Instagram is Not Validating You As An Artist

You would be hard-pressed to walk down the street in the last decade, and not see the steady incline of people staring at their phones as if there was literally nothing else around them that was more interesting. We are often experiencing life through our phone screens instead of with our own eyes. Instead of lighters raised in the air at concerts, we see people’s smartphones filming the band playing. Wasn’t that the point of seeing them live? So that you didn’t have to do it from a screen??? Oh, but I mean –  c’mon, if you didn’t Instagram it were you even there?

person holding cell phone up recording concert

I must admit, I’m guilty of some of this too. Smartphones and social media have made it ridiculously easy to share some of our best or most mundane experiences with not just our closest friends but people around the world if we so choose. With that, it has opened up an avenue for artists like never before. You no longer have to have gallery representation to be noticed or even commissioned for that matter. Many contemporary artists have follower counts that would seem like a fairy tale to the likes of artists even less than a decade ago.

The reality of our world is that social media is a force to be reckoned with and many artists are benefiting from its influence. Around this time of year, I always take stock of how my social stats have changed over the course of the year. I, like many others, am actively working to grow my numbers year to year. In theory, this should be relatively simple, right?

POST IT AND THEY SHALL COME!…yeah not quite.

Maybe if you had gotten in at the beginning of the game, but platforms like Instagram have the Almighty Algorithm to compete with and a billion active users on any given day. Trying to be seen is harder and harder every day as you spend a good part of your day thinking about what hashtags are going to get you in front of more eyeballs. But even if it does, it doesn’t mean that people are going to like what you do or even follow you if they do.

It’s incredibly easy to become discouraged and start thinking that your numbers are a reflection of the quality of your artwork. This couldn’t be more false. If being good or even great were the only determining factor for follower count there are some artists that I know of that should have a substantially higher follower count.

I’m talking about people who are professionals at what they do. They have won multiple awards and are internationally recognized by their peers, and have fewer followers than a 13-year-old who posts their beginner attempts photographed in bad lighting. I’m not trying to put down the 13-year-old for trying. Having the guts to put your work out there is half the battle. My point is that perceived “goodness” is not what gets you followers nor should you use it as any kind of validation as to whether your work is good or not.

A lion doesn't concern itself with the opinion of sheep - George R.R. Martin

I know it’s hard to not let it get to you, trust me. But you’re not facing equal and unbiased odds when you and the artists next to you post your work on social media. It doesn’t mean that the people who will ultimately love and appreciate your work aren’t out there. They may just not know about you yet. That’s why it’s important to not give up, but also to not let social media be the only way you try to get your name and work out there. The old-school methods do still work and may even garner you a sometimes more engaged and loyal audience.

We can’t all be the next Instagram star just like we can’t all be lottery winners. What those two things do have in common though, is that you need to actually participate to have a chance. At the end of the day don’t think of any social media platform as a golden ticket. Make no mistake that there is still work involved to get and maintain that type of following. Be authentically yourself and use it to interact with others like you or the people who do admire your work. It is after all called Social Media. The point is to be social. 🙂

Do you struggle with letting your social media stats get to you? How do you overcome it?
Share with me in the comments!

Barb Sotiropoulos

Barb Sotiropoulos

I’m a Canadian artist and designer specializing in coloured pencil and mixed media. When I’m not creating art, I love helping other artists by sharing tips and tricks that have helped me. You can find me on all of my social channels @barbsotiart or check out my past Q&A articles for COLORED PENCIL Magazine or my co-hosting appearances on the Sharpened Artist Colored Pencil Podcast.

2 Responses

  1. Great post! And I might be a little guilty of wanting to slap the phones out of people’s hands who walk straight into me because they’re so focused on their screen. So far I’ve resisted.

    I haven’t exactly quit social media, but month by month, I use it and visit it less and less because it doesn’t seem to do much for me but waste my time and make me feel bad about myself. That said, it’s hard to resist a good cat meme :))

    1. I totally know what mean Tammie! When social media is working at its best you feel connected and it can be such a rewarding experience. I find though that when I start feeling bad about myself because if it, I know it’s time to take a break and reevaluate.

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Hey, I'm Barb!

I’m a Canadian artist and designer specializing in coloured pencil and mixed media. When I’m not creating art, I love helping other artists by sharing tips and tricks that have helped me. You can find me on all of my social channels @barbsotiart or check out my past Q&A articles for COLORED PENCIL Magazine or my co-hosting appearances on the Sharpened Artist Colored Pencil Podcast.

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