Social Media is Frustrating for Artists

I am not a self help author, nor am I trying to promote a book about social media for artists. The following is my perspective having posted my own art to Instagram. Also, I use the term "art" to mean drawings and paintings. Photography is art (of course) but is a different animal on social media. I'm also not a photographer and so have no insight.

Social media, (Instagram, Facebook, etc.) is a great place to capture your artwork. It can also drive you to insanity, wondering why that other account has so many followers or likes. Why don't my friends like all my art posts? Is the algorithm against me? What am I doing wrong? Read the following, then relax, enjoy your life and be an artist.

Social media is an endless feed of junk mail

Everybody and their mother posts to social media. They post:

  • Photos of their brilliant 4 month old kid
  • Super sexy selfies
  • Unthinkably amazing dinner plates
  • Impossible sunsets
  • Quotes that can literally change your life

Social media is where many people create the advertising for how awesome their life is. Anything you post to social media will live in that context. So when you post your artwork, it will say, "In a few minutes I made something more amazing than you can create in your entire life." It will be advertising for what a great artist you (think you) are. I feel your pain. You aren't trying to brag or advertise at all. I know, and I understand. But here is why it may seem like brag-vertising to others.

Social media is essentially one directional communication

Commenting features and like buttons are not communication. When you watch a presentation — they take questions from the audience at the end (i.e. the Q/A session). That Q/A session is not a conversation. There are social rules that come into play, there's a by-standing audience. It's nowhere near an actual conversation, say, over a beer. Social media is the same and social media users know it. You are no longer the drinking buddy or workmate. You as the original poster are on a stage.

Social media users hunt through piles of crap

People often post to social media with little regard for quality and thoughtfulness. It's a mess pile of mundane photos hiding gems of hilarious insight, cute animals, attractive people, and thoughtful philosophies on life. People aren't appreciating art on social media. They are hunting/swiping for funny, cute, or cool things to look at while waiting for the bus. Your painstaking artwork is in that pile of crap.

Beware of remorse over time spent on posting artwork

Creating and posting art takes serious time — posting a selfie can happen immediately. Both the artwork and the selfie get one like from your friend. A selfie poster can post hundreds of images a day. You might be able to hold a streak of one post a week. This time ratio means that throwaway pictures taken with your phone get more likes for your profile. More likes could mean more exposure by the algorithm. Worse still, people that follow artists are artists (looking for inspiration). Artists don't "like" art posts that much. So you will spend untold hours and get less "points" for your time.

Being an artist on social media is not a popularity contest

Followers and likes have no relationship to your talent. Some of the most talented artists have few followers. Some of the most mediocre artists have a gigantic following. Great art doesn't get followers and likes — great marketing does. When you want to transition to making a business of your art, then worry about marketing. Otherwise, post your art and don't worry about it. You are documenting your masterpieces, not entering a popularity contest. The most valuable thing you can do on social media is show the process of being an artist. Show the steps of the process, your art making space, and your tools. Show the screw-ups. Post video of you making art so people can see the magic happen. Above all, show what it looks and feels like to be an artist that creates your art.

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