No New Friends: Doing Work for Yourself First
Here’s a terrifying thought that would keep any creator on a social media platform worth their salt up at night: what would you do if all of your followers disappeared? It’s a totally plausible thing, really. All this work is hosted by a company who has no stake in whether or not years worth of time and energy just gets deleted — your account erased.
So what would you do?
Is the work you’re doing satisfying enough that it wouldn’t make a difference if you had to start it all over again?
I am posing the initial question because I think it’s is a perfect way to really drill down this point: do you love what you’re doing because you love doing it or do you love it because people see it?
Instagram and other social media platforms make it very easy to misconstrue these two things because at no other point in the history of art has validation, feedback and compensation been so intrinsically tied to the medium which is presenting it. For someone like me this is tricky, because I really do love what I do and the work that I create (or help create), and it has been a significant struggle for me to detach my own sense of self worth from how something performs re: likes, comments, etc. But I also don’t want to just post for the sake of posting (see: getting those numbers up), because I can’t care about the work if it isn't something that has taken time and effort to create.
I am someone who really seeks validation in my life, if I am being honest. Tasting the sweet, sweet nectar of the effortless explosion of likes and comments before the algorithm hit might have been one of the worst things that could have happened to me. The high of having less than 10K followers but seeing 800+ likes on a photo that took maybe ten minutes to conceptualize and execute was unparalleled. But then that was gone, and as of recently it’s been the opposite — the crushing low of seeing less than 150 likes (with many more followers, mind you) on something that we take hours to create.
And the perks, it is really tough to not miss those too. There was a time when we were getting invited to a lot of amazing events and got sent all kinds of cool stuff because we were on our come up and on those lists of “top micro-influencers.” But those opportunities dwindled for us, while the folks with the numbers and the mediocre content for the masses continue to get them.** Again, another opportunity for me to assign value to myself by comparison and feel terrible.
And even now, after starting a full fledged creative agency, we still get reached out to by brands who would offer us honestly ridiculously low rates because they are assigning a value to us based on a number. How am I not supposed to do the same. No matter the quality of the work, they want it to reach the most people, end of story. They’re not interested in creativity or the fact that I went to art school. I am a billboard to them, nothing more.
You might be saying to yourself “dude, this is the game. You know this. Companies don’t invest in talent they invest in numbers” And yes that is true, but it doesn’t mean I can’t think its wrong, and say so.
And I know this is all completely out of my hands, at least in a capacity that I feel comfortable dealing with.
I am just totally not interested in watching my engagement like a hawk in order to subvert some faceless system that has no reason to give a fuck about me just so more people can see my work and I can feel better about myself. It’s taken me a while to get here, but I feel like I do see a light at the end of the tunnel.
So now I make work for me, or at least I am trying to. I care deeply about everything Graham and I create, and I don’t want to not care about it just because no one sees it. That is really not how this should all work.
Taking the time to create this website, for example, has been such a labor of love, and I am SO proud of the outcome. And the fantastic thing is, I don’t have to see a single like. I can just love it for what it is.
How would you feel, if you had “no new friends”? Would you still do the work you’re doing? Would you care any less? Would you finally be free?
**This thing about the benefits of being an influencer I feel like is a much deeper topic that we will surely go into at a later date, but this thing was already too long and thanks for even reading this part :)