My relationship with social media has been deteriorating over the last 3 years, and rapidly so in the last 9 months. It is safe to say that the love affair is over and it’s really becoming ugly…
Ever since the Social Media Blackout I took in 2016 there has been a general fatigue and overwhelming malaise each time I have logged in to update my status, add a post, reply to interactions or scroll through my feed. Where this process had once inspired and nourished me, and genuine friendships had germinated and flourished, I was now fearing that I was missing out, falling behind, while increasingly encountering draining interactions, soul-sucking online personalities, and actual examples of systemic prejudices related to hierarchical social structures. It culminated in my being unceremoniously expunged from a community leading role – rejected and dismissed as an unwanted agitative force. You could accurately surmise that it’s been a dark time for me on social media.
Philosophically I remind myself that all things have a life cycle: Businesses, brands, relationships, humans, food (!) – everything has a beginning, a middle/a peak, a decline, and inevitable ending. When I look at my online journey I see that I peaked when social media peaked. I’d had the luck and good fortune to hit the sweet spot when Instagram was still hip, fresh and new, established but not yet sold out to suffocating corporate forces. As it had grown, my creativity and my little business had grown, and my connection to an international creative community was fostered along with it. I was, and remain still, ever grateful for the blessings of support, friendship and validation this provided me. Then as Instagram became supercharged with contrived content creators, income streams, paid sponsorships, adverts and sponsored posts, the heart, soul and joy of Instagram began to lose its child-like charm. Now more than ever it is an industry for showcasing content, editorial skills, video production, editing, photography, photoshopping, modeling, set production – these skills are royalty on any social media platform. It is as the trope goes: an Influencer Industry, ripe for cultivating narcissistic tendencies. But they’re not just influencing the millennial scroller, or the x-gen selfie taker, they’re influencing the film, television and music industries on the whole. They have changed how we consume content – just look at how we no longer sit through 3-hour awards broadcasts and choose to watch 5 min highlights on YouTube instead. Or we binge entire series of shows rather than wait from week to week for the next installment. We want our entertainment as and when we demand it, on our own terms.
But if you don’t have any of these film/editing/photography skills to showcase, then you can bypass these vocational requirements simply by being A Celebrity – even if you are a celebrity borne of social media. The transition from social media star to traditional media star is a legitimate showbusiness strategy. From the days of webcam-ing themselves at home in their teenaged bedroom whilst living with their parents, talking about their daily life, wasting time (as their parents would see it) there are now very wealthy YouTube stars, Viral celebrities, Instagram leaders and Facebook TV shows, all spawning from the growth of social media. All freshly signed artists, writers, and creators are encouraged to invest heavily in their social media to gain market presence. It has changed the way our entire entertainment and arts industry functions.
But at the risk of sounding like the self-centred Millenial I am: Where does that leave me, the small, self-employed creative, struggling to establish my local market presence and business sustainability?
A bit lost, if I’m honest.
By the end of Summer 2019 I had become so entirely disenfranchised with my social media feeds that I undertook two major courses of action:
- I unfollowed every single friend,group and page on my Facebook lists
- I unfollowed thousands of Instagram accounts and now follow a strict limit of 100 unique accounts, all promoting a nurturing, self-caring, emotional wellbeing sentiment
Was this a good business and marketing strategy? Absolutely not
Was this a healthy approach for the sake of my emotional and mental wellbeing? Without a doubt, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.
During this time (that’s August 2019 to date) I have dropped from over 30k Instagram followers to 28.3k followers (and it declines steadily still every day). My interaction has also dropped alarmingly from an already low 3% to 0.3%. I will not be approached for any sponsored content, collaborations or lucrative marketing opportunities any time soon (or ever).
So what exactly went wrong?
I could blame the updates; the removal of automated bot accounts (which we all agree is a good thing, while secretly feeling attacked); the seemingly vindictive and unfairly biased Algorithm; or the growth of the Influencer Industry; or claim that Instagram sold out to Facebook. Maybe I’ve become Too Real and Honest with my content* by being open about living with anxiety. There’s been a lot of changes. But the lion’s share of accountability stands with me and my personal ambivalence with social media as tiresome work.
(*Real talk: Each I use the word “content” a small part of me dies inside)
You will notice if you follow my social media channels, that my updates are now less regular, with less caption content, less value – and significantly less wordy. As I have fallen out of love with social media, I have returned my attention to my neglected creative business sites: My website and the physical site that is my studio.
As the summer of 2019 came to an end I impulsively decided to paint a huge mural on a communal wall outside my studio, completely changing the energy in the space. I also updated my studio, tidying it, putting up a partition, and the clear-out still continues as I pledge to rearrange my display images and wall art. The action of cleansing and refreshing my physical workspace had an equally spiritual and emotional effect.
And the bane of my life – my website – has finally been given the SSL update it has been desperately suffering from my 18 months of procrastination. I have renewed vigour to update my blog to keep things real, to reassure you all that I am still alive, I still have a lot of [disruptive, annihalistic] thoughts and opinions, and I am still creatively very active (cre-active? Could that be a new word? Let’s make it a new word). In fact, you need to keep your eyes peeled for impending announcements (no spoilers) because there are exciting things to come this year…
What I’m saying is:
I'm not going anywhere.
I belong here
and I will remain here.
Even if social media isn’t going to help.