Are you a lurker? Do you scroll through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram glancing at your friends’ offerings without leaving any trace of your presence?
This phenomenon has come to my awareness recently as I try to make a living, or at least some pocket change, as an artist. Bumping into people around town, I’m constantly surprised when they say, “I loved your latest blog,” or “That portrait you just did was lovely.” It’s surprising because there’s no record of them having seen it or enjoyed it. If I hadn’t bumped into them I would never have known they were even aware of my work.
Social media is blamed for creating false friendships and shallow relationships. Shouldn’t we all be hanging out in the coffee shop talking face to face, having cocktail parties and barbecues rather than scrolling through a digital menagerie of our friends’ lives? Maybe. And maybe I’m a failure in that regard, but as an artist, social media is my bread and butter. It’s less a popularity contest and more a virtual marketplace for my trade. It’s also a place for feedback so I know what people are responding to, and what they’re not.
What you may not realize about Facebook is the algorithm that determines which posts you see and which ones you don’t. The amount of activity your post generates (likes, comments and shares) determines where it will appear in your friends’ News Feed, or if if appears at all. If you see a piece you find interesting and continue to scroll past without responding, the post will end up one step lower in the Feed, and if enough people silently admire it without reacting it will disappear altogether, meaning less views and less business.
This is not to suggest that you should haphazardly “Like” everything you see just to be supportive. It means if you are actually inspired by something, learn from it, or just admire it, it will make a difference to your friend the artist/writer/entrepreneur if you say so. For those of us who rely on social media as our primary form of advertising for our creative work or services it could mean putting our post in front of the eyes of a new client or fan. Social media posts should be high quality information and images, whether they’re funny, informative or inspiring. If your friends are spamming you with everyday minutia feel free to scroll on by.
It is a strange old world out there right now. We need more people in all arenas saying what they feel, rather than lurking in safety and silence.