The Social Media Conundrum - Artist’s Edition
What, and who, are we doing this for anyway?
Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, yaddaya. They connect us, inform us, annoy and delight us, and most of all they distract us beyond measure. They sometimes inspire, and then make us believe in false idols. They massage our egos one day then trigger us the next.
And as artists, they may be directing our art more than we know. This can be a subversive and dangerous path in our growth as creatives.
Never before have we invited the world into our studios as we do in this digital age. Works in process are a regular part of the artist’s behind-the-scenes story. Interesting to see, yes, but this is a critical and vulnerable stage of the paintings evolution, and by exposing it to the world, we may be altering the course of our work depending on the response we get from social media.
Alas, this is a fickle and false barometer. I subscribe that the only true compass is our internal one - that deeper knowing that comes through silence and presence without influence from the outside.
But I’ve found myself falling into the trap of wanting validation through social media, and I don’t like it. It takes vigilance to notice the forces at play, what’s altering the work in real time. We are called to be ever more grounded in our growth as artists, not to sway with the wind of public approval.
And then there is the lure of scrolling through social when we should be focusing on creating our own work!
Even though I mostly find my art supported on Instagram (as modest a following as I have), I noticed recently a drop off in response to my posts. Is it the work I’m doing or some algorithm change or posting at the wrong time of the day (yes - all supposed factors)? But the point is that I’ve noticed how much I look for confirmation from IG, and when it is less than expected or hoped for, I become doubtful and start to question what I’m doing.
Compound that with comparing myself with other artists who have 10k - 100k or more followers and I start feeling like chopped liver. It’s Junior High all over again.
Yet my whole creative life is about the search for authenticity. This is why I do what I do - to take the journey, to bushwhack through the clutter of illusion - to get closer to the truth. But when we start to alter our work in order to get more “likes” or comments, we have begun to lose the plot. We are on the treadmill of chasing validation even before we have nurtured our work in a raw and honest way.
As much as I sometimes want to jump off the speeding train of social media, I also see it’s value. I’m altered and inspired by other artists on a regular basis. I like keeping up with friends and fellow artists shows and travels and successes. I’ve even re-connected with artists I’ve met at residencies around the world - in far and unexpected places - because of their SM posts.
I’ve also grown my email list community exponentially through my Instagram and Facebook outreach, and because of that I have made new friends and also sold many paintings to buyers around the world. It’s been good for business.
It’s a beautiful thing that we artists now have more control over our reach and have more options to expose and exhibit our work than ever before. Opportunities to connect with a massive global audience are unprecedented because of social media - full stop.
So like with every new phenomenon, we are seduced and lured in and must find some balance with the pros and cons of what is on offer. Are we using it, or is it using us? When is the right time to share, and when to let go of popular opinion for the sake of the work? Are we creating to find the Truth, or to be Liked - either/or/both. Each of us has to find our own answers to these questions, and act accordingly.
And ultimately, it’s not about counting followers, it’s about having the courage to follow your own authentic path.