why social media stunts your growth (and how to prevent it)
If you're a modern artist, chances are that somewhere along the way, someone has told you to "get online." Get on social media. That's where all the big bucks are-- profit, a thriving community of like-minded people, enthusiastic supporters, and so much more...
And at first, that's all social media is. It's an inspiring, encouraging new place to be. Everyone is telling you how amazing you are, and you finally get to share those beautiful creations that you spent hours pouring your heart into! What's not to like?
After spending a few weeks, maybe months, on social media, though, things start to change.
Just a little, at first.
You find yourself upset when one of your pieces doesn't get as much love as another, even though you spent more time on it. Maybe it's not as great as you thought it was-- artists tend to be biased about their own art, after all.
You find yourself scrolling on a bigger artist's profile for hours, thinking, "I'll never be like them," or, "why do they have so many followers, and I don't?" Never mind that these people have years of experience on you, or know how to charm a crowd, when you're just barely getting started. It's not fair.
Your art style starts to change. You don't even realize it, at first, but before you were drawing whatever you found interesting and now it feels like you just browse Pinterest looking for pretty faces.
You don't really try new things anymore. When you tried, the post barely got any likes and very little reach. Nobody liked it, so why should you? Those watercolors your best friend gave you sit on your shelf, cracking, unused.
But hey, there's new things to keep you engaged. A new art challenge is blowing up-- everyone's doing it! Sounds fun.
You participate, but for some reason, your post doesn't get nearly the amount of attention you wanted it to. It's not really fair-- how come other's posts are blowing up, but not yours? Are you a worse artist or something? Huh. You don't even like Sailor Moon. Or Winx, for that matter.
Well, whatever. At least you've started doing commissions, and you're making some money! But...this one potential client is asking you to draw their grandmother, and you have to decline. You have no experience drawing the elderly, in all the years of running your Instagram.
It's almost-- almost, shameful.
Eventually, the months blur by, and you find yourself getting bored.
Your feed is gorgeous, the epitome of aesthetic, but you feel like you never use the color orange and you're afraid to draw anything else than what you usually do because hey, you don't want to lose followers, right?
So eventually, you just...stop. Art's not really fun anymore. You just don't...feel like it.
You start to stop checking Instagram. Since you're not posting, there isn't a flurry of positive notifications waiting for you, so you've stopped smiling whenever you open the app. Seeing what everybody else is making used to inspire you, but now it's just intimidating.
And slowly, the days turn into weeks. Your account flops. Your art supplies gather dust. You still draw every once in a while, but it never goes beyond sloppy sketches and a painting or two that you don't like that much.
Eventually, if you're lucky, one day, you pass by your desk, and spot your old sketchbook.
You flip through it, remembering the days when you were motivated enough to fill a page every single day. The days when you didn't start a sketch thinking, "I should film this," or, "This has to be good, so I can post it."
You can't deny that social media hasn't given you a lot. Without it, you'd probably have given up on art a long time ago, because you're just that kind of person and it's hard for you to stick with things. It's introduced you to hundreds of amazing people and inspiring role models, and given you something to be proud of.
But sometimes, it's suffocating.
And sometimes, you need to just...stop. Instagram isn't really fun anymore. You just don't...feel like it.
The algorithm can wait.
Don't worry about filming it.
Don't worry about it being pretty.
Don't worry about whether or not it matches your feed.
Don't worry about whether it's too cringe or too unfinished or too--
Just keep growing.
And have fun. *(see notes & disclaimers)
best practices to ensure your experience on art social media is a positive one:
dont get lost in the trends.
unless you're genuinely interested in it, don't feel pressured to do it!
prioritize comments, shares, and DMS over likes, followers, and views.
these people have chosen to actually engage with your content. That means they're interested. It's a basic principle of life-- care first about the people who care about you.
have fun and make bad art.
no, seriously. Make art that you enjoy the process of, but care less about the final appearance. Put pen / paintbrush / marker to paper and just have fun creating. Post it if you want, don't post it if you want. But every once in a while, have fun and CARE LESS about the finished product.
share your struggles.
talk to your community. Whether that's your followers or your art friends, there will be people who have the same problems, or at least sympathize with your problems. Don't keep it all inside-- the whole point of social media is to be social! Let your community help you.
disassociate post performance with skill level.
some of my personal favorite work has also been my least performing. Just because the algorithm doesn't like your art does not mean it's bad. Usually it means it's just unexpected.
Don't forget that your art is, firstly and most importantly, your art.
You have the right to do whatever you want with it.
* Note: This rounds up some of the more negative experiences I had on art social media. Obviously, the journey has been far more good than bad, but I think it's good to take a step back and realize how much running an "art account" changes your actual art...not necessarily in a good way. Obviously, not everybody has the same experience that I do, and if this isn't relatable, chances are that's a good thing. But if it is, then I hope you know you're not alone.
Disclaimer: I'm also not saying that chasing likes / comments / followers isn't a valid way to run your art account. It is. But personally, it's not the way I encourage artists to approach their work. :)
As always, much love! Don't forget to share this if you enjoyed.
- Elissa :)