Art by Vollgas Studio
Last year I decided to leave my graphic design career behind and focus solely on Illustration. To reach that I started practicing every day and showed my work on Instagram. The more my following grew the more I also wanted to interact with them and of course, have more following.
I bought courses that would explain how to get more engagement, turn my followers into fans, and raise my overall appearance in front of my crowd. I learned that having a constant stream of stories is the right way to go, so I showed myself and my life every day all while engaging with my fans and posting new work. I learned to use the interaction button, do polls, and build storylines. I learned how to tag the right way, use the right hashtags, and write the right captions that inspire. I estimate today that I spent about 1- 2 hours a day on marketing myself on Instagram and that does not include browsing yet and checking out what others do.
I had about 7000 followers which were constantly growing and I started to also finally see some turnaround with sales on my website. I was at the top of my game!
Then something happened.
From one day to another I was not able to log into my account. I was hacked and the hacker threw me out of the account. Facebook wasn't helpful and everything was gone from one day to the other. You can read more about this here.
I suddenly was out of the game. Months of work to grow my account, all those contacts, all my strategies suddenly worthless. I was shocked and did not understand the whole impact yet.
But there was also another feeling I recognized: Relief.
I was devastated by the loss of my one and only marketing tool, but I was also so relieved that I did not have to continue doing my several-hour Insta routine anymore.
So there it was. That emotion. I tried to ignore it hard! After a week I opened a new Insta account. Added some work, tried to force me to dive into my routine again, and failed miserably. My whole body told me NO. I resisted hard. I love being in front of the camera. Sharing my art and my stories with my die-hard fans but I was also resisting the routine and tools I had to implement to make sure their attention stays with me. Fighting the all-mighty algorithm to stay ahead in the feed.
So I took a deep breath and looked my resistance in the eye and asked it:
Why wouldn’t you want to restart your feed on Instagram?
My Resistance answered:
1) Instagram failed you and I don’t trust it anymore.
If they did it once, they will do it again. And you are not the only account they delete or censored. More and more critical voices are censored and their accounts repeatedly disabled. Those are mostly images that showcase people and scenes that do not conform to what society sees as normal and are reported for it. [Your Post Has Been Deleted – Censorship on Instagram | Vogue Italia] Do you really want to play a role in the growth of a company that purposefully silences voices from your own community and communities you support? [Artists take stand against social media censorship | The Art Newspaper]
2) How is your mental health doing?
The daily task of coming up with compelling content that your audience want’s to see influences your daily mood. You are constantly thinking about the next post and the next story. What will drive the most traffic to your feed and to your new post is influencing your mental health. And it is not only that. You can’t stop yourself from visiting feeds of artists that are seemingly further ahead. You scroll through the feed which leads you regularly feeling empty and disheartened. Why create if there are so many people who are better than you? [Social Media and Mental Health: Time for a Digital Detox? | Psychology Today]
BTW his is not at all accidental! Most Social Media Platforms are designed in a way that will keep you hooked. It will create a cocaine-like hit every time that you visit their services. Making it harder and harder to even have a "healthy" relationship to their services. Do you really want to support this beast, as long as they use these manipulating techniques? [Social media copies gambling methods ‚to create psychological cravings‘ | Technology | The Guardian]
This leads me to the next problem:
3) Your creative work is suffering because of three reasons.
Admit it! Sometimes you create art only for the feed. The art's purpose on Insta is to drive your audience to like that image. And therefore be seen and shared. So you create things consciously and unconsciously that you think people would like to see. This is not necessarily a choice. Your brain wants that dopamine hit so you will create what it tells you to get that. You are tuning into a content creator that creates daily Insta art instead of staying true to your work. Taking time for your pieces and share them with the world when they are ready.
You’ll automatically copy what you see. When your biggest input is Instagram or other social platforms (and it automatically is when you look at it for more than an hour a day) you will create art that is influenced by what you see on those platforms. It is really hard to avoid this when you are constantly bombarded by the fleeting images you see. This Is proven by the simple fact that more and more photos and also Illustrations look very similar. Yes, there was always the phenomenon of new artists copying established once to learn, but never before in history did we have so much bombardment of art that we can see every day. [everything on Instagram is starting to look the same: Insta repeat proves it] I believe that it fundamentally changes your work and automatically makes you one of many, instead of allowing your work to be truly unique.
You have limited time for your art The time you spend on social media could be divided differently and more effectively. You could spend it to create more meaningful work and practice your skill or you could work on other marketing tools that might be more effective.
4) Does your work truly belong to you?
So not only do you give Instagram a right to store your browsing history and store your data but it can also use your work whenever it pleases for any reason they like: [Do You Own The Content You Post To Instagram? Should You Watermark It? | by Mark Dalton | Mark Dalton | Medium]
But it isn't only Instagram itself. The biggest issue you faced when you were posting regular, were companies that used your work and reposted it to advertise their own products. Sometimes they asked, sometimes they didn’t. You loved it when private people communities or online galleries share your work, but at the moment they make a profit from your work they have to pay you. At least in theory, in reality, nobody ever does.
This brings me to the next point:
5) Is your work valued?
For years now artists and creators made content that is freely available for anyone. Just think about the many illustrations you solely created for the purpose of posting them on Instagram. Most of the time these illustrations created a lot of likes and share but did not sell one single print on your website. Why? Because why pay for it if you can get it for free? Of course, there are a few people who manage to live from their art. But from my perspective you need to have a lot of followers to make that happen, if you ever reach that peak which is getting harder and harder every day. In the meantime, you create more free content that is not valued for its time and energy that you put into it. It’s simply a brief moment in somebody's feed that is maybe, just maybe appreciated with a like and even more rarely with a follow. Does that make your art valued? [Freeconomics — Why free content is bad | by Øyvind Hellenes | Mission One | Medium]
6) Facebook uses your data to pay itself but who pays you?
With the daily browsing, you give away all your data to a company that sells it to 3rd parties like companies, stores, small businesses, and basically everyone who makes an ad on their platform. They are making money off you but who pays you? Definitely not the platform! So either you work with a company that sponsors your posts, selling their product to their fans or it is the fan that turns into a customer if they decide to buy something from you that you created, right? And at what cost? Your fan, follower, and customer need to put themselves in the same hamster wheel that you are in, seeing advertisements for things they don’t need and compare themselves to others, and occasionally feel inspired if the algorithms allow them to be. Is that really the most sustainable way to connect to your fans?
So that’s the moment where I jump in and tell my resistance :
But what about all the possibilities and opportunities for creators to connect and make an income?
The resistance answers:
Of course, there is an amazing world of people on these platforms that you can connect with and share your thoughts. It helped you so much to see body liberated women and a diverse queer community be ok with your own body and sexuality. It was amazing to be inspired by other artists and connect with them through these platforms.
Social Media in itself is not evil!
But the tool and algorithms it uses nowadays to make money have such a negative impact that I ask you if it is worth it! If it is worth the attention and the pressure on your mental health and one of your fans? If it is worth your creativity and freedom of expression?
When social media started it was a perfect gateway to feature yourself as an artist and to get recognized and shared but ultimately nowadays it grew to be a fraud. It is only designed to truly make an impact for the social media company itself everything else is only a convenient byproduct. But for most creatives, this system does not work anymore and it makes you even more lonely, burned out, and poor than you might be without it. I don’t say let’s all leave it. But I believe we need to change the assumption that good content can be free and start charging for what it is worth. That is a true connection and an exchange that will lead to higher quality art and content for the people who are brave enough to take that step. [The Creative System Is Broken — Together Let’s Put Creativity over Everything | Patreon Blog]
So I decided to quit Social Media for 3 months.
Currently, the negative impacts outweigh all the positive ones. As much as I love each individual person I met on Instagram, I believe there are other ways in which I can stay in touch with them and they with me, the classical Social Media machine can’t be the only way for an artist to find a community and clients and I want to find out which other ways there are out there for creatives like me.
This is an experiment in which I will try to find other ways of connecting and making an income that does not include social media in its classical forms such as Instagram, Facebook, Tiktok, Snapchat, and Twitter. I will be talking about my experience, how I will be doing it, and what steps I am taking on this blog.
❤️ Thank you for reading this article. I am honored and I appreciate your time. If you would like to dive deeper into my work I would like to invite you to join my community on Patreon where you get access to behind-the-scenes content in a weekly podcast and regular insights into my work.