My Relationship with Social Media: It’s Complicated

Heather Martin

My Relationship with Social Media: It’s Complicated

As the title implies, Social Media (particularly Instagram) and I have had a rocky friendship recently. We need some serious group therapy. 

Before we get into it, everyone is going to have their own opinions and individual experiences regarding social media. This is my own personal experience, and while mine is probably not the average person’s, I wanted to share my thoughts openly. It's not easy to talk about, and feelings of shame surfaced when writing, but maybe it will help others out there to feel less alone.

The Honeymoon Phase

Cartoon Image of Me Frolicking in Flower Field with Social App Icon

Six years ago I created my Instagram account. Followers slowly accumulated and grew exponentially with time. It wasn’t an easy feat, but I had nurtured it, feeding the monster daily with the best work to my ability. The community was SO supportive, and by 2020 I had a follower count of over 109,000 people. 

Social media has been a game changer for creators. Artists were no longer forced to grovel at gallery owner’s feet to get in and be noticed. Musicians no longer relied on record labels to be heard, and artisans could easily build a community and sell their work across the globe. My business grew quickly, and while we aren’t exactly living large, I was able to make a livable income selling directly to customers.

The Dreaded Algorithm Change

Cartoon Image of me looking up at graph of followers over time

Somewhere around 2020/2021 my IG growth came to a screeching halt. New follows suddenly peaked and slipped into reverse. Tiktok was taking off , and Facebook (now “Meta”)’s priorities shifted from being a photo sharing app to a short video app. 

To be clear, I have very little qualms with Tiktok, and actually enjoy it in healthy, limited doses. There is so much I’ve learned, and it’s brimming with creativity and playfulness. 

Despite Instagram being the King of Still Images, Meta is heavily pushing short videos that they call “reels”, even offering US creators payment to create them. The algorithm favors reels far more than still images, so a lot of creators that haven’t participated have seen a dramatic drop in views and engagement.

Emotional Damage

Cartoon Image before and after of audience with me on stage showing art

While I wish I could say the slow engagement death hasn’t had any impact on my work, mentally it has been tough to digest. The eerie silence has given even more strength to my imposter syndrome. Am I losing my skills? Was I ever worthy? 

Grasping for the silver lining, I tell myself, this is probably a good thing. It’s a challenge to be sure that I’m doing the work for myself or the shallow dopamine of likes and follows. It’s difficult to know how much of a role the dopamine plays. What I do know is that I truly LOVE painting and it brings me great peace and clarity. 

But it’s a hell of a rollercoaster when your income is tied to it. 

The negative impact it’s had on my business has me dipping in and out of depressive slumps, and I constantly wonder which side of the fence has greener grass. A full time job with benefits is looking mighty tempting.

To Reel or Not to Reel?

Cartoon Image of me juggling different jobs and social media app offering unicycle of reels

Seems like a no brainer to just follow the trend and make short videos, right? It’s just a couple of seconds, what’s the big deal?

If only it were that easy. Creating great short clips takes a deceiving amount of time and energy. Expert timing, sound, and editing need to be just right in order to catch those flickering attention spans and keep them interested. It’s essentially like adding another full time job. 

So What Now? Why not leave?

Cartoon of Image of me in clown suit with unicycle at cross roads. One side is desert with skull, the other side is circus and rats

The reason I haven’t cut the cord is simply because of the people I’ve connected with over the years. Facebook is unmatched in being able to stay in touch with family and friends around the world, and Instagram has the most kind and caring community. I have so many new friends on there that I genuinely feel close to. 

I’m at a crossroads here and not ready to make any rash decisions, but here are some things you can expect:

  • More posts on Twitter (where several other artists have also been migrating to). 
  • Potentially stepping back or taking a hiatus. This is to shake the negativity out of my head and to get back to focusing on what is important.
  • Relying more on things within my control like blog posts (like this one) and my bimonthly newsletter. If you haven’t signed up, please do so

Several of you have been so rock solid in your support. THANK YOU. Don’t worry, I won’t give up without a fight, and appreciate you being a part of this unpredictable journey.

If you’re looking for other ways to help, your social media engagement goes a LONG way. Share, like, comment, and all that good stuff to help your favorite small businesses continue to thrive.

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