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Why I Deleted All of My Social Media and 60,000 Followers

... social media trains us to create and post in a manner that pleases the apps’ algorithm. If a post does really well and followers respond well to a certain kind of image or technique, we begin to form a Pavlovian drive to replicate that response.

For example, when I post an image with a lot of red or shutter drag, those images would outperform my other posts by two or three times. Over time this began to motivate me to not only post more images with movement or red, but I would also shoot more in that manner. My art was becoming a meme.

Aside from the social media affecting the type of work that I create, there is also the human element to consider. Personally, I am someone who gleans much of my information through external data points. I overthink everything. This makes social media a minefield for someone like me. I would analyze likes and follows and unfollows and draw conclusions based on what were likely benign engagements, and I would arrive at concrete and final conclusions that negatively impacted real-life relationships.

... I personally believe that humans aren’t built to have relationships with thousands of people. We can care for a core group of friends and family, and beyond that our interactions will be short and shallow, and relationships will inevitably fall between the cracks. 

Emphasis mine.

Anyone creating for an audience larger than themselves will eventually run into the issue of how to process and use feedback from their audience. This is an art at least as complex as the art of creation itself, because it requires you to do all kinds of difficult and counterintuitive things. You have to hear out good advice when it comes from bad people, and ignore bad advice when it comes from someone close and trustworthy.

These days, the feedback loop between a creator and their audience can be measured in seconds-to-minutes, not months-to-years. An acquaintance of mine is posting fanfiction on AO3, and it's a little disconcerting to see them jonesing for every little bit of feedback, every upvote, every burnishing of the ego. The guiding impulse for this stuff should be, "this thing needs to exist", not "a lot of people will like this thing".

We generally haven't had good ideas for how to train a creator to deal with all of this. Especially right now, when it's frighteningly easy to drown yourself in both unthinking praise and uninformed "feedback" (which is really just pressure from peers who want you to write a certain kind of story they're too lazy to produce themselves). If direct human relations do not scale beyond a certain point, and I'm convinced they don't, then this kind of many-to-one feedback loop sounds like a recipe for permitting others to co-opt your productivity in the name of their hungers.

Sometimes I think we have things backwards — that we ought to spend more time teaching people how to center themselves and seek something genuine from within themselves, instead of starting by teaching people to produce the things everyone else says they want, because that's more efficient. The former can be navel-gazey, but the worst of what it produces is no worse than what comes out the other way. Bad work that dares to be personal is at least personal; it at least has a chance to become good work that's personal. Work constructed to feed someone else's endless appetite is just something on a shelf, quickly pulled off and consumed.

The whole deal with art is that it's supposed to produce things that are irreplaceable, and have those things come from a place that's also irreplaceable. Letting what everyone else wants take that quest away from you is just a rat race. And as Lily Tomlin once said: "The problem with the rat race is, even if you win, you're still a rat."

Tags: creativity  social media 

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Previous: The Passive Type

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This page contains a single entry by Serdar Yegulalp in the category Uncategorized / General, published on 2019/02/21 08:00.

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