“Maybe if you just had a few more followers you could get their attention because I hear they look at that first before they even listen to the music. There’s a lot of ways to build it up. Search a few hashtags, like a couple photos, even follow and unfollow if you have to,” she said with a smirk. I pulled out my phone: 919 followers on Instagram, 654 likes on Facebook, 219 followers on Twitter.
In my line of work, there are standards of operation, one of them being social media – the constant production of content for an audience with which to interact, engage, and ultimately (if you’re lucky) “like.” And, there’s no definition of what that content has to be: selfies count, covers count, this blog even counts, and it’s entirely with the intention of building a brand and staying in the focus of people who scroll through a timeline – at least from the artist's perspective.
It’s an amazing tool if you think about it. Connection and capacity for communication are at an all-time high and the degree of separation between strangers is just one DM, but does it become a bad thing when I begin to feel guilty if I didn’t capture a moment that I think my Instagram followers would have enjoyed? Does it become a detriment to my own person when I start to think in terms of likes and follows, retweets and favorites, whatever it is that quantifies an artist’s success these days? Does it become a negative when validation as an artist comes from something that, in many ways, is disconnected from the actual art itself?
Did you know that pictures with faces in them, on average, get more likes that those without? That a little bit of desaturation typically gets better engagement than its more intense counterpart? Well, I do – or at least, I do now because I have to. Now, because I’m forced to care if I get over 100 likes on a picture, I adjust it before I let the world see – add a little contrast, dim it just a bit, crop out that person I don’t like. I make sure that whatever the viewer sees at least looks better than it probably was because the only thing that matters is how it’s perceived, not how it was experienced – in a lackluster reality and all.
It’s starts to be laughably ironic that, as a singer/songwriter – where literally one of the only prerequisites to the craft is honesty – we’re expected to display ourselves in a glamorous spotlight that makes it seem as though all is well when, you know, maybe it’s not. Maybe that selfie that we’re asked to post at least three or four times a week is hollow, and that smile we’re asked to wear is something we put on for validation because well, if everyone else thinks things are going well, they must be (but that’s another blog post entirely).
And, I don’t mean to bash it and those who use it because I’m not. I mean, after writing this, I’ll post it online in a few days, on every platform I just named. Like I said, it’s an amazing tool for artists, friends, single folks and all, but I think it needs to be viewed in that light – as a tool – and this tool can be abused just as much as a gun or a prescription drug. Of course, I haven’t mastered its use from a professional standpoint, as I’m sure those who follow me know (I think the last thing I posted was a few weeks ago). But, I am learning: Sure, I’m learning what filters work, but I’m also realizing the difference between artificial and genuine content, along with the consequences of developing a superficial following and an organic one.
It’s not the first thing on my mind as an artist – to be honest, social media is one of the last. And sure, I understand that that could hurt me, but I also know that I would never vomit something out because I feel like I need some sort of engagement. So, for those wonderful people of you who follow me and my career on these apps, thanks for your patience. Know that I am actually doing things in Nashville, my career is moving forward, and I will have content to show for it soon. So stay tuned.
P.S. I’m sure I’ll post a selfie about it soon. ;)