The (Virtual) Struggle is Real

This morning I once again deleted the facebook app off of my ipad. To get back into facebook, I will need to re-load the app and find my impossible-to-remember password buried in my planner. If you’re familiar with Frog and Toad are Friends, this is the social media equivalent of boxing up the cookies, wrapping the box with string and putting it up on a shelf where it’s hard to reach (there is a lot of life-wisdom to be found in Frog and Toad are Friends). I have not yet fed the metaphorical cookies to the birds (spoiler alert!), but it does prevent me from casually tapping this app open when I’m bored or seeking a distraction.

I don’t keep the facebook app on my phone anymore. I don’t have it set up to give me updates every time something happens in facebookland. I waver in and out of the rhythm of only checking it on weekends. I don’t even feel like I post stuff very often, maybe once a week? It probably varies… The point is, in spite of my efforts at restraint, I do tumble down the rabbit hole of arguing with people I don’t know or simply scrolling through, getting snagged on click-bait headlines and feel-good videos more often than I’d like.

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This angers me because I feel manipulated. Lots of smart people have invested a lot in making this site very good at getting and holding my attention. There are so many lovely things to do when one is lying around doing nothing, and I spend these precious minutes self-righteously clapping back at other people’s conservative relatives or reading lists of crazy things that happen to drive through workers. Sweaters go un-knit, paths un-walked, drawing paper blank, and my cat knows zero cute tricks…

The obvious question is, why not feed these cookies to the birds?

Aside from it being a really easy way to stay in touch with family and friends and stay in the loop for events in my area, social media has morphed into the ONE AND ONLY WAY to gain any sort of following as an artist. At least that’s how it seems. Whenever I think to myself, “I mean it this time- I’m quitting facebook!” another voice pops into my head saying, “and… then what? You’ll recruit participants for your MOD project… how? You’ll get the word out about shows… how? The last three things you applied for came in through the facebook network, you know…”  And thus, the cookies wait for me in their box.

I have friends who don’t rely on social media all that much to run their small businesses. The thing is, I don’t know any artists in this category- at least not ones who make their living with art. Social media is the “location location location” of the digital world. This is partly because it makes physical location much less relevant. Conventional wisdom dictates that I need to move to New York, Los Angeles or (at the very least) Chicago if I am to have any chances at a successful art career. Not the northern edge of my beloved Michigan.

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A lifetime of experience being me has taught me that I am a country mouse and do not like living in cities. There are cities I love and they are fun to visit, but after too long I get a little suffocated by them. Social media gives me access (at least potentially) to the attention of a city without having to make my home there. Which is a powerful breed of freedom.

The thing is, in addition to what it does to my time, working with social media platforms means learning a market that is rapidly evolving. It’s a lot like learning to ride a bike, learning how the bike works and discovering where a bike can take you all at once. In the “location location location” sense of the digital landscape, my storefront site is more like a farmstand in the boonies than an artsy boutique, but I’m the hopeful farmer dreaming about how to get my wares to a farmers market… or maybe start a food truck… or supply to posh restaurants… Because I know I should share what I’ve created, and I know where to find hungry people.

Circling back to the Frog and Toads’ struggle with the cookies earlier- maybe I’ve been mindlessly eating the cookies when the real answer is to focus on bringing something fresh to the table.

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