Social media runs our lives.
We post everything there. Travel photos, outings, and selfies pop up in a constant stream on Instagram.
With the rise in social media comes a rise in advertising.
I’m not talking about basic products. I’m referring to artist’s advertising their work.
Before social media, it was so hard to get your name out there. If you were a painter or a writer, you’d have to go through an agent to get your work published. You couldn’t just go on the Internet and post a couple chapters for your readers to indulge in.
Today, you can. Artists can create Instagram blogs sharing their photography or graphic designs. Writers can go through sites like Wattpad and Amazon to put their work out for the public to see. It’s pretty easy to do.
As a writer, I’m so thankful to live in a decade where I can share my work and get readers without going through the complicated and depressing process of finding an agent. I like that I have the freedom to gain a following for my art, in spite of not being backed by a big-name publisher.
I started out on Wattpad a couple years ago with a story I was passionate about writing .
I posted weekly, adding chapters to my stories and watching readers flock in. Comments were the most exciting part – it made me realize that people were actually interacting with my art. Every single like boosted my confidence a bit more and pushed me to keep posting. I needed to keep my followers entertained.
And that’s exactly where my problems began.
I began to lose steam about halfway through this book that I was super excited about writing and posting online. It was my first work that had actually garnered a large number of readers. It was more than I’d ever expected to get. When I’d first started writing, I’d been so inspired by the apocalyptic science fiction novel playing out in my head. But now, with my reader count and six months since starting, I had started to feel lost.
I stopped wanting to post.
I would try writing and working on the next chapter, but it always felt like a chore. I couldn’t stop writing even if I wanted to. People were counting on me to post another chapter. If I waited too long, a lot of my followers would lose interest, and I’d lose what I’d worked so hard for.
Because with social media, it’s easy to get popular. It’s much harder to keep that popularity.
And once you’ve hit that top, it’s impossible to imagine being back on the bottom. It feels like an utter loss and waste of all the time you put into crafting your story or creating your account.
But while it’s hard to keep that popularity, everyone knows the basic rule of social media: be active.
If you stop being active, it’s guaranteed you’ll lose followers. It’s terrifying to think of, and most people prefer to plan out their posts to make sure they don’t fall behind.
In my fear, I pushed myself to keep posting and finish the story. My last chapter truly felt like a blessing. I’d made it all the way through, and now I could feel accomplished.
But I didn’t. Not yet at least.
I knew that I’d ended the book on a cliffhanger. I was planning a second book. And if I didn’t start it soon enough…well, I knew what would happen. I’d be forgotten.
Fortunately, I didn’t take that route. I was tired of writing for others. I realized that I’d been forcing myself to write for months simply out of fear of losing popularity. Instead, I made a post saying I’d be leaving for a few months, and the second book would be out soon.
It was probably the best decision I could have made. At the time, I still hadn’t fully understood that writing for social media was what made me dislike it.
I’d just assumed I didn’t like writing as a whole. I hadn’t even considered that it wasn’t me making my hobby miserable – it was the Internet.
A lot of artists feel similar when it comes to social media. I’ve noticed a couple of digital art accounts I follow posting about it. Essentially, when you start doing art for someone else or something else, it loses its magic.
When art starts feeling like work instead of a hobby, it no longer feels like an outlet.
Posting art to social media as a whole isn’t bad. It’s really great to interact with followers and share your work with the world. Even so, I believe all artists need to take a break and realize that gaining views isn’t everything. It’s a brutal industry, especially for those who want to make money on their artwork. We all need to take a step back, sometimes, and remember why we’re making art in the first place.
I’m glad I stepped back. After that story, I decided to try something new – I’d write a book…but I wouldn’t post it anywhere. It would be solely for my own entertainment. I actually ended up writing some of my best work. I truly look back at what I created and laugh and cry and feel connected to the book in a way I’d never felt before. It made me realize that I am a writer. I’m not just someone posting to get famous. I’m a writer at heart and nothing could make me hate writing.
What we do doesn’t always need an audience. Even if you’re not a writer or an artist, it’s important to remember this. We can live our lives for ourselves. It’s not selfish to keep moments for only yourself and no one else.
There’s a freedom to living life without anyone watching. Sometimes, you just need to step back and find that freedom.
Also published on Medium.