Great artists are careful not to do all of their art for public consumption, so that their creativity is not unduly determined by external motives, e.g. trends, accolades, money. — Tom Neal
I have a love-hate relationship with Instagram.
On the one hand, I really enjoy the community of friends and acquaintances with whom I interact. I have met so many wonderful people! Everyday, I see work by people like Alicia Schultz, Kelly Ann Powers, and Annamieka Hopps Davidson and I feel inspired. Even though I’ve never met these lovelies in person, they encourage me from afar and I feel as if we’re part of a real community that’s vibrant and loving and creative.
Often, though, I spend hours scrolling and scrolling and scrolling. Worse still, I sometimes become an artistic stalker, wasting my own energy and creativity as I obsess over the work of other artists. My admiration sometimes morphs into jealousy or discouragement as I compare their work and apparent success with my own.
And then there’s the frustration of trying to grow my following. I try not to get caught up in the numbers game but it’s hard not to. I look at someone else’s 85K and another’s 2,065 and then I see my little band of 750 or so and I feel discouraged.
I have to remind myself over and over that I have many truly loyal followers who actually care about me. But then I see someone else’s painting that doesn’t even look like a real bird and she got 3,572 likes for it and I think: WTF?!? And I’m right back into the jealousy trap again.
Sometimes, I believe it would be better for me if I didn’t use Instagram at all but I feel stuck. All my “marketing” for my artwork is in one basket, so to speak. The only visibility I have for my art is on that one platform.
I try to post everyday but sometimes I don’t have the energy or the imagination or the productivity. I go through periods of desperate art production to keep up with posting every day. Then I find myself suffocating creatively because everything I make is for public consumption—there’s no space for experimentation.
The worst part of this for me artistically is that I do more than just paint birds but I find myself feeling afraid to share those images because I might lose followers. Authenticity is integral to me yet I, like so many others, I tailor my feed to create a unified brand image. In an effort to be consistent, my brand image has gotten more and more specific. As a result, more and more of my creative self is left out. And I hate that—I wind up feeling smothered and small.
As I wrote this piece I stopped and asked myself: “What is it I really want from being on Instagram?” I suddenly realized that what I really want is an artful life —which I already have.
What’s really necessary, I think, is to let go of if, or how, others respond to me. In the end, it’s my job to open my heart, to be authentic, and to share my gifts.
What about you? What’s your relationship with Instagram or other social media like? I’d love to know.