Because I Don’t Wanna Be Just a Monetized Eyeball
In last week’s essay, I talked about the upsides and downsides of social media for artists, how we can control how we play the social media game, and how we should focus on making art for us, not for likes. Before I move on to the next topic, I’d like to share my social media manifesto with you.
Instagram and other platforms have become such a huge part of how we consume and share art, and over time, I’ve developed a philosophy that I helps give me control of these platforms, instead of being controlled by them. So without further ado, here is my social media manifesto!
P.S. You can snag this downloadable manifesto, sign it, and share on your platform of choice if you’d like to commit to a healthy relationship with social media and spread the word so we can help create a safe, uplifting environment for all artists! 😀
The Might Could Social Media Manifesto
We can all get sucked into social media. We begin to fear the judgement of others, instead of openly sharing with no expectations. We focus on our struggle to stand out and get likes, rather than our struggle to explore and stay true to ourselves. We worry our art isn’t good enough, instead of being inspired by the goodness of others. We feel like our work has no value if it doesn’t get X-many likes. We worry about which hashtags to use instead of what to draw. We focus on growing our follower count rather than growing our art. We worry about finding what time to post for highest engagement instead of finding what time we feel most creative. We focus on building a “social media presence” rather than building a body of work. We post our work for external rewards, rather than internal rewards. We begin to create work for a “target audience” of strangers, instead of for ourselves.
In short: we stop enjoying social media, and we stop enjoying making our art.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. I’m here to empower you to make your own rules to this social media game. Because this game can be fun. It can help us make more art, discover inspiration, and meet other amazing artists from around the world.
Social media can be an invaluable tool — but you have to take control.
You have to make your own rules and stand your ground. You have to commit to a healthy relationship with social media. Because we’re are not just a pile of big, blinking monetized eyeballs. And we’re not just a bunch of lumpy, passive content consumers.
We are creators. We are artists. And we’re here to make art.
1. I will make art for myself, not for likes.
We can’t cater our work to what we think people on social media will like. When we make art we love, art that makes us happy to create, other people will see that, and they’ll like it. And I mean they’ll actually like it, not just tap an empty heart icon. We have to make art for us, not for likes. We have to make the art that speaks to us. We have to make the art we like. (See my previous essay for more on this.)
2. I will post my art even if I think it’s not that great.
Social media can become a highlight reel where we all pretend our lives are perfect, leading other people believe their lives are lacking in comparison. Let’s try to be more honest in our portrayal of creative life. We can show the mistakes. We can show the mess-ups. We can show the process work. We can post a photo with bad lighting. We can show reality.
And the reality is that art goes in cycles. Sometimes we’re on a roll with a surge of awesome drawings, and sometimes we’re in a funk with a pile of unhappy scribbles. These cycles exist for everyone and they’re normal.
Let’s not hide or feel ashamed of where we are in the creative cycle.
Relieve yourself of the pressure of posting only perfect art to social media. You certainly don’t have to — and probably shouldn’t — post everything you make, but don’t convince yourself it all has to be perfect. Embracing the mistakes and process will help you get back into that loose, not-trying-so-hard mindset, because you’ll know it’s all worthwhile.
3. I will not try to do it all.
I used to think that, as a self-employed indie artist, I had to be on every social media platform to be successful. I thought I had to be on top of it all, taking advantage of every new platform and feature from live videos, to stories, to IGTV, to whatever’s coming out next. All the gurus keep shouting that we should be spreading our work throughout the internet as wide, as frequently, and in every way possible!
But you guys, that’s exhausting. It would take more than 8 hours of my day, every day, to do that. And then what time would I have left for drawing? Or writing? Or just thinking and marinating ideas in my brain?
I would be so busy posting my art, that I wouldn’t have any time left in the day for making my art.
I’m giving you permission right now: you don’t have to do it all. Choose the 1–2 platforms you like best, and forget the rest. You’ll spread yourself too thin if you try to do everything on every platform. Simplify your social media life. You choose how you spend your time, not the gurus. And you know what matters most: making your art.
4. I will sometimes take a break and unplug.
We can occasionally become obsessed with taking photos of our process, live-streaming our process, and mocking up beautiful desk photos of our process for social media posts.
We can get to the point where we’re not focusing on the process of making our art — we’re focused on the process of documenting our art.
If we notice ourselves not being able to balance the two aspects, we might need to take a short break from social media and reset. We need to be present in the process of making our art. Being in the moment allows us to make stronger, more true to us art.
Documenting and sharing our process is wonderful and helpful and generous, but we have to be able to balance it with the actual making. If we start to get out of whack, we need to recalibrate by immersing ourselves back in our art. The internet will still be here when we get back, rejuvenated and ready to make and share our art again.
“I’d like to report I unplugged this entire weekend from logging onto IG and for the first time felt I was really enjoying what I was doing, really focused and having fun exploring watercolor. Magically I had seemingly more time to create art spontaneously.” –Linda Ziembicki
5. I will be inspired by, not discouraged by, other art I see.
It’s natural to be jealous of work we love and admire, or to be envious of another artist’s success. We see what they’re doing and think “why not me?” Getting stuck in this mindset can be debilitating to our work and keep us in a negative, closed-off mood. We get sucked into the zero-sum game mindset, and assume that because they have succeeded, we have not. They have won, and we have lost.
But this isn’t a competition. We’re just making art, and sharing it on the wide open internet. If someone has shared a beautiful piece of artwork, they’ve given you a gift!
You can be inspired by their work, get new ideas from their work, or learn a new technique from their work.
They are sharing something with you and you can receive it, learn from it, and be inspired by it, or you can throw it away because you’re jealous. Choose to be inspired and use that inspiration to grow and make more art.
6. I will not measure my value by likes and followers.
Your value as an artist, and the value of your art, is not equal to your follower number or how many likes you get. And this rule applies to everyone, whether you have 20,000 followers, or 2.
“Those extrinsic motivators are fine and can feel life-affirming in the moment, but they ultimately don’t make it thrilling to get up in the morning and gratifying to go to sleep at night — and, in fact, they can often distract and detract from the things that do offer those deeper rewards.” — Maria Popova, curator at Brain Pickings
Likes and follows are like mini-connections. And the quality of those connections is so much more important than the quantity. I would rather have only 2 likes from two people I know and respect and admire, than 500 likes from people I don’t know anything about or have never talked to at all!
Don’t let your sense of fulfillment and pride in your art be determined by random people on the internet.
The success is that you created something and shared it openly, not how many people clicked a heart icon. Your value is driven by your actions, not theirs.
Likes and follower counts are just vanity metrics. They’re fleeting numbers, and are not validation for, or a representation of the value of your art.
7. I will measure my value by what I create.
We can get into the habit of sharing on Instagram for approval and validation. Instead, we need to be sharing for generosity and contribution.
Sharing what we’ve made, encouraging others, passing around inspiration, and sparking new new art around the world.
Instead of measuring how many likes or followers you got today, here are some worthwhile metrics to measure:
- Did I draw something today?
- Did I write something today?
- Did I read something today?
- Did I encourage someone today?
Focusing on those metrics will give you way more ROI — or whatever business lingo you wanna throw around — than reaching for more likes and followers ever will. Those are the metrics in an artistic life that bring long term success and an internal sense of validation and worth.
8. I will make my art, and share it with the world.
And that’s all there is to it.