One sustained focus beam
The other week I wrote this https://www.steillustrates.com/blog/like-for-like in a bit of a huff about the age old 1st world problem of likes on social media and its effect on the ol’ internal noggin. Firstly I apologise for the spelling mistakes and bad grammar - re-reads are not my strong point however, secondly, I never wrote it intending to share it publicly as I feel like I’d get slated for moaning (has happened in the past) and the fact is I am moaning. I thought I’ll write and leave it here and if its stumbled upon then that would be okay but I accidently clicked a button that I thought would add a twitter link to the page but actually posted it to twitter when I published (Ste fails the internet that day). This accidental share though turned out to give me something that was very unexpected and wholy appreciated and welcome, a great deal of really kind responses, people really relating to these feelings and a lot of handy pointers in how to combat the mental health knock posting on social media can cause.
It’s getting more and more well documented the negative effect of social media but this was the opposite, a lot of lovely people taking the time to support and encourage me and I couldn’t believe how many people related to me. Depression and anxiety really do isolate you in a fog of your own hang ups and worries you can’t see out and everyone ‘appears’ to be handling life far far better than you ever will. But opening up the discussion finds so many people either relate or empathise and it reminds me of this line from the Babylon 5 episode “And the Rock Cried Out, No Hiding Place”
You know, before I got married, Emily used to come by sometimes and help me clean out my apartment. Well, I asked her, "How come you're so eager to help clean up my place when your place is just as bad?" She said, "Because cleaning up your place helps me to forget what a mess I've made of mine, and…when I sweep my floor, all I've done is sweep my floor. But, when I help you clean up your place, I am helping you."
(sidenote - Emily is unimportant in the grand B5 scheme, we never even meet her or hear about her again - wonder what happened to Emily…)
When we have our own problems - the chance to take a break and help others is a way to share our experiences and also to take our mind of our own worries and help someone deal with theirs. I strongly believe this and will always try to help when I can (mostly it’s just words - but listening is important too if not more so). The feeling of making a difference is a big one so we’re not just helping others we’re helping ourselves.
Focus your attention
Okay the point, get to the point Steven - All the helpful words and advice pointed in one direction. Focus. Not just focus though specific focus. Positive focus. Stop zeroing in on the likes and focus on the work you’re doing. Produce what you enjoy and damn the likes - the reason behind getting a like or not getting a like is also something you can’t answer and is harking back to popularity contests in the school playground, and they sucked big style! It’s not to say it’ll be easy and the lack of reply can still knock you - even some of the biggest and most talented illustrators out there feel it.
Good honest post Ste, I hear everything you're saying. I never consider likes on behance/folio sites, and I've accepted that I only get a tiny % of likes on Insta, acceptance was a big step, stopped me caring about it. But if I post on twitter and it gets no reaction I'm gutted!— Ben The Illustrator (@BenIllustrator) July 8, 2019
What Ben here is saying is really interesting. Through experience he’s learned to accept reactions and not let him bother him but it’s still not been easy and he feels the same downs as me when something he’s produced that he’s really happy with doesn’t get a response. The sense of rejection of ourselves is always connected to our work because it’s an extention of ourselves. Learning to not focus on these bad feelings and focus on the ultimate goal - ourselves and what we want to achieve. Sometimes this is getting work and other times it’s just the act of making something because we like it. I do admire the belief of people who follow devotely their chosen religion, because that power of unwavering belief is a great thing, if only I could get that power of belief and put it into myself and others, there’d be no stopping any of us.
The feeling was if you start focusing on trying to get likes you’ll lose yourself and start to produce stuff that has no meaning to you. I have this feeling that everything I do should get me some work but really I’d have to be drawing in any manner of trendy styles if I follow that way of thinking. Plus your heart wont be in it as it’s not really what you want to do and that definitely makes the illustration suffer in the long run.
Right there with ya Ste! Social media does some really nasty things to my creativity, my confidence and my happiness. I think it's all about perspective and also seeing that a lot of AMAZING illustrators often don't get a lot of likes! Likes doesn't equal quality work or jobs...— Laura Hope (@laurahopeillo) July 8, 2019
Laura’s last comment is really important. I have had very little work from social media, yet I’m focusing on likes because more likes more chance of work, in my head - no evidence for that though! Focus is the name of the game, what TO focus on and what NOT to focus on and try and remember that others feel the same and you’re not alone. I’m guilty of this so much so thats something else I myself needs to realise more. I can’t tell you what a positive effect this had on me and it realigned my focus afterwards. Social media can be bad for the mood but it can also be good with the right community so take the time to cultivate it and nuture it and I’m sure it’ll do the same back when you need. I am always here to help lend an ear or a word if I can - together we can refocus on the what TO! One sustained focused beam.
The twitter thread is here for anyone who wants to look - the advice contained is really good and just a lot of reassurance and support - its a good thread. I certainly felt a lot better after it happenend. Huge thanks to everyone who replied.