Thoughts on the Social Media Rat Race – The Illusion, The Fleeting Validation, and the Trap of Chasing Followers and Likes

Instagram and Facebook went down for almost a full day at the beginning of October. If you have a business or want to start a business, this is the clearest sign that we should not be putting all our eggs in the social media basket. And that we should seriously develop our own website!

Even before these platforms went dark, my relationship with social media has been bittersweet. I obviously use the platforms to promote my artwork but the free service comes at a grave cost. My mental health has taken a serious beating from doomscrolling to triggering posts to absorbing more information than our brains can handle. With social media, you end up absorbing a lot of stuff you don’t want—and you end up thinking about a lot of stuff you don’t want to be thinking of. I’m always asking myself if an artist can even exist without social media nowadays? I don’t have the answer to this but it’s something I’m always thinking about.

Here are some things I’m constantly reminding myself of in order to coexist with social media—especially as a creative.

The Illusion:
No one is posting his or her failures. And not everyone practices what he or she preaches. A perfectly edited photo and composed caption takes a lot of time and effort. I have a friend that’s an influencer and the behind-the-scenes action is far from what the glamourized posts show.

The Fleeting Validation:
Getting likes are quick hits that get you addicted and wanting more. They last a split second and leave you emptier than you started.

The Trap of Chasing Followers and Likes:
You can easily lose yourself. You start to create for others and not yourself. Your creativity can start to feel more like a performance with the goal of attracting more followers. Happiness won’t come if you reach X amount of followers. This is the biggest fallacy and misconception because when you reach X, you’ll just try to reach for a higher number. You won’t be satisfied and will end up aimlessly chasing.

Shallow Attention Can Yield Shallow Work:
And deep attention yields deeper work. It is not so much the duration of time you spend doing something, it is also the depth of your engagement.
The danger of using too much Instagram is that our work can become shallower because we’re creating for short attention spans.

“Free” has a Cost:
There’s a cost to these free services. Free means you don’t have full control. The algorithm is consistently changing and we’re forced to keep up. We can’t see what these algorithms are and we can’t control them. Not to mention, Instagram can also delete our accounts at a moment’s notice. Free comes with a lot of strings attached.

Quotes from the Social Dilemma Documentary on Netflix:
“Addiction-based and manipulation-based technology environment.”
“It’s fake, brittle popularity.”
“Social media amplifies exponential gossip and exponential hearsay of what’s happening across our information ecosystem.”

Social media can definitely be a great and powerful tool…when used properly. When we use these platforms for our creative businesses, we should be aware of the pitfalls so we don’t go down a dark hole—the dark hole of comparison with the pressure to produce content and engagement. We have to remind ourselves that these social media platforms are just small ecosystems within a bigger environment. Let’s chase improving our craft and not meaningless metrics.

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