Create & Release 03: It’s All About You…Except When It Isn’t

I have had a love/hate relationship with social media for years. On one hand, it has provided me with an incredible amount of thought-provoking inspiration and has introduced me to some amazing people who I never would have known about otherwise, many of whom I now count as some of my best friends in the world. On the other hand, I have yet to amass legions of devoted customers who buy every painting I make. Nor do I have the ears of millions of listeners of my podcasts, securing me a spot at the top of Apple’s “What’s Hot” list and landing me lucrative sponsorship deals. However, despite the extremes of these examples, both outcomes have one thing in common: me. Each of them is the direct result, more or less, of how I use – or more specifically, misuse – social media.

Social media doesn’t care how good your work is. Nor does it care how much that work means to you, or how much time you spent creating it. Social media, in the broadest terms, cares about – and rewards – two things: consistency and time on platform.  This is true whether we’re talking about Instagram or Facebook or YouTube and it’s this very fact that has kept me hovering around roughly the same number of followers I’ve had since 2014. I simply refuse to play to the algorithm, and as a result, my principles (read: stubbornness) have cost me.

I was talking about some of this with a photographer friend recently, saying that I thought it might be time for me to leave Instagram and just focus on Twitter. He asked what it was about Twitter that made me want to keep it, saying that for him Twitter was fairly toxic. I told him that lately, that’s where much of my engagement has come from, especially in terms of new people to follow and connect with. He then proceeded to offer an explanation, saying that he noticed recently that I seemed to be more active on Twitter than I have been on Instagram, both in terms of how much I was posting and how much I was interacting with other people’s posts. He also said that my posts on Twitter feel more personal.

All of this and some recent talks with my friend Jack, who is a social media ninja, have gotten me thinking about how I might retool my approach to social media so it feels like a better fit with how I actually make the work I want to share and the shows I want to grow, rather than just feeling icky.

I’ve talked before about how I tend to create in fits and starts rather than consistently day-to-day and I think I’ve found a way to work with that tendency rather than fight against it when it comes to social media. I know that I’m not going to show up and post every day – especially multiple times a day – which is what most social media experts will tell you is required to grow a following. But what I can do is set aside a “social media day” where I plan and schedule posts for the week ahead so then I don’t have to think about social media during the week when I’m trying to focus on creating new work. So every Sunday for the next 90 days, I’m going to spend an hour or two coming up with at least one post a day for both Instagram and Twitter that I can schedule to go up without any further action on my part. This doesn’t mean that I’m otherwise staying off social media to comment on, reply to, or repost the work of others. What it does mean is that I can enjoy using social media as a tool for connection and inspiration, without feeling guilty for not sharing my own content regularly. It establishes a consistent base of activity (which the algorithm rewards) while also allowing me to engage in real time over and above that.

I wish I could tell you that I’m excited about this experiment, but that’s just not the case. Social media has become ubiquitous with growing and engaging with an audience, so this is definitely more of a “have to do” than a “want to do” – and I’ve been actively fighting against it for so long that I honestly don’t know what to expect. That said, what I am excited about is the possibility of connecting with more people and getting more eyes (and ears) on the work I’m making and the conversations I’m recording. I have so much work that I still want to do, but part of the reason I want to do it is the hope that it will find an audience to enjoy it.

Do you have a social media strategy that works for you? Are you curious about the tools I’m using?

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below or, if you prefer, click here to email me directly.

You might think that I spend much more time making podcasts than I do listening to them, but that’s actually not the case. I listen to a ton of podcasts and my favorites typically revolve around a gripping story that gets told over several episodes. These types of podcasts are commonly called “narrative” podcasts — think shows like Serial or Dolly Parton’s America. According to a recent article by Eric Nuzom, who developed some of NPR’s most successful podcasts, we may soon witness the end of the episodic narrative, unless podcasters keep taking risks and keep the focus on the listeners, not the sponsors.

I wasn’t aware just how much Japanese photographers and postwar Japanese culture contributed to the photobook until my friend Tom Hoops sent me an article he did for art design Asia. Other than Daido Moriyama, the names in the article were completely unfamiliar to me, but I found myself researching each of them after reading it and added several new books to my own photobook wish list. Be warned, some of the images in the article are NFSW.

I feel like there are a few pieces of art that I will always love, specifically work from Robert Rauschenberg, Willem deKooning, and Mark Rothko, but there has also been a ton of new work that I’ve discovered since moving to DC. I’m fascinated to hear what type of art people resonate with and how and to what degree it changes throughout their lives. Here’s an interesting article on ARTNews that asks a group of writers, musicians, filmmakers, and other creative professionals to list one work of art that inspires them.

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