Do it for the Gram: An Exploration of Why ‘I Ain’t Gon Do It’ is Hardly a Choice for Creatives These Days

“Instagram is stupid” is the last text I got from my little sister 5 minutes ago.
She was fed up with the social media giant for the fourteenth time.
Her reasons different from mine own but still valid.
As an expat, she feels like the travel space is crowded.
Crowded with too many people telling you to quit your job and then selling a download that teaches you to be just like them. Too many fashion photos in formation without enough actual information about their location. And an algorithm that keeps her Nat Geo-esque pics at a mere 250 likes.

A number that my follower-deficient account laughs at.
My problem with IG is a little more mundane; a tad more mental.

I hesitate to go any further.
Biting my Twitter fingers as we speak, knowing that I’ve just entered no-man’s-land.
Afraid to step in the trenches of people who’ve curated perfectly-positioned-pastel-profile-pages.
So let me just begin right in the middle.

I’m sorry.
But what if I don’t wanna be a brand?
(Clenches teeth, closes eyes and waits for atomic reaction).

I dunno guys.
It just feels like if I’m not “up to somethin” as so many of my digital friends seem to be each day, then I’m constantly on the outskirts of somethin; something like a party that I’ve waited 5 years to get in.
You know, just wallflowerin’ it out in the general admission line, hoping someone notices me and asks me to join them inside where they’ll then introduce me to other influencers, partygoers.

Then like all parties, 32 mins in I’m like, “Why am I here? I wanna go home”.
So I get ready to leave, grab my coat content with my life under a comfortable rock.
But just as I’m about to step foot out the in-crowd and head towards the door I remember – –
“I can’t. It’s impossible to live without. ! I’m a creative and I need this. I need these people. I need this spotlight, these endorsements and random acts of approval. I need all this in order sell, network, be successful…Right?”

And this is my dilemma.
As a writer, I want to share my work.
As a creator, I have to share my work.
It is at the essence of who I am and I am grateful for the gift of a well-developed right brain and the platform to present it. Honestly I am. But I wonder, is it the only way?

Like, why is it that lately I feel all my prosperity, all my triumphs, all my achievements are tied to a solid social strategy. When I post, how often I post, the right hashtags, adequate line spacing, not too much exposure on the vsco filter, but just wittle more – all so short-attention spanned strangers will “like” and consequently, “follow” my life. That’s a lot of pressure. To hang all your hopes on a little red button as a sign of progression. But is that where we at? ? Is this a sign of the times? A paradigm shift? Where success as an artist, vendor, interesting person all depends solely on our digital reach? A reach, that according to my handy insights feature is from here to my momma’s house. Right in her inbox. Where she replies to my blog posts with, “That’s nice honey. But what’s IG?” If so, I need to step my game up.

But it still makes me wonder about the business leaders and thinkers of the past. Would Mark Twain’s thoughts have survived the traffic of twitter? Would The Bluest Eye have been as riveting if Toni Morrison had to split her time between being a single mother, professor and social strategist? Cmon. I gotta know how the creators of Ben & Jerry’s did it without the use of social media. How did they start slangin ice cream without unsolicitedly announcing to their followers in the caption, “Workin on somethin. I’ll stunt when it’s official. Just know it’s gon be cold!” Hashtag, boss. Hashtag, cookies and dreams. Hashtag, freezer challenge. Hashtag, team no sleep.

Look. I live a tortoise shell kind of life.
I poke my head out when I wanna and I move at a pace that is comfortable for me.
I don’t believe that the only kind of success is instant and I don’t need a lot to be happy.
But social media makes me feel like I do; makes me feel like I need to be a brand.
And while I am interested in selling my work at some point, I have little interest in hosting the hunnid-dolla brunches that seem to soon follow. (Bites nail). Again I’m sorry.

I’m not trying to get rich quick. I’m not trying to be famous.
And I’m not trying to go crazy figuring out this got damn algorithm either. Is that ok?
If not, my little sister’s right. Instagram is stupid.

Are you an artist? An introverted entrepreneur? Gotta fascinating, yet private life? How do you navigate this social media shindig?

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