Social Media For Artists
There are good and bad things about social media.
This is about the reasons I love social media. It relates to connecting with my global community, personally and professionally.
If you’ve been waving a dismissive hand about putting your art on social media, have a seat. I’m pouring you an iced tea and handing you a plate of cookies. Let’s discuss…
Let’s Go Back in Time – The Neighborhood
Back in the day, before social media, many homes in America were built with deep, wrap-around front porches.
These external rooms were adorned with all manner of chairs, love seats and rugs.
Families spent summer evenings sprawled with books and beverages in cushioned wicker chairs, or dozing on squeaky bench gliders.
Neighbors strolling the ‘hood stopped to sit on the steps and chat.
Families piled on with a posse of kids to spread out on rag-braided rugs with board games, paper dolls and comic books. Lovely, right?
Enter Through the Garage
There are still homes with front porches.
Lovingly restored turn-of-the-century houses with beautiful porches are plentiful where I live in Southern California. But I rarely see people on them.
I attended a lecture on the history of architectural design years ago. The presenter talked about levels of intimacy in home lay-out over time.
Early home fronts were shared spaces; the porch was a social area, as was the first room behind the front door – usually a living room or parlor. Deeper into a house, you’d come into a kitchen. As you receded back into the deeper arrangement of rooms, the private places were at the rear – bedrooms and back yards.
The garage was mostly a utilitarian space (people rarely had cars), so it was more of a work shed. The garage was often unattractive, so they were built behind homes too – in the private realm.
After WWII, people moved away for jobs, or went to cities they discovered while serving in the military. The housing boom and plentiful automobiles scooted garages to the front of the house. It was so convenient for street-to-home access! With the advent of garage door openers, one neednt even get out of the car to ge inside and safely home!
Porches, the social mingling place for friends and family alike, were moved to the back yard – the most private part of a house layout. You see where I’m going with this?
We raised our kids in a neighborhood where all the houses had garages facing the street. Everyone had a back yard enclosed with a high, block-wall.
I loved my house, and my yard and my neighborhood, but we met only a few neighbors in twenty two years there.
People around us left for work in the wee hours of the morning, and came home just before dinner. I didn’t see them, but I saw their cars, pulling into the garage, and shutting the door behind them.
It appeared that no one walked in our neighborhood, and if they did, we never saw them, because everyone was in the back yard.
Weekends were filled with kids sports, errands and in-home projects. If we did happen upon a free morning, we spent it in gloriously quiet solitude on the back porch, re-charging our batteries with a newspaper and a pot of coffee. We often heard fragments of conversations from the back yards around us, over the block walls.
Get Some Face to face Time
Opponents of social media quip that we all need to get off the computer, and go visit each other, face to face.
“Social media is a lazy version of friendship.”
That argument usually incites me to ask “Did we do lots of visiting before social media?” I don’t think we did.
Community used to be celebrated, but now, people are a little guarded about their neighbors. We don’t often know each other. The convenient opportunity never presents itself without that front porch, and frequent walking.
Social Media is More Than a Passive Connection
So, yes, Facebook likes and comments and shared photos are a more passive connection, compared to the face to face, cup-of-coffee visit.
But it’s still a connection.
Before social media, if I hadn’t seen someone for 8-12 months, catching up kicked off with ‘how is your family’ and ‘what have you been doing’.
The conversation meandered to light-fare vagaries as we strained to recall what the heck we’ve been so stinkin’ busy with all year.
Now, with social media, I know what my friends have been doing these past 8-12 months; I’ve seen photos and left comments on a grandparent’s passing, a son’s winning basketball game, a daughter’s marriage, etc.
And they’ve seen my photos and left comments too. When we meet, the conversation starts off with immediate and specific intimacy. We talk in a state of shared enthusiasm for every event and milestone we posted, because we’ve been present in each other’s minds through social media posts all year long.
Social media as a Place for Support
When we lost a beloved pet years ago, I shared a photo of her and my grief on facebook.
Friends and family left a generous string of loving comments. They gathered ’round, wrapped us in typed messages of supportive kindness.
They shared stories of their own losses, and created an instant, micro community that was as real as if they’d all lined up on my front porch to give us a hug.
It was heartfelt, amazing and restorative. And there was nothing lazy about it.
Social Media is Your Front Porch
My current home has a front deck, and I chat with my neighbors every week now.
I see them walking dogs, mowing lawns, or hiking hills behind us.
It feels old fashioned, and lovely. I haven’t sat on a front porch or shared freshly baked banana bread with my neighbors in the past four decades, till now.
And my social media neighborhood is also huge and festive. It’s also international.
I visit and share regularly, and peruse photos of family dinners, back yard birthday parties, job promotions, videos of baby’s first steps, artists painting in their studios and toddlers sleeping on the family dog.
And these are not images of strangers; these are my friends, and my family. All the things I’d see if I were strolling through the neighborhoods across half a dozen time zones and continents.
On social media, I’m visiting people I care about, whenever I want to check in and touch base.
Social media is my front porch. And it’s your front porch too.
Come and find me so we can have a glass of lemonade and catch up on each other’s lives every week.
Other Artists Using Social Media as Their Front Porch
On the topic of community and being connected, check out this insightful video from a Ted Talk with Yoga instructor and Instagram enchanter Rachel Brathen. Her bravery to tell the truth online, instead of posting curated, polished, marketing-seasoned posts, transformed her career, and changed her life.
Agree or Disagree?
Do you spend a good chunk of time each week socializing face to face with friends and relatives? Do you enhance that connection with social media? Share your thoughts (either for or against) in the comments.
Thanks for hanging out, and I’ll see you in the next post –
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What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.Kurt Vonnegut