A Reflection on Artistic Identity, Information Overload, and Social Media

My monkey brain continues to play games with me both in my waking hours as well as when unconscious (my dreams have been just plain bizarre).

I am a news and information junky. Does that mean I am in a constant state of FOMO, a glutton for punishment, or feel as if I have to know everything? Doubt it. But, my appetite has grown especially in the past five years when things have spiraled out of control all at once. Much of which has to do with social media and the American mass media machine spewing the worst sides of it all.

I admit to craving the details about the latest debacle or political fight or what is being done about immigration or houselessness or racist acts of violence, and on and on and on. Within my entire being, I want desperately to turn it all off. Alas, I fear it’s an addiction and just too damn hard to quit.

I’ve always had a desire to know what’s going on in the world, which does not necessarily translate into wanting to be involved in ALL the chaos. But I, at the least, want to have a basic knowledge so I sound somewhat informed when in a discussion. Ego-based, I know.

Observing the situation from different angles is my hope.

I played the observer role for much of my life because of my innate restraint and inability to express myself in public. Even as I wanted desperately (in some instances) to let people know what was really on my mind. Fear of backlash superseded my need to use my voice. And sadly, part of being shy is the sensitivity factor. Handling criticism well was not my forte.

I did find that standing on the sidelines enabled me to hone my observation skills for when I felt ready to reveal myself. Which did not often happen in the public arena.

So I created art and kept a journal (not consistently and only when there was drama). Eventually, I got into teaching because with enough education, acquired skills, and confidence, facing students in a college art studio seemed plausible.

Not being a natural orator or too full of myself, I did not blather on about all my accomplishments or what I thought students should learn. My classroom was hands-on, learning by doing, trial and error. I met students where they were and did not promote unrealistic expectations. I was the kind of teacher I would have wanted but rarely encountered in my younger years.

Then I exited higher education because I needed to pursue my work on a full-time basis without distractions. What a fantasy and what was I thinking? But it was calling me from deep within my soul. This was in 2015.

As an artist, I struggle with marketing and promoting my work. Many artists suffer from this affliction and would rather just create art. After my life as an art professor and when I began working in the studio full-time, social media appeared as the perfect vehicle to expand beyond my bubble. I had not participated much during my teaching years, so I was a relative virgin to the concept of personal art promotion via social media.

What I began realizing the past couple of years is the actual creation of marketing materials for social media is not what strains my brain, it is the feeling that I am a servant to social media and all its weird quirks and rules. The current environment is inundated with amazing artists and creators. Regrettably along with that, a lot of other utter silliness. How the hell does anyone get noticed? Writers deal with the same problem. So it comes down to what we have to do to get noticed. And that, my friends, is where I struggle on a philosophical level.

For a while, I created short videos of me working in the studio, especially during the pandemic when isolation made us all want connection, any kind of connection. I stopped making videos because focusing on the art took precedence. I became unconcerned with showing others the process and not because I’m coveting some super special secret process worth keeping to myself.

In addition, the videos seemed arrogant. Who was I to think anyone would care what I did in the studio? Reminds me of reality television, which I despise. Too much information and what about the concept of mystery? We need more mystery to exercise our imaginations.

I don’t know, my personality does not fit many marketing models. Now if someone signs up to see me do a performance painting, which I do on occasion, that is a different story. They’re interested and there is face-to-face interaction. Otherwise, videos just seem invasive like random phone calls.

I am being a bit extreme here and maybe I’m making up excuses for just not wanting to do what social media experts suggest. Rules are not something I like to follow unless they make sense to me and serve a purpose. Following the speed limit and wearing a seatbelt are rules that make sense to me.

According to the social media gurus, people love videos, but it doesn’t seem as though I get much engagement. Same with posting other things regarding my work. So why am I wasting my time? I think my work is evocative and worthy of a look so I’m at a loss. I do get discouraged, but I recenter and get back to why I do what I do.

I know engaging with others is how you receive feedback. But I’m not willing to spend time on platforms that give little because of ever-changing screwed-up algorithms. I simply cannot keep up anymore and I don’t want to care.

Of course, I say this and then I feel as if I’m missing the boat. What the hell is that all about?

Don’t get me wrong I enjoy following others and seeing what they are up to on occasion. However, scrolling endlessly on social media is not what I consider quality time spent.

Like writers, visual artists are unique. We are called to do what we do with reasons that vary across the spectrum. We create because it’s what makes us human. In my case, creating art and writing is what saves me from going down the black hole of discord in the world. I can respond to the pandemonium in my own way and at my own pace or ignore it altogether. I do not have to be at the mercy of some frickin algorithm. But I also want to connect my work to an audience beyond my section of the world.

First and foremost, I do the work for me, but I also do the work to release it into the universe for others to absorb. So I am left at a crossroads concerning social media and my addiction to news and information.

Not sure where the path will lead me.

Image: Fluctuating, acrylic on canvas, 20″ x 16″

Michelle Lindblom Studio

  • How do you treat social media when it comes to promoting your work?
  • Are you able to find a middle ground or a compromise without falling victim to the system?
  • Have you cut out social media completely without regrets?
  • Feedback would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for reading.

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