Ahhh, social media. The necessary evil of today’s world! For many, it’s exciting and essential to the success of their business, to others, it’s a mystery and unimportant.
Wherever you fall on this spectrum, one thing is for certain, social media can be a great place to connect with others, grow your business, and find inspiration, but it can also become a never ending black hole that sucks you in and leads your inspiration and positivity to an early, and very shallow, grave.
The pros and cons of social media could easily fill a whole series of books, diving deeper and deeper into the psychological effects it can have on us humans, in fact, there are many such books out there.
But I’m going to just focus on one little struggle: going to social media for artistic inspiration, and then watching that inspiration circle the drain a few minutes later when you realize that everyone else is so much better than you.
I’ll elaborate on that in a moment, but I want to first say that this is probably something that stems from the insecurity most/many artists feel about their own work. You’ve all heard it before, an artist is their own worst critic, and so they often rely solely on the opinions of others to know if their work is good or not. And who’s to say what “good art” is? There’s another subject that can and has filled many books.
Why is there so much self doubt in the artistic community? Is it because it’s not something that can be graded, like a test that has all right or wrong answers, and a final score, to show how good you did? Is it because artists have spent decades being told art isn’t a real job? Or is it just simply due to the fact that artists don’t get enough positive reinforcement about their work? Who knows, but it is true that an artist always sees their work differently than everyone else does, and quite often, that means they don’t think they’re as good as people say.
Of course, there are those who think everything they do is just better than everyone, but that’s a whole other type of person. Hahaha.
So what is an artist to do when they are feeling like their work isn’t good enough, or could be better? Simple… browse social media and look for inspiration. Look at other art. If you’re an artist in today’s world, chances are you have not just one but many social media feeds that are filled with posts from other artists, so it’s easy to scroll through hundreds of posts in the matter of a few minutes.
I do it. And almost immediately I’m filled with so much inspiration… until I’m not.
It's a rabbit hole that goes a little something like this:
I’m feeling creative and inspired! I want to fill my head with positive vibes and work on something new. I open social media, be it Facebook or Instagram… whatever…. And I start scrolling.
I see such amazing art being created out there. It’s just beautiful work. I see artists posting about another commission. Another sale. I see other artists posting that they can’t take any more commissions because they're too busy. Their work is stunning. I wonder, wow, how did they get there? They’re so successful.
I see posts of work I admire with hundreds of likes, dozens of comments. But mine only get a few likes, and I’m lucky if I get a comment or two. Oh well, I’m still unknown. I’ll get there. Just gotta keep pushing forward.
Scroll. Scroll. Oh wow, look at that art! Man, I could do that! I want to do that too! Well, I can’t, that’s their style. Maybe I should try it anyway. Could be fun. But then what do I do with this random painting? Maybe I need to change my style. Maybe my style just isn’t that good. Maybe I need to be more like them. More scrolling. What is that? That's not art! Anyone could do that! How are they getting so many likes and comments? Really? That sold? Who would buy that? It’s terrible!
Okay, now you’re just being judgmental and very negative. Art is subjective… keep scrolling.
More styles. More art. More sales. More likes. More comments. Everyone out there is doing so much better than me! Maybe people just don't like my work. My style is no good, it’s no wonder no one likes me.
More scrolling. Man, I’ll never be as good as them. Why bother? It’s so hard. My work is crap. It doesn’t even compare to these other artists. I suck.
Put my phone away and sulk for the next hour… completely unmotivated to do anything.
Have you been there? Is this a place you go frequently?
This is the reality of being an artist in the 21st century! We’re constantly bombarded with a never ending stream of other people’s work, better work from more successful people. It’s overwhelming and terrible for our psyche.
Imagine a world, even just 20 years ago, when none of this existed… you had to open a book or go to a museum to see other art, and when you did, you weren’t seeing thousands of artists or artworks a week, and you weren’t feeling pressure to grow likes and follows and shares… your success wasn’t calculated in a pile of statistics like this.
So what can we do about this?
Well, the answer is simple.
Turn off your phone!
Or at least, close the apps and limit your scrolling.
I only go on social media a couple of times a day. Even that can be too much. I should clarify, I only SCROLL on social media a couple of times a day. I do create posts and check notifications, engage with any comments, but actually sitting down and scrolling endlessly, I try to avoid it as much as possible, especially when I’m in a creative mood or working on a project.
Walk away for a day.
Go for a walk in nature. Down the street. Visit a part of your city you've never been to. Spend time away from the computer and in the real world, alone or with a friend. Basically, allow your mind to forget what you’ve seen, because it will. Most of those posts you were comparing yourself to will be forgotten in a few minutes, even, but after a day, you’ll feel normal again.
No one remembers a fraction of the posts they see, including yours. Don’t take that personally thinking they don’t care. Also, everything you see is being shown to you specifically because of some algorithm. Chances are, most people aren’t even seeing your posts yet.
Reflect on yourself and your own work.
Take time to think about yourself. Think only about your own work. Think back to where you were five years ago. Ten years ago. Remember the passion you once had, even if it was just yesterday. Where did it go? Why? Then, go look at some of your most recent work as though you are not the artist! Think about what makes you unique. Think about your style. In your head, or out loud if you want, explain how you paint as though you’re explaining it to someone for the first time. Try to really appreciate your own work and repair the shattered image you have of yourself. Think about how far you’ve come, how much you’ve grown. Look at how much better you are now than you were before.
Soon, you’ll start to feel good about your own art again. You’ll get that inspiration back. You’ll remember that you are creating art because you love to create art.
Remind yourself of all the positive feedback you’ve received.
It doesn’t matter if you only have the same half a dozen people telling you they love your work right now. The fact is, they love your work. When you eventually grow your online presence, those few will become a few hundred. And remember, a “like” on social media doesn’t mean as much as you think it does. Sure, when you’re small, more likes and comments, more “engagement” with your post does get your post seen by more people because of that pesky algorithm, but how many times do you casually “like” a post, or dozen, while scrolling? Do you even remember any of them? Can you remember the last three posts you hit that thumbs up button on? I can’t.
Recall your successes!
Think back to any sales you’ve made! For me, I have to constantly remind myself that while I feel stagnant many days, I’ve just had the most successful year of my career. I’ve sold a few paintings, made a few commissions, redesigned my entire website, created a whole line of custom merch that sells consistently, and opened an online gift shop, and have many things planned for the year ahead. This is inspiring to me. Even now, as I write this post, I want to go create something new, despite how I felt last night when I was feeling defeated and overwhelmed by how much better than me everyone else seems to be doing.
And the last thing ties back to the first thing, at the end of the day when you climb into bed, do not try to sneak in one last scroll. You don’t want to risk falling into that black hole again and fall asleep with those negative vibes all wrapped up around your mind. If you’re going to scroll through anything before bed, scroll through your own profile! Or, better yet, read a book! If you insist on doing something else before falling asleep, reading is better for you anyway.
The important thing to keep in mind here is to stay rooted in reality. Remember that social media is a virtual reality. It’s a place where people can be the person they want to be, not the person they are. Remember that many people on social media are pretending to be more successful than they are, and pretty much everyone is only ever showing the best moments of their life. And most of it has also been planned, created, curated, edited, filtered, and presented in the best way possible. Social media is not reality, but it can be a powerful tool if you keep your head clear and focused on the real world.
Okay, with all that said, I’m going to put down my… ha, I almost said “put down my pen”. I’m going to stop typing and get to work on something new.
Stay positive! Stay focused! And today, stay off social media! It will be good for you.
Until next time...