Things that Social Media Artists probably go through but don't really talk about
Updated: May 15, 2022
I have been building my current online platform on Instagram for two years and have been posting my art online for over 10 years and found a lot of these issues I regularly have trouble with and as social media is growing and everyone seems to have an account now these issues seem to be only just starting to be talked about.
The reason I believe these issues are often not discussed is due to the feeling of not wanting people to know your weaknesses or that you must constantly be professional and perfect at all times which is something social media regularly can make us feel. I think these are completely understandable as you don't know who is really reading and viewing your content online and humans often have a desire to "fit in" or feel "just as good as everyone else".
As I've been trying to get my health sorted recently, I've found I've stubbled into a depression and all these issues which I would usually try my best to keep to myself and power through as if they didn't exist have started coming back up for me but also making my work and job feel impossible on my bad days.
So I thought I would share some of these problems and talk about some ideas to cope with them but also to let people know they are not alone for feeling this way and to normalise a lot of things that are often seen as "bad emotions we can't have" or tend to be demonised.
The reality of creating a brand or posting to social media can feel like a full time job that often requires more attention than your actual creation progress sometimes. If you are suddenly not able to keep up with it, then it can be pretty common to have this overwhelming fear of missing out, failure or feeling not good enough. All topics I will go into in this blog post as how to deal with them slightly better.
I think this is a really important thing to consider when deciding to be an Artist online, How will you manage the things you are not able to control? Such as your follower count, sudden drops in engagement and the algorithms of the platforms constantly changing. There is a huge pressure to take on so much when you are only a one man team and often most artists don't have the resources to be able to hire a manager, social media marketing team and an assistant.
Hopefully this blog will help you learn how to cope that tiny bit better and prepare you for these possible outcomes on your art journey, As you have to remind yourself, this is a journey and you will make mistakes and struggle and that is ok. It is often our struggles and failures which push us most to success and finding out what does work for us. So I highly recommend while reading this blog to also have that in mind and knowing that it is ok to go through all of these points I will talk about and it is normal to have all emotions during your art journey, so try your best to not beat yourself up for feelings of envy, depression, sadness, or defeat. Remember that your art journey is purely yours and it is messy and beautiful in its own way.
So let's get started!
Needing to take a break but being unable to
I find this often tends to be one of my hardest problems with social media when I am unwell or need some time to myself. Social Media and creating art can feel like a really difficult balancing act to master and you feel that you have a lot of responsibilities with posting online.
Maybe you have a Patreon where you promise a certain amount of content and usually creating it would be ok but for some reason this month is really difficult, you know you might have to pause your billing cycle and take a month off but maybe you have bills to pay, pets or children to feed, maybe you owe money or need that money from Patreon to keep your life going. You're not alone!
This can be such an overwhelming and horrible feeling to have and although I highly recommend having more sources of income, I know what it's like to rely on any form of income you need to get you through the month too, especially if you're starting out.
Or maybe you hold yourself to a posting schedule but you suddenly can't keep up with it and you feel the platform will punish you for not creating content with shadow bans, unfollows or your content won't be pushed to your audience as much as it was.
This can be highly frustrating as art has gone from something which took time to create and was seen as a slow process. Now with social media there is a massive pressure to post serval times a week and for some Artists even once every 1-2 days which can be really unrealistic depending on your lifestyle. With platforms such as Instagram also no longer showing your art in your followers feed as much as well, I completely understand your temptation to throw your sketchbook at a wall and question why your even considering to persue such a competitive and difficult career when it only leads to burn out and frustration.
So what to do?
✨ You might want to post to social media to see if this is happening on a world-wide scale, a lot of times it isn't just you and platforms tend to crush whole communities at once. It can feel really reliving to know you are not alone.
While doing this it is really important to seem like you are not complaining at your followers. Most followers that will actually look at your content or stories and truly want to support you and it is not their fault for what may be happening to your account.
✨ However it can be super helpful to let your followers know what you need in order to grow! Educate your followers on the harms of spam liking or in a story / posts let them know how they can support you e.g. through comments, shares or on other sites such as Patreon or KoFi. Doing this can really help your followers know what you need and helps them also feel like they are supporting you properly! Communication is key
✨ Work on building up multiple forms of income, there is no shame in having a part time job and being an Artist. You might want to try out platforms such as KoFi, Patreon, BuyMeACoffee or DeviantART subscriptions to help you sell, collect tips and build a healthy monthly income. While its important to keep up with those monthly promises you make, platforms like KoFi can be really helpful to still just collect tips and donations on the side for when you aren't able to keep up with your monthly subscriptions and you have to temporarily pause billing for a month. Working on other forms of income which aren't as active may also be helpful such as YouTube, online courses or digital sales where you don't have to keep on top of them for them to still be earning money.
✨ Create a back up! Create a savings which can keep you afloat in times you aren't able to post or keep up with your incomes. Remember that your wellbeing is a priority and it is ok to close or take breaks from running shops, taking commissions or posting for income. Always be prepared for these times that you aren't able to!
You can also do this with your art where you can leave a few pieces of art to post for when you find yourself with no new content.
✨ Another way of keeping up online may be to post your old art, post your art WIPs or post your old art vs new art to see how much you have grown in your art journey. I know you might feel slightly guilty for posting reposts as they might get less attention, feel like a repeat or a "cheap way of posting" instead of always posting fresh new content but your followers might not want to scroll all the way to the bottom of your profile to see your older art pieces and your older art might be easy to miss so know that your art should be treated as timeless and it is ok to repost your older work as it may be enjoyed be a new audience that hasn't yet seen it! If nothing else its an easy way to stop yourself dreading the idea of being shadow banned and can help you feel afloat till your able to post new work again. You can always archive the posts later if you don't enjoy them on your profile and you might learn what your followers do and don't like from the posts which may influence your new art.
✨ Know you don't have to constantly post and create work that you don't love or feel good about. Your art is yours and it is important that you are producing something you think is ok. If you are forcing yourself to constantly post and it is making you feel bad about your art then it might be time for you to rethink your routine or strategy. You don't have to love all your art, I certainly don't love all mine. But it can help to create work you do enjoy sometimes, so make sure to do something for yourself every so often, even if you don't post it to the entire world. (Feel free to keep it to yourself)
2. Feeling alone, worthless, overwhelmed or left out
It is very common to feel alone as an Artist, You often might spend hours all by yourself creating or might feel you have to work really long hours which can take away time from talking to family or friends. With social media it is so easy to compare yourself to other Artists and often social media doesn't feel like a fair playing field for opportunities and growth.
You might see events you missed or weren't aware of that you would have liked to join, your friends at conventions that you couldn't go to or wonder why no one let you know of these things happening. It is so easy to feel alone, to judge your friendships or how much you actually matter to anyone and wonder if you actually make a difference or not. Social media is perfect for fuelling comparisons and your own insecurities or imperfections.
So what to do?
✨ Firstly find a healthy way to vent your emotions, wether that be a friend that has the emotional capacity to listen, therapist or try something you know helps you feel slightly better such as a walk, spending time with a pet, journalling. That is up to you!
It is really important to always acknowledge your feelings as they often are your inner compass or guidance system and can tell you where you want to go in your art journey, how you feel you should be appreciated and how you can meet your own basic needs.
For example feelings of jealousy can be really helpful. An example of this may be that someone gets your dream sponsorship and you might feel jealous that you didn't get it. Well good news is that you can acknowledge that emotion and start to realise that is something you would like to achieve in your life and work towards it. Give yourself the love and support you would give your best friend in your situation and know that emotions will pass and it is ok to feel them. Sit with your emotions for a moment without judgement towards them, do they change without that judgement? or are they easier to feel or hold? This can be a helpful technique to practice when emotions arise that may feel uncomfortable or difficult to deal with.
If the emotion is starting to consume your life please find a healthy source of help or consider something like therapy. Our emotions are super powerful and we don't give them enough credit! They can often be the making or breaking of us so please always bare that in mind when exploring them. I am not a therapist or professional source of guidance so please consider going to a reputable and safe source.
✨ You might want to consider keeping a note of certain people, accounts or posts that upset you. Knowing that the block and unfollow buttons are there to serve you! Maybe it's time to cut ties with certain fandoms, artists or types of art and that is ok. Going through these notes could be helpful with a professional to see where the source of these feelings is coming from so that you can learn to heal the emotions or traumas.
✨ If you feel afraid of posting publicly and feel your not "good enough" to share your art with the world. That is perfectly ok! You might want to consider having a private account that you can control who sees the art in until you feel confident enough to consider turning it public or creating a public account. You will still be building up an audience that might consider following your journey and may stay with you as you grow. Everyone starts from somewhere and you don't have to be "good or however you feel about your work" to start posting online. I also had this anxiety starting out and it can be a helpful way of learning about the art world and growing instead of feeling like you are throwing yourself in there. Baby steps are still steps and your art journey should be something you are comfortable with and is at your own speed.
I think its important to have some level of acceptance that social media isn't really fair and doesn't make sense a lot of the time so try to keep that in mind when one of your posts doesn't do as well as you hoped it would.
3. The numbers don't matter... but do?
I'm sure we have all seen a big Artist tell everyone that the numbers don't matter and although they can speak from experience of having that bigger number of followers it can be hard to believe them. After all you question would they have the career, sponsorships, support, income and stability of being an Artist if they had much less followers or is that all truly just an illusion we have of Artists with bigger followings?
I think it can be important to acknowledge that in some cases having an online following can have its responsibilities, privileges and benefits to some extents and altho I can not answer that question of "can you achieve more with a following" as my following currently is 3k and I consider as low, I often wonder what I could do with a bigger following too.
I too am constantly chasing that dragon of followers, wondering if having more and more would benefit my career or give me my dream opportunities and I think for me to write this blog I truly have to be honest about that. I remember thinking "when I reach 400 followers i'll finally be enough, when I reach 1k followers i'll finally be enough and I often tell myself when I reach 10k followers i'll finally be enough and have the opportunities I want". But I think there is a point you have to step back and ask yourself is that really true?
At my current 3k followers, can I achieve more than I did at 1k followers? and the answer is no. In fact I had more engagement and likes at 1k followers and its really easy to fall into the trap of "Why am I not growing?" and "What did I do wrong?"
Altho I can't speak on a business side of what makes an artist stand out to want to work with a company for a sponsor, giveaway or collaboration. I can really understand why it seems like you need to be huge to make it in the business side of the art community.
So what to do?
✨ Understand your journey is a journey, look at art as a long term career. It might not happen overnight and you might not grow as quickly as everyone else and I know that can feel so disappointing. But try your best to see your art career and journey as something that will take a lot of building up and might be very long term. Remind yourself that it is not a race to success and that is ok. Trust and believe that you will be where you want to be one day.
✨ Hide your likes or others likes. In Instagram you are able to hide the likes on your own or others posts. Personally I keep my likes hidden for others posts as I have a habit of wondering why my art doesn't get as many likes which can send me down a rabbit hole of sadness. Know yourself and put those measurements in place to help yourself avoid comparisons.
✨ Try only comparing yourself to your past self and past art. It is super easy to compare your art to others, but you are not other people. You are you. See how much you have grown and take some time to realise your own development and journey.
✨ Try to achieve what you want now. Your art is not equal in quality to the attention, likes or followers online and it isn't fair to judge yourself based on how well you are doing or not doing online. Try achieving what you want without the followers or attention and see where it gets you. You might just end up growing a bit more from trying.
✨ Keep a note of a number of followers which you see as a big amount but is also realistic to achieve and put a date on. that note. Once you hit that number or close to write another note and watch as your perception of what you think a "big following" is changes over time. I used to think 1k was a huge amount of followers so this can help me keep track of how I am already reaching my goals and how my mindset keeps changing so I can be more aware of this and kinder to myself. Try not to compare your numbers to your goals too much as this can be off putting when you don't achieve them quickly. Keep a journal or notebook and come back to it in a few months or a year as a reminder of your growth and feel free to update it when your mindset changes.
4. Being accessible to the whole world is exhausting
Being open to comments, likes and always posting can be extremely draining. Especially if you feel like you owe every person a response or your time. When not commenting back can often make you seem rude and everyone expects time and attention on such an open source as the internet you will probably feel pretty tired pretty quick.
So what to do?
✨ Write a list of your boundaries with using social media. You might set yourself certain hours you allow yourself to use social media for, you might choose not to respond to some questions and instead keep a highlight of the answers in your story or you might decide to like comments instead of fully responding back to them "thank you" every time. It's important to work out how you will use social media in a healthy way for you and set yourself some rules with social media that keep you feeling refreshed and so that you don't dread opening it to post.
✨ Don't be afraid to block accounts or people that spam, waste your time or make you uncomfortable. Remember that you are in charge of your social media and you don't actually owe anyone a response. If blocking seems too harsh try seeing if there is a restrict feature.
✨ Learn when to say no. You don't have to take every opportunity or request that comes your way. You don't have to draw everyone that wants you to draw them for free. You don't have to follow the latest trends. It is ok to do your own thing and people will like you for whatever you do, so make sure its what you want to be doing.
Personally, I stick my phone in a small box and leave it there so I'm not tempted to get lost in the social media void while creating.
5. Feeling your worth is dictated by your Art
This is a common issue I've seen Artists speaking up about now. The feeling of "If I don't create often, then I am not a good Artist" or "If I don't create work to this quality or expectation, then I am not a good Artist" etc. It can be really easy to feel like you have to create masterpieces of art every single day but it doesn't seem very realistic, Maybe it isn't realistic to expect yourself to draw everyday.
Social media can be very consuming on your energy, time but also your creativity. It can feel easy to get Art Block or feel like you aren't creating enough or to a certain standard you wish to achieve and often challenges like MerMay, InkTober or Huevember can make you feel like you need to make the best art every single day. In my experience of posting every day for awhile I often find that I have more unfollows as people don't want to see my work daily and my art quality becomes a lot lower. Altho some Artists may not care for the quality of their art, some will and it may feel like a hit in the chest if you are one of them and your work feels as if it's getting worse.
Not everyone has the time to spend serval hours a day creating art pieces and it could be affecting other areas of your life like your health, relationships and wellbeing if you put too much pressure on creating something amazing everyday.
I believe a lot of Artists who draw everyday have made that time to in their life and often have a reliable source of income that allows them to take that time to create, or they have developed a method of drawing quicker or in a certain way that helps speed up their art process. I think all of these things can be important to achieve if you want to be like that but they often come with a long learning curve of finding out what works for you and what doesn't. That Artist you love that draws everyday and never seems to have art block or issues and still magically seems to also have a life outside of art has probably gone through their own journey to get into that routine and learnt what works for them. So try to be kind to yourself while you might be building up your own routine and have realistic expectations. It is ok to fail and try something new!
So what to do?
✨ Take some time to work on some warm up sketches and be comfortable with the work you are creating, you can always go back and work on the basics again to see what it is your not liking about your work. If it is something specific that you don't like about your art you can always work on it and search tutorials, YouTube videos or spend some time just focusing on that particular thing you want to improve on.
✨ Study another Artist. This can often help you see how they were able to draw quicker and what techniques you could be using in your own art to make your art more likeable to you and give you some direction when you feel lost.
✨ Allow yourself to draw messy, I do this with a lot of DTIYS pieces I entered and later on when I had the time I then rendered them neatly. It's useful to develop a style which is a slightly messier version so you can keep creating quickly if you need to. Most social media posts won't show all the pretty details of your art due to the low resolution quality so don't feel you have to be perfect in every post when the details might not show. Get comfortable with creating work that you feel isn't 100% perfect, sometimes it is just you that knows it isn't perfect as your audience won't see all the little mistakes like you do.
I often see Artists talking about how they hate what they posted but I think it's perfect and don't see the mistakes they see, so avoid holding yourself to high expectations.
✨ Look back at your old art and think about your younger self, you might discover that your younger self would be really proud and impressed with what you are making today!
I hope this blog was helpful to someone and that these tips were useful in some way. I am still learning how to deal with these things so I'd be grateful to hear what you do to cope with these things and if they also affect you in any way.
Wishing you all the best on your art journey!