however, is that many of us do not aspire to be famous but simply to be acknowledged. For our work to be seen and appreciated by those who would be inclined to do so. This is the purest form of any creation; simply wanting your creation to breathe life and exist. Sadly, the modern day artist has to be not just a creator, but a marketer, promoter, handler, and other things which don't come naturally to us. So how do artists navigate these treacherous social media waters? Well, I'm still figuring that out myself, but I do think there are some important things to think about, and I've listed them below.
Determine and Be Honest About Your Goals.
Who are you creating for? Yourself? Your fans? Your clients? Not everyone needs to be as social media savvy or present as others. It is not mandatory that you have a social media account (let alone, all of them) as an artist. If you have regular clients and are happy with that, merely maintaining regular communication with them is sufficient. Certainly, it is nice to share your work with a wider audience in the hopes of being seen and/or establishing new clients, but if social media is too much for you (for whatever reason), you do not "have" to maintain an account that you do not actually need. So examine your goals and figure out if social media helps or harms those goals, or if it is necessary at all.
Don't Forget Why You Started.
If you are in the category of artist who creates for the pure sake of it, then you may not ever need to be "social media famous" or any kind of famous for that matter. This goes hand in hand with the point above about knowing your goals. Remember why you started creating in the first place, even if it was ages ago, and try to preserve those intentions for as long as possible. Often, when something turns from a passion into a business, the former is lost. Maintain your passion and social media will be less about validation and being seen, and more about being another tool in your kit.
Use Social Media, But Don't Let It Use You.
If you are someone who wants to build a business, sharing everything you have on social media could backfire. Regardless of how useful social media may be in getting you noticed, remember that you are still sharing content for free. There is a certain level of exclusivity that is lost when you offer everything so freely and without showing others that your work has a monetary value as well. Decades ago, people would have to pay to see an exhibit of what is often shared for free on social media. While this can be a beautiful thing (and I am a big advocate for art being free whenever it is possible and feasible), the reality is that the world is much more competitive than it has ever been, and getting your work to be appreciated on a monetary level requires some maneuvering, and social media can be an impediment to building a brand or business if used in a non-strategic way.
Never, Ever Compare Yourself To Other Artists.
As I alluded to earlier, comparison can easily rob an artist of joy and - if not checked - lead to an artist feeling so unworthy that they stop creating entirely. There is a fine line between inspiration and comparison; the former can be a blessing, but if not careful, you can end up in a trap of comparing your work to others and feeling like you do not measure up. To break this cycle, and it took me a while to do so, is to not just remember why you started, as I wrote above, but to always put yourself in the eyes of the viewer. Just like there are people who prefer summer over winter, there are people who would take a snowy, winter's day over a "scorcher". Your only "job" is to create, not to be a replica of someone else or a robot that reprograms itself to satisfy the tastes of whatever current thing is trending. Never water down what only you can do as a human being with your own unique perspective that no one else has.
Hopefully these tips will help turn social media from a foe to a friend. Happy creating!