I am the first to say that using social media to your advantage as a photographer or artist of any sort is a great way to get your work and self out there. I have done presentations, interviews and have answered other artists e-mails about my thoughts on social media. I have always mainly said positive things about utilizing things like facebook, flickr and other social networking sites.....until as of late.
Firstly, this isn't a post about me coming to some grand conclusion of quitting social media. You and I both know that will never happen. I have been able to have great relationships with photographers, artists and clients because of the limitless bounds that is social media. I have been able to share my work, my stories and basically all that is me with an audience. Many of whom share kind words of encouragement, love and who feel and have similar views and emotions as I.
Not for one minute am I not recognizing all the wonderful things that have come from having a platform to share my work. I'm not here to say that social media is some horrible thing but what I do want to talk about is the death grip and hold that wraps around our hearts and our minds and how social media does this to us.
I think it starts with what we value. I have been thinking about this for quite some time now and I will explain exactly what I mean by these values. The values that we place on likes and comments. How we compare ourselves endlessly to others who have more views, more likes, more "fans" then us. This needs to stop. It's exhausting. I'm exhausted and I know others who feel the same.
I'm not exhausted with sharing my work with others, I'm not exhausted with creating said work. I'm not exhausted having conversations with other artists. I'm not exhausted interacting with people on social networks. Believe me I love that part of social media.
What I am exhausted with is this feeling that if I don't post I will be irrelevant. If I am not quick enough to join in on something new I will fade into the shadowy abyss where photographers go to die. I am exhausted waking up everyday and having to log onto facebook and instagram immediately. I am exhausted thinking that other people's stories, lives and art is better then mine and I'll never be as good as I want to be. I am exhausted trying to figure out why something has 1 million likes and views. I am exhausted reading "how to get more followers" "how to social network better". It's just become exhausting.
What's more is the fact that I let this exhaust me and I know I'm not the only one.
When i started taking pictures more seriously in 2008 there was a point where I didn't even know what flickr or deviant art was. I didn't even know you could share your images. What I did know was that I loved creating images. I loved creating stories. I did have facebook and I remember creating a facebook photography page. At the time it was a great way to share my work and be able to admire other people's art and work.
Slowly over time social media became more about marketing and advertising. Which I think is fine, but it became less of a place to be expressive and more of a place where people were becoming "internet famous" and branding themselves. I know I am not innocent in this. Of course I market myself, yes I pay for ads if I know I need to sell a workshop. There are things you have to think about in business and marketing is one of them.
I often say to my husband that if I just started photography, or art of any kind now days I would loose my mind. I can't imagine the stress that new artists face trying to battle so many social media outlets just to get a bit of their work out there. In a way I am lucky I started in 2008. Deviant art, flickr and most photography sites had a smaller community. It was much easier to interact with potential clients and other artists and if you came before then you were even luckier because you just happened to be one of the first to be doing something.
Don't get me wrong many people get lucky but keep their careers and luck because they push hard and work towards it. I have seen photographers become internet famous over night and work their little hearts out to keep that fire. I have watched flickr popular photographers who had thousands of comments and likes slowly over time fade away and can no longer be found anywhere.
It's harder now. There are pro's and cons to the way social media has changed photography but I don't want to get into that too much on here. This post is more about what you can do to value your work and your life in the midst of social media.
Let's be real. If you are a business, an artist, a photographer, a designer or an entrepreneur social media is going to be part of your everyday life. There is no way around this. However, can we find a way to be more happier? Happier without the false sense of happiness that lots of likes or recognition give us?
I don't know the answer but this is my plan. I have started this plan because I no longer want to put value on my social media presence. I just want to be me and create work that I love. I want clients who love and appreciate my work. I want to be able to use social media in a positive way. I want to be able to use social media to tell my stories both written and photographically. I want social media to raise me up instead of making me feel so low about myself.
Here's my plan. If any of these spark something in your mind I invite you to give it a try.
1. I want to value all of my likes. Whether an image, a blog post or a feature has 1 comment or 1 like or 1000. I want to value that someone took the time to recognize what I did and found it interesting. A lot of people will say "Like's and comments don't mean anything". To an extent I agree. I think when it is the comment section that is open to everyone where people just use it to blast others and to be negative then yes it doesn't matter. That is considered the "arm pit" of the internet.
However if it's a personal place. Your own accounts and in those accounts you have people who are genuinely supportive then those likes and comments can matter. However, It is the way we value them. If I only value that an image is great because it has 1000 likes then the next time something doesn't receive the same amount of love I will be disappointed and wondering what I did wrong. If I am grateful for any comment and any amount of likes (whether high or low) then I have now changed the way I think and in turn the way I value that positive feedback.
2. Realizing that there is no right or wrong way to use social media. I used to think that I had to post at a certain time of day, I had to post certain types of images in certain places. More conceptual for flickr, more fashion for 500 px, more artistic for deviant art.
Now I believe that I can do whatever I want on my social media because it is mine. It is what represents me. I don't want to create a lie about what I do. I want potential clients to know exactly what I do and why I do it. I am more then just a fashion or conceptual photographer. Actually I do a lot of things. I shoot weddings and families. I have a personal life stories blog where I share day to day happenings, good times and tough times. I want to share many things. I don't want to be limited.
3. I don't want to feel down on myself because others have more social media presence then me. I know artists who have millions of likes and have told me flat out that having millions of likes doesn't mean you are more successful, better then anyone else, or richer. I know photographers that have barely any social media presence but are making a killing in their business.
I love looking at other photographers, artists, designers blogs. I love reading their stories, their trials and tribulations. I don't want their social media numbers to make me think differently about them. I have noticed that when the numbers are high many of the times I find myself asking "why them and not me". This brings me down. Then when the social media numbers are low for other artists I find myself asking "why don't more people know about this person".
I am so sick of thinking this way. I just want to be able to enjoy other peoples stories and work without knowing how many likes something has. As if that has any value at all. It can be valuable for them (as I mentioned in my first point) but what does it do for me? It doesn't inspire me to "keep up the good work". So instead of wondering what everyone else has I am just going to focus on why I like reading or looking at something, and how it can inspire me and my work.
It's not longer "Well, they have thousands of followers that's why I like it" it should be "I find so and so's work beautiful and inspiring that's why I like it"
4. Try to use social media in a more positive way. I don't know the answer to that yet. I know I am trying some new things in 2016. One of them has to do with trying to get more photographers work out there. I am in a unique position. I know a handful of talented people. I have a platform where I share my work why not share there's too? We should be encouraging each other. Share another photographers image or blog post for the first time once in awhile instead of an article that has been seen by millions.
5. One day of the week I want to wake up and not have anything to do at all with social media. I want to do anything but social media. Work on my business, work on my websites, read a book, go for a walk, sew, create. Anything but look at facebook or instagram. I want to get in touch with the things that real life has to offer that I have some how started to loose over the years. I want to take long walks and delve into my imagination instead of being bombarded with 20 things cute cats can do (though I won't lie I probably will still be looking at those cat posts) ;) Eventually I hope I will spend less time on social media in general.
I am not one of those people who is going to complain about how social media makes everyone wear a mask and it's all some big lie about how we portray ourselves online. I have already written a post about the topic of how to not compare our lows to with others high's here.
I am not going to say that social media has ruined our interaction with the real world because it's not just a black and white topic. I'd rather bring awareness to the fact that maybe it's us who look at social media the wrong way. Maybe it's because we put value and self worth on the wrong things. All I know is I don't want to be exhausted when it comes to sharing online. I just want to be an artist, do what I can and be happy.