the goal of this page is to help artists who post online get out of the nefarious influence of frantic social media art worlds, and get more in tune with their very own neglected art world. please read this with an open mind and consider how it may relate to your own situation - this could also be applied to anyone who uses forums, discord servers, or other means to share artwork. this text will focus on social media, as this is based around my own experiences and observations.
artwork, or work, in this text is defined as any creation by a person that is an expression of some sort - drawing, painting, sculpture, music, film, etc. i will mostly be making reference to digitally created drawings here.
R U AN ARTIST ON SOCIAL MEDIA???
DID YOU KNOW...
being an artist who posts on social media increases the risk of you:
- ☹ rushing artwork - therefore minimising the quality and thought - in order to keep up with trends, algorithms, the styles of those on the timeline, and the media that is popular, which will get you fast likes
- ☹ not experimenting, and therefore preventing growth of skill and ideas, in order to maintain the consistency of one's likes and "brand"
- ☹ evaluating the worth of your artwork, your worth as an artist, and even your own opinion on your work, based on how well it performs online
- ☹ unconciously comparing your work to how other people's work is looking and performing, and adapting your work to fit this
WELL HAVE I GOT NEWS FOR YOU...
leaving social media, or drastically cutting your use, allows you to:
- ★ spend more meaningful time on your work, allowing your ideas and skills to fully flourish at their own pace
- ★ better find influence in the world around you and things that interest you, and indulge more heavily in these areas of interest, instead of the fleeting moments that you flicker past on social media
- ★ experiment with different materials, media, dimensions, styles, and ideas that perhaps you held back from as it would deviate too far from your "brand"
- ★ appreciate, understand, and develop what it is you are trying to do or communicate with your artwork, ideas, concepts, characters, etc. whether its simply done as a quick hobby, or you wish to spread deep and important messages to the world, you will find clarity and strengthen your ability to self evaluate.
- ★ be truly self indulgent with your expression :o)
its time to reclaim how you express yourself...
12th october 2021
creating is my zeal in life. to lose the ability to create, for me, is to lose my ability to truly live. while i create mostly illustrative work, i also create through sewing, what i made for lunch, what i wear, how i code this site, how i live my life.
i have been posting my creations on the internet for over twelve years. what started out as innocent sharing on fansites and youtube, had slowly manifested into an anxious mind trying to figure out how to appeal to my "following", to "fandom", and to algorithms, burning myself out forcing myself to create work based on this, addicted to adapting my artwork based on the numbers of likes and retweets. in addition to hindering my ideas and skills, this also affected me professionally. most importantly, i was not making the work i really wanted to make, whether i knew that at the time or not. after watching holly exely's video on why instagram is bad for artists, i finally decided to leave. on the 30th of june 2021, i made the decision to leave social media in order to save my artwork.
in the months since, i have been slowly repairing my relationship with my work. ive been able to think far more deeply with intent about many ideas and projects, and spend more time on what im working on as the urgency to post has been lost. though i havent created nearly as much, what i have created, im very proud of :o)
how social media and the artworld collide
mechanics of social media
ten years ago, social media was merely a place to conveniently share thoughts and images. it took out the effort of making a blog and allowed everyone to congregate in the same space. in 2021, making money is the priority of these sites regardless of how they get it, and they get it through user's attention. while addiction to the internet has always been a problem, it has intensified and infested almost everyone who has an internet connection - and the more accessible it is (think smartphones), the more intense the addiction can become - as sites have changed to keep user's attention. this attention, ive observed when it comes to being an artist, can be split into two types: posting attention, and consumption attention.
posting attention: when one posts to social media and recieves feedback in the form of likes, shares, and comments, the "reward area" of the brain releases dopamine, making one feel good. do this easy action over and over teaches the brain that this is an easy source of dopamine, and so can lead to an addiction to posting.
consumption attention: behind the feedback described above are of course people. social medias use a timeline, which often used to be chronological, but now is more commonly curated specifically to the user. when you see a post that is of interest to you*, your brain undergoes the same process that happens in regards to posting attention. simaltaniously, the timeline notes how you interact with the post, or even simply how long youve looked at it, and uses this to target you with similar posts. as you are given simialr posts, your brain will be more likely to react with reward. as the brain's reward system and the timeline intertwine, you are led to an addiction to the consumption of the timeline. (*note that these posts arent always "positive" -this can happen while looking at violent, negative, and heavily political material as other parts of the brain that deal with danger and survival mix with this process)
are you content with your "content"?
the effects of posting attention and reaping great rewards from it will unconciously begin to make you change your artwork in order for your brain to get more rewards. your brain learns to crave the instant but short term rewards it can get on social media, rather than the longer to aquire but more fulfilling and long term reward from making something you actually want to make. creating artwork coming from this place rather than a more genuine place will start to take a toll - in that youll find yourself not feeling proud of work despite it doing well on social media, and also finding yourself frustrated when a piece you thought would do well on social media, doesnt. this effect is especially prevelant in people who make almost exclusivly fanart. you might think - "what is wrong with my content?"
perhaps youve noticed that on across the web, people are referring to their work as "content". i find this a strange thing to call artwork. from what ive observed the use of this word in this way first picked up speed on youtube in the mid 2010s, where in order to be taken more seriously, youtubers began to call themselves "content creators". this eventually leaked onto other social media platforms, and became somewhat of a replacement for the term "influencers". now it is used by and to refer to anyone who makes anything that gets posted online.
"content" as a noun refers to the things that are held inside of another thing - for example, the contents of a bottle is the water; the contents page of a book details what is found inside the book. in the context of "content" online, the word is used to refer to anything that ends up being posted on (and is inside of) the internet - music, art, photos, film, writing, pornography, websites, files, infographics, articles. imagine you decide to post a photo to instagram. first and foremost, the photo already exists and is defined as a photo. when posted on instagram, the photo now also is content of instagram, in the same way if placed in a physical photo album, it becomes content of the photo album. it is still its separate definition of a photo. to call yourself a "content creator", or to say that youre "making content" on instagram implies that you dont make artwork or music or take photos as those definitions first and foremost. rather it implies you create these things for instagram, to be content of instagram; that it being a separate entity that youve created out of some desire to create is secondary, forced, or not even a considered element. there is nuance here, of course - there are things such as graphics i create just to contribute to the content of my webpage and they have little context outside of this.
sometimes, the context matters. for example, there are things such as graphics i create just to contribute to the content of my webpage and they have little context outside of this. my concern is when artists start to call and treat their work as if it has no context outside of social media, as if it is something that exist
"...i transitioned away from being an artist, and was suddenly a "content creator"..." - sophia mitropoulos
even if you dont refer to your work as "content", theres a good chance you treat it as such. large companies embrace the idea of a "content creator", they love and actively encourage "small creators" who are frantically using all their features and contributing lots of posting attention, as it helps them to harvest even more consumption attention. rainylune found that instagram wants users to post 3 feed posts, over 8 stories, up to 7 reels (short videos), and an IGTV post per week in order to grow their accounts. to try and do this with artwork is a surefire way to achieve nothing but burnout and less quality and genuine work, and it is a gamble that is pushed that the majority will not succeed at. when i used instagram, i forced myself to always find something to post on my story daily, and i also posted at least once per week for around two years. even though this is far less than what is desired to grow an account, i still found it very hard to keep up and would often rush artwork willy-nilly just so i could have something to post. as a result of this, the quality of my work fell in visuals, skill, and ideas. i would spend time looking at did well as content of instagram, and trying to replicate it.
no matter how hard id tried to resist it, or deluded myself into thinking it didnt affect me, i let likes, shares, trends, algorithms, and site logistics dictate what and how i created. id avoid extreme detail and crazy colour palettes, two things i LOVE, because it wouldnt be appear well on social media and phone screens. id think about the size of the canvas and how itd effect its view online. if a drawing did "well" or "bad", id unconciously note this try to do or avoid similar things in the next piece. i avoided experimentation with style or media as it would ruin the consistency on my page, and also what my "audience" was used to. already having become addicted to the internet and social media from my teens - ive not even touched on the multitude of other effects excessive social media, smartphone, and internet use can have on one's focus, ability to think and work deeply, and influence on identity - and having this entertwine with my already complex but passionate relationship to my art, my relationship to it had become twisted and about the short term feelings and trying to appear "successful" online. i had become lost and caught up in this endless cycle, and it was a cycle which everyone else on my timeline was experiencing and adding to as well.
one second artwork... and thousands of crabs
outside of the posting attention, i found my consumption attention to be equally as detrimental as an artist. i had spent years "curating" my feed, only following fellow artists, friends, and some famous figures i liked. i thought it was perfect, a timeline filled with art and things that brought me joy - id mercilessly unfollow or mute anyone who didnt align with my happy timeline. i do think this is still an important practice as ill note below. the issue is due to how wrapped up i was in the addiction to posting and consumption, id scroll, mindlessly clicking like on all the posts i saw to "show support", including on posts i didnt even like or hadnt even looked at for more than a couple seconds. as i was doing this to others, it was also being done to me, and i let the numbers i recieved influence my perception of the work and how i should proceed. of course, this isnt true of every single person or post - many a time ive scrolled onto a post ive kept open in another tab for days just to look at, but i can bet that those posts are a small cup pulled out of vast ocean ive scrolled through everyday for years. and outside of the ocean, are us crabs - all pulling each other down into the endless cycle of posting, validating, fretting and rejoicing over likes and letting them dictate the artwork.
i was also unconciously heavily comparing myself to what i was seeing on my timeline. this is something i used to think i didnt do, and if you dont think you do it, you do. it is after all human nature to compare ourselves to others in order to see how to fit in socially - which is, how to survive - and social media amplifies this using large numbers as a measure of how successful someone is. i was noting how often people posted, when they posted, how quickly they gained followers or likes, their comments, etc and letting this fuel how i treated the my work online. the visuals of what i was seeing every day were also affecting what id make - i would try or avoid certain lineart, subjects, colour palettes, styles, etc not because i was genuinely interested in them but because i saw the success it brought them, and wanted to see if it could bring me something similar.
in general, i also found the atmosphere very tense. perhaps it was just the people that i was following, but i got the sense that everyone felt the same as well. as i mentioned, the timeline was like a bucket of crabs - id see and contribute posts and rants about social media and how they treat artists, apologies for "not posting in a while", but then see threads about how to be successful as an artist on social media and feel an immense pressure to post and contribute. (as of march 2022, i sometimes unblock twitter to schedule posts or reply to people, and end up scrolling down my timeline which id just left as is from june 2021. it is like i am a crab being held over the bucket, watching everyone constantly pull each other back into the bucket despite trying to escape. i know that i am too a crab and i could be one of them at anytime. the sense of danger helps me to shut my tab and reblock the site.)
when you realise that what youve been creating has been heavily influenced by the factors i have described, it sort of throws you into a bit of a crisis about what it is you are creating. im not saying everything youve posted online is fake, but i do think in regards to my own work ive now been able to look back and see the blatant cases of making things just to post online, but also how some of this work wouldve taken a different direction if id listened to my gut rather than my poor frazzled brain. when i left social media, i didnt create any finished pieces (apart from client work) up until a couple weeks ago. this caused me a bit of distress, as i was so used to churning out work about every week and constantly thinking about what to make next, but it has been an important time for my brain to recover from years of anxiety and pressure, and to adapt to having an audience of zero...well, not zero. i had the audience of one - me, myself, and i. i needed to figure out how to please this audience of one.
INTERLUDE: concerns about business
i understand that a reason many artists would want to stay on social media is for business related concerns. this is something i had concerns about as i had put a lot of time towards this, and had made a good amount of financial success from - in fact, youll find my twitter and tumblr are still active for this reason - but i realised id rather have a better connection to my artwork, over rushing out quick success avaiable to gamble for on social media and burning myself out doing things i dont even love. when i was a schoolgirl, trying to make a career using social media as an artist was foolish, but when i was in university, it became essential for the artist.
i believe if you want to use social media for business reasons, there needs to be a balance made. after describing what i have done in this post, it is hard to justify why an artist should even stay on such sites, and its something i feel conflicted about often. i left instagram entirely and id encourage you to do the same. i still post to twitter and tumblr but with extreme restrictions. i do not, and will never again, have social media on my phone. on desktop, i use the browser extension leechblock to only allow me to access certain URLs which allow me to schedule posts to my page and respond to clients, but thats it. if i try to go to the homepage, the tab closes. i cannot even visit the page of the post itself or see notifications.
(this is not my full leechblock list, btw, just an example)
i would like to one day leave both of these sites, but twitter especially is where i get most of my clients, so i stay until i begin to get work through my site. to be frank, choosing to drastically slash how i use social media makes reaching people harder. i miss trends and hashtags as a result, and im not in tune with popular media to contribute fanart to - i know how to play social media if i really wanted to, i did it for years - but to do it again would kill my spirit and im not willing to sacrifice my artwork to get there. to rid of this, and all the things ive described thus far, lets me work hard at my own pace and keep tight reigns on my relationship to my work. i feel far more in control. the art related career goals i do have ive actually been able to focus on and develop as the work i need to put in isnt being fragmented by the need to post on my social media.
if you are serious about trying to make a career related to your artwork, you need to consider how much investing time in social media is actually worth. it is a difficult tool to use soley professionally as these sites are built around harvesting attention. even if you were to unfollow/mute everyone and try to use it as passively as possible, the sites will still try to trick you into staying and looking, and giving them consumption attention, by pushing trends and reccommended posts to suck you into SHITTY MINDLESS RABBIT HOLES. for some, social media has brought their art career success, but this comes through extremely hard work and tunnel focus on working on social media for years, or simply pure luck. in many ways, i think a large amount of discipline and willingness to change some things are needed to be able to use it professionally but avoid it affecting your work.
here are some tips for anyone who looks to still use social media professionally, or leave entirely:
- ♥ make a website. unlike social media, you can curate your site to display your work in any order or configuration, showing clients your best work but also allowing you to see your work together in new ways. your site should be what you plaster all over your social media, if you leave or stay, and not the other way around. artist julia bausenhardt explains in her blog about leaving social media that her business was not really effected at all. her site creates a longevity to what is posted. i have a longer explanation below about why and how you should make a site as a creative.
- ♥ use website blockers, just as i described above. keep the links available that you use to maintain crucial elements, and block the rest. this will help keep you focussed and out of the noisy world of social media. there are two listed in links
- ♥ keep your profiles up. before you leave, ensure that your up to date contact info is at the top of the page or in bios. id also change the password, note them somewhere like in a notebook, and log out - as this makes them harder to mindlessly stumble back onto
- ♥ dont fear losing big following counts. having a quality handful of friends and connections that youve built will always be more beneficial than an unreliable quantity of followers. when you leave social media, you will be humbled by the small number of those who do decide keep up with you - and you likely have a lot more lurkers than active followers
- ♥ learn how to use tags, keywords, and metadata. this is something youll already be a bit in tune with if you use social media, but theyre crucial to get a hold of especially if you want to be discovered professionally. use keywords not only in tags, but in the post content as well. when making a website, learn about metadata to make yourself searchable.
- ♥ if nothing else, leave instagram
alternative: making a website
ive always heard how important it is as a professional artist to have a website, but i only started to pay attention in university. not everyone youll meet in life will have a social media - it may shock some to find out - but the majority will have an internet connection, and so having a website is actually the most accessable way to share your artwork. even handing out links to social media to those without accounts is difficult, because twitter and instagram both only allow a user without an account to scroll a certain amount before demanding they sign up. instagram wont even let desktop users click on a post.
building my own website on neocities has helped me to showcase my artwork exactly how id like, and has also helped me to get a better grip on the overall atmosphere i like to convey. on my site, i try to create a balance between something potential clients can access, hence the simplicity of the gallery, but also i have the freedom to create far more complexity, exploration, and function, such as with the online afterlife pages. i also am able to better talk about topics im interested in, hence the existence of this page - whereas before on social media, id have to present watered down arguments using keywords instead of explaining things properly in fleeting stories or tweets (gee, i wonder how this could contribute to how misinformation spreads...). i have also plastered links to my gallery, patreon, and contact everywhere in order to make this easily accessible for clients, as the reality is no client wants to waste time looking for it.
if youre more of a hobbyist, much of this can be disregarded, and you can simply leave social media and create a cool website to share your work on!
in terms of how you should make your site, there is only so much i can say. id reccommend getting inspired and checking some out. below ive listed some amazing websites, mostly by fellow users of neocities. hopefully, if you visit my site, youll find that it screams OMOULO!!! just as these sites scream the spirits of their respective owners and their work.
in the digital wellbeing toolbox, there are further resources for making your own site.
how to cut down on social media use
perhpas youre wondering what to do if youve reached a point where you decide that social media is no good for you and the relationship you have with your artwork.
these tips apply to those who will both leave social media entirely, and to those who will stay but drastically cut their use. these are all things that i have done and i have found great results. i do think that a large amount of disipline and resistance to peer pressure is needed to pull this off successfully, and it can be incredibly difficult - but i always make myself remember why im choosing to do this, which is for the sake of my zeal in life, my artwork.
- ♥ delete the apps from your phone, tablet, or desktop. accessability to these apps is what makes it easier for you to be drawn into SHITTY RABBIT HOLES. this is one of the first things i did, and it helped not to be constantly aware of how my artwork was "performing", especially now i couldnt access this information while at work, with friends and family, or in everyday moments.
- ♥ use website blockers on desktop. just as i described above. keep the links available that you use to maintain crucial elements, and block the rest. this will help keep you focussed and out of the noisy world of social media. there are two listed in links
- ♥ keep busy. be sure to spend your newfound time with new projects, experimentation, research, friends, or even just other hobbies. your mind is still recovering from being addicted, so it will try and find something else to latch onto. plan things in advance, as having empty free time is an easy way to fall back down SHITTY RABBIT HOLES. the first couple weeks may feel strange, but after a while you dont even miss it.
- ♥ dont feel down if you are creating less. you havent made a mistake! your mind is trying to heal and readjust to creating at a pace that actually suits you. for the first few months, i only doodled and studied outside of client work. as of march 2022, thought my output is still far slower, i can contemplate decisions and ideas and make so much more artwork that i actually enjoy.
- ♥ dont just rely on social media to inspire you. anything can inspire what you create. other art, film, music, people around you, nature, i even made a fictional band based off a sign i saw once saying "dont feed the pigeons" bc i thought it sounded cool. let ideas naturally come to you through what youre experiencing in life. if there are artists who you found through social media that you'd really like to keep up with, then...
- ♥ keep up with your favourite artists with bookmarks, rss feeds, and saving their websites. an essential but seemingly forgotten feature on just about every browser is the ability to bookmark/favourite certain sites. without looking at your following list, write down and then locate the websites of all your favourite artists. if they dont have a website, try and bookmark pages that only show their work - for example, their art tag on tumblr, or the media tab on twitter - but try to avoid their social media as much as you can. here is my list :o)
- ♥ consider how or who you share your work with. it can be hard to leave social media as often friends are there, and its only natural that youd want your work to be seen! consider who your friends are from your timeline and try making a group chat, or exchange emails/discord to stay in contact, or send them a link to your website.
- ♥ in my page about digital wellbeing, i have more general tips.
if nothing else...fuck instagram
being an image based sharing platform, you would be forgiven for thinking that surely this would be the ideal place for artists to post online. in my opinion, it is easily the bottom of the barrel for places for artists to post. twitter, facebook, and the like are just as awful, but i dont believe anywhere else to be as horrendous as instagram. it is inaccessible, highly addictive, destructive, and belongs to mark zuckerberg. heres just a small list of the reasons why i feel this way:
as of march 2022, many of my reasons such as a lack of post scheduling and ability to post on desktop, have actually been resolved. however, this has not changed my opinion of the site and why it is a horrible place for artists to be.
thank you for reading. i hope that if youre an artist on social media, that this page has given you some food for thought. as i mentioned, creating is one of the most valuable things in my life and i will remove anything that is a danger to it. in this image of me from over a decade ago, i am posing in front of my drawings of friends and characters. around this time, id decided i wanted art to be a part of my life forever. i hope that this young omoulo feels proud that ive chosen to prioritise our passion.
i intend at another time to write more about how the relationship to my artwork has transformed since leaving social media, but for now i can say that i feel no regrets about my decision and im making some of the most exciting things ive ever made :o)
if youd like to contribute a perspective or an opinion, please feel free to get in contact me, via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or otherwise. id love to hear from you.
as of march 2022, this page has been edited to improve overall readability, and has also had things added to the page, as well as a slight change in the format and css. thank you for reading.