leaving social media


hi friends;

thanks for taking the time to read this post. i am not at all a prolific wordsmith, but i cannot think of a better way to express my thoughts about this topic, so i hope you can bear with my wonky writing and disjointed thoughts. ive also sprinkled extracts from various journals ive kept over the years.

while i dont intend to make much of a big deal on these sites, id like to say that i have made the decision to step away from twitter and instagram indefinitely. this is something i have been transitioning towards for a few months, and i have some loose ends id like to tie up before i do leave. in this page id like to share why ive made such a decision. im not particularly personal online but i have found the few times ive mentioned a disdain for social media as an artist i have found people respond and feel similar.

id also like to preface this by saying that i do not think that social media is inherently bad. it is an incredible tool for communication and community, and there are many things i shall miss. however, the two sites that i am leaving have shifted focus from being a tool for the individual to a tool for corporations. the intention is now to keep an individual plugged into an algorithm which keeps them there for as long as possible, and profiting off of them. this is indeed now present across the entire internet, but it is on social media where i find this to be the most vicious. i am no longer capable of maintaining a "healthy" relationship between my art and social media. this post relays my individual experiences. i probably have other issues with myself and my artwork that may reveal themselves in my writing to you, but i feel that the presence of social media is something i need to remove before i can begin to unravel anything else.

me, my art, and social media

ive been littering my art across the internet for about 12 years now across all kinds of websites, social media included. ive always drawn; i loved copying the illustrations from my favourite books and toys and shows, i loved creating my own stories and adding onto the media that i enjoyed with fanart. its something i started to take more seriously when i was 13 - at this time i had dreams of becoming a comic book artist. while at school, i was discouraged from pursuing this and i learnt to divorce any kind of "cartoony style" drawing in favour of solely realistic work, and this continued until i graduated from a degree in fine art in 2019. while i was passionate about my studies, i would spend any free time i had working on my cartoony style (id also write a full post about this one day too). posting these drawings online helped to legitimise the drawings, where i had lost support from teachers of whom i had sought approved from. while my skills grew in oil painting and realism, this translated into my other drawings, and in time i began to find my work online gaining a small amount of attention.

the negative effects of social media on my artwork and myself

tristan harris, the social dilemma (2020), in my journal[3]

a common way of describing how social media "pulls" a person in is to create comparisons to gambling, or to a slot machine[1][2][3]. you reload the timeline to see something new, and you do it in the hopes of seeing something cool or something thatll make you laugh, to get an update on something, to catch up on drama, or just even to see...something new. this amplifies itself on sites like instagram, where the timeline is not chronological; where explore pages and trends are available. this slot machine mechanic rolls over into likes, retweets, comments, and follows. its easy to, after you post something, check back numerous times to see how many likes youve gotten. and its very easy to feel like shit when you check back and you havent got very many or as many as you had expected, especially compared to your peers or to perhaps yourself.

in 2016, i created a series of drawings which were detailed imaginings of what i thought the bedrooms of characters from a certain video game might look like. this was a series i genuinely enjoyed doing, and i create similar drawings to this day as they are my favourite method of storytelling. it seemed others really enjoyed it too, and it was a niche idea that no one had really explored in this "fandom". this is where my artwork for the first time gained significant attention online. i wont bullshit, i love seeing my artwork getting lots of attention. who doesnt. it feels good to know people enjoyed something you put effort into. at a point, i ran out of rooms that i felt compelled and inspired to draw, but instead of leaving the series at that, i decided to continue with other characters, as it would continue the series and it would keep people interested in the niche i had created for myself. as i wasnt as passionate and committing true self indulgence to these drawings, they fulfilled me less, and this was made worse if they would do a little less well online. i would feel frustrated, upset, confused, and angry. ive put myself in this cycle many times, continuously burning myself out, drawing the latest news or release from a fandom, tried a 50 favourite characters series (in which i didnt get past like 15), DTIYS trends on instagram, all for chasing that high of approval from numbers on the internet. after 5 years, it has reached a point where even though ive read and seen every analysis of social media under the sun, and deluded myself into thinking ive defeated this addiction, the chase for validation online has ingrained itself into how i make work.

21/07/2018, extract from a digital journal

in 2018 after my second year of university and realising the end of my education was hurtling itself towards me, i realised i needed to start to draw for myself - which i have done for the most part, and now a lot of my work is original and i dont force myself to draw fanart. i knew that this would have an effect on the numbers i would get on my work, as fanart tends to do quite well and is more easily searchable, but i traded this in to be happier with what i create. but i was kidding myself into thinking social medias hold over my artwork had ended.

my artwork is still affected to the point now however where when i am even in the sketch or conceptual phase of something, i am thinking about the crop i will need to make for twitter, im thinking i may need to avoid red as it doesnt appear well on instagram. when i realised this was my way of thinking, is also when i knew this had gone too far; i was changing my artworks forever outcome in favour of potentially grabbing a strangers split second attention on a website. i have found that i no longer post traditional art as it would ruin the consistent image of myself as an artist ive created (this being a digital artists who uses bold colours). i dont post my sewing, my collages, my videos, my studies. i dont even really do these things anymore even though i feel just as much of an urge to create these things as i do my digital drawings. these drawings i also feel are rushed, i churn them out quicker so i can stay a consistent presence on social media.

if youre on instagram, perhaps youve seen a post providing insight into instagrams insidious algorithms[4], insisting one posts multiple stories, "reels", posts, IGTVs, or whatever gimmick theyre going to steal next just to even have a chance of being considered an active profile by the site. there is a fear of becoming irrelevant, especially for someone who wants to grow a bit of a business or a career from their artwork. on instagram, i used to post something at least once every single week for about two years. this was not sustainable, and after having stopped doing this for a few months, i have only really now realised how much of a strain it put on myself and my work. while i feel twitter has less of a clear algorithm, mostly based on search results and timing, i still feel this plagues every platform where you can share art - the need to be consistently present. im no fool, i understand why in such a saturated space like the internet this is important - but this cannot exist alongside an artist. my artwork hasnt had the time to develop. last year, for the first time i felt like i actually created work that i really felt deeply connected to and conveyed something important to me (and speaks on this topic [5]). i dont think every single thing one creates needs to do this, not at all, but even this piece of artwork i think couldve gone so much further, but i had rushed it. i havent let ideas with depth and focus properly simmer - i have other things i want to explore such as environmentalism and feminism, and characters and stories, but theyve not developed in a way where i know how to convey it in my artwork. ive not given myself the longform focus i need to really experiment and think.

16/02/2018, extract from a digital journal

on a more personal level, social media and the internet have done horrific things for my focus. in typing this, i have already mindlessly clicked and scrolled through social media a couple times. i cannot remember a single thing i have seen. i just know i did it because my brain is now hardwired to crave some sort of potential dopamine hit by pulling the internet lever. and once ive dropped that focus, its difficult to pick it up again. i know that i am capable of deep focus. i feel that this disruption on focus has affected every person, and its evident for me the most in how it has affected the way we go about political education and discussion. ill admit that most of my political knowledge comes from the internet and social media. i have political interests like mentioned above, but i know next to nothing about the history and the nuance of it. i believe this applies to just about everyone too. theres evidence that social media also targets you politically [6], and i have seen this on my own timeline. it is hard to use critical thinking and form individual opinions. "cancel culture" in my opinion amplifies this. it is ironic how many people say "educate yourself" to others when how many of us actually can say that we are beyond cutesy aesthetic unsourced posts on the likes of instagram and anonymous threads on sites like 4chan? our diminished focus favours this way of consumption over sitting down and reading a long book, for example, on our areas of political interest. or even to watch interviews and documentaries which are available in the same space! our consumption is limited to a bite-sized tolerance (just look at the success of tiktok), and this spills over into how people create work, because we know no one wants to sit around and look at a highly detailed piece of work on social media. even i shamefully only really look at people's artworks for a couple seconds than i carry on scrolling. quick creation and even quicker consumption.

it is disturbing to me that art is wedged between so many other elements online. while this depends entirely on who you follow, you view an artwork one second which someone has poured time and care into and the next second you are reading about politics, or seeings a photo of someones meal or day out, then some shitpost, then an entire conversation between two people, all slotted between a myriad of targeted advertising. rather than having the work surrounded by a frame or a white wall, its surrounded by more text, notifications, other posts, trends, hashtags, search bars, advertising, buttons to other places. maybe this is the pretentious art degree talking but i believe artwork should be given a space to be viewed and appreciated properly, where you come to see it intentionally (unless the work was intended otherwise of course) and you take time to process it. its hard to do this on social media as theres a certain urgency that seems to come with scrolling through a timeline, born of 'FOMO' and the ol' hunt for that dopamine kick.

what ive tried to do, why im afraid of leaving, and why i absolutely must

28/07/2018, extract from a digital journal

i feel i have tried just about everything apart from the deletion of social media in an effort to curb my addiction to it. i have set limits on my computer and phone, i have deleted apps and installed blockers into browsers, i have curated my feed by unfollowing and muting people, ive had my phone on silent for years, i have numerous taken 'detoxes'. while these things have worked somewhat, i feel i need to try and undo what has become more permanent. thanks to my job, i already spend 28 hours away from any digital device, which i am grateful for. but this also means that this only gives me a certain amount of freetime to fill.

i want to spend a good portion of my remaining time working on what i am passionate about, and working towards my personal goals also. i am lucky to have freetime at all. according to my iphones screen time tracker, i spend on average 3 hours a day on my phone. this doesnt account for however long i spend on social media while on my computer where i primarily work. this time to me is wasted, i dont remember any of it as its mostly mindless. i could be spending this time making videos which is something ive always loved doing but i rarely dedicate the time to anymore. i want to become healthier mentally and physically. i have a shit load of books and films i want to get through. i could be spending it honing my drawing skills further, i could be spending it finally buckling down and learning spanish, i could be spending it giving my mind a spare moment to just wonder.

creating is one of the most important things in my life. it is essential to me that i am able to continue this while i am physically able to. i want to have a healthier relationship with it, i want to understand what im making better and create a strong and deep relationship with it to myself. when i look at the benefits vs the the negatives on how posting my work online affects my work, the negatives outweigh any benefits tenfold. its undeniable that social media is now a key business tool, and as of late has been the biggest reason why i am reluctant to leave. i know how to work it and i know its the easiest way to market myself - i dont know what to do without it. if this decision ends up killing the business side of it for me or puts it back a few pedals, i am willing to take that risk in favour of having my creations be something i truly love and believe in.

10/12/2020, found in my notes

last thoughts, what is next for me + where to find me

i really could go on for hours about this topic, and i feel i did not even cover every single reason and train of thought i possibly have. this video[7] by holly exley talks a lot about the hyper-consumption of art, the short life-span your art is given, and the encouragement of unpaid labour on instagram, and a lot more eloquently explains much of how i feel. i think this is something that affects every single person i know. its hard to watch my friends and people i admire scramble on different social medias and perform themselves and their art and sometimes their bodies in a certain way just to achieve some kind of validation from it, even when we're painfully aware of what we're doing and how it will affect us.
unknown, late 2020

i can only imagine myself returning to these sites, most likely twitter and tumblr, on a distant and irregular basis to reply to dms and perhaps post a few significant pieces. if i find that this is still inhibiting how i work, i will step away permanently. i will leave these profiles up as archiving is important and enjoyable for me, and they can serve as potential gateways for others to get in contact or discover my work. i also want to start actually using youtube. i will not be returning to instagram. as i mentioned previously, i attempted to use it solely professionally. but to post, you must download the app onto a smart device, and i lack the extreme discipline needed to be able to download, post, and then delete the app back off the phone without any interruption. instagram is exceptionally good at imprisoning your attention, only coming in second place to tiktok which i shall never return to.

if you are interested in my work, please consider bookmarking this site, and checking back on the artlog at the bottom of my homepage for updates. i have also done this with my favourite artists (a selection of which ive also featured in my links page[8]). this will make my consumption of art a lot more intentional and appreciative, unlike the way i explained above.

thank you for reading. i appreciate that a good chunk of this is a bit negative and a depressing spillage, and i certainly hope this doesnt come across as me being hard on myself, but for me this is a relief and hopefully helps to begin to pen a positive chapter. i hope in this quieter time i have carved for myself that i can truly become closer to my artwork and develop a true and genuine practice with it. perhaps one day i will reach a place where i can have a healthy relationship between me, my artwork, and social media; but for now i feel this is not possible and i need time away.

if you have any thoughts, please feel free to leave a note in my guestbook, on discord, or you may email me or dm me elsewhere.

patreon this is the best place to find extra bits such as sketches, wips, full videos, timelapses, and step by step ramblings etc if youre as interested in behind the scenes stuff as i am
my website
youtube....will i post here again who knows...also b4 anyone gets smart i know these 2 are counted as social media but they dont make me suffer so they stay. but theyre on fucking thin ice
my print shop
tip jar

mentioned pieces and some other interesting bits...probs explain better than i can

[1] Social media copies gambling methods 'to create psychological cravings' - Mattha Busby
[2] Tristan Harris, former Google employee, explains persuasive techniques on social media - PBS NewsHour
[3] The Social Dilemma - Jeff Orlowski (2020)
[4] Why your Instagram Engagement Kinda Sucks Right Now - Rachel Reichenbach
[5] online afterlife
[6] The Great Hack (2019) - Karim Amer, Jehane Noujaim
[7] I Don't Think Instagram is Good For Artists - Holly Exley
[8] links

Other bits:

I quit social media for 30 days - Matt D'Avella
Digital sobriety 101
bikobaranari.art has a lot of rly good reads, and have inspired this push to leave social media, but here are some of my favourites:
- The Audience of Zero
- A Reflection on Instagram as an Artist
H3H3 After Quitting Social Media - H3H3
Take Control of Your Time & Attention - Lavendaire