Social Media Negativity

So a bit of an off topic post today.  Just to set the tone a bit, this is not a rant, I’m not angry, not really even upset anymore, but I do have some opinions that I want to voice and put out there.

I’ll start off by saying that social media is a fairly new thing for me.  I had Facebook years ago, but never really used it so deleted my account.  Then back in December of last year when I decided to take selling my art seriously, I joined again.  I also joined Instagram, Twitter, and such.  It honestly took a while for me to even navigate around the sites.  I suppose had I used it personally it would have been much less of a learning curve when I wanted to use it for business.

I do read the news and know how to use the internet.  I’ve read so many stories out there about people being bullied and the like.  I have used YouTube for a while and have read a million negative comments there.  I knew that it was out there.  I knew it was possible.  But honestly was a bit naïve.  It never really occurred to me that I would deal with so much negativity while posting my artwork online.

Why bring this up now?

Because I can.  This is my blog, and I can talk about whatever I want.  This is a topic that has been on my mind a lot the last couple of months.  And if you happen to follow me on Instagram and have seen my stories the last few days I feel like this is an opportunity to explain while addressing the topic generally as well.

A bit of background on the current situation.  I have been working on this project that is just square section crops from various animals.  It’s really just a fun project for me to work on when I have some extra time and don’t feel like working on any of my other ones.  A follower had asked me if there was going to be a giveaway at the end when it is finished.  I said yes, I had been thinking about it from the beginning.  I thought it would be a fun idea.  Hadn’t really gotten to specifics yet, but something along the lines of most correct guesses, and maybe some additional random participation?  I had just started an animal and thought it would be a fun interaction to post it to my story and send a free greeting card to any correct guesses.  It had a very identifying factor in it.  It was the bottom of a panda eye.  I knew that if I put too much detail in, many people would guess.  So I posted a picture after only the first layer of drawing.  I wanted fun and engaging, not to be sending hundreds of free cards out though!

A lot of people had fun and guessed, some guessed multiple times.  Some really fun conversations were had.  But there were some people who got really upset.  They felt that I had made it too hard, and didn’t draw anything before having people guess.  Said it was just lines, and looked terrible, and was completely unfair.  Had someone respond saying they weren’t going to guess because they didn’t want my bad art as a prize.  Honestly, there was nothing forcing anyone to participate.  I was really kind of shocked.

One person guessed correctly.  So I posted a picture of the card in my story, along with a list of the guesses.  I included some of the negative ones, although not all of them.  I debated leaving them out.  But felt like including them to point out the ridiculousness of some of the responses.  It wasn’t out of anger or anything, just hoping to make people think for a second.

But… it opened the floodgates of nastiness.  A few were furious that someone had actually guessed correctly and was getting sent a free card.  Then there were people who were mad that I posted the negative responses.  Why send them in the first place if you’re going to be mad that I post them?  I didn’t include names.  I wouldn’t have ever done that.  It would come across as petty, and probably would be if I had used names.  I suddenly had people calling me an idiot, stupid, among other things that I won’t repeat, let alone post.

Over a free greeting card??!! 

You can buy one for $5.00 on my website here or in my Etsy shop.  That’s the cost of a cup of coffee or a McDonalds sandwich.  It’s not that serious.  It is a card.

Which makes me think, maybe it’s not just the card.  Maybe people felt like they needed to attack someone.  I have no clue.  It makes no logical sense.  But I’ve gotten other negative responses at times in regards to my art.  People saying they don’t like it, it looks wrong, I used the wrong colors, drew a part wrong, I’m not as good as other artists, I ruined it by doing certain things, I need to graduate and draw in color, real artists draw people, I should draw this or that instead, it’s not very good…. I really could go on.

Did I ask for any of those comments?  Of course not.  I don’t have thick enough skin to ask for critiques of my work.  Which leads me right into people’s responses if you mention someone said something rude.  They say you have to have thick skin as an artist, just ignore them, don’t let it bother you, don’t feed the trolls, it doesn’t happen that much… and again I could go on.

I’ll pause here for just a second.  These responses are not from people who are normally trying to be supportive.  They come across as harsh and with an attitude.  Sometimes really well meaning people will use the same words, but there is a difference.  I think we all can think of examples of the two different types of people I’m talking about here.

I completely disagree with some of the standard responses.  I do not have to have thick skin.  If I’m going to galleries and presenting my work, yes maybe I need thick skin to handle the rejection.  You need perseverance and determination.  But thick skin?  To handle people being rude and mean?  How does that make sense?  These aren’t people who would buy artwork, they aren’t gallery owners.

Ignore them, don’t let it bother you?  Yeah easier said than done.  I understand that dwelling on it isn’t really the best option.  I get that, but it’s really hard to just ignore a bunch of negativity.  Have you ever had someone be rude or mean to you?  Did it upset you?  You can probably think of a time that you got upset.  So why is your advice to others don’t get upset?  Seriously think about it.  When you are upset about someone who was rude to you, is the first thing you want to hear, don’t worry about it?!

Don’t feed the trolls.  Oh I love this one.  So the trolls can go around saying and doing whatever they want, and normal nice people are supposed to ignore them?

How in the world does that make sense?  Yes, I get not engaging and fueling the flames to an extent, but to just ignore them and not speak up and give your side a voice?!  That’s crazy.  That’s giving them all of the power to continue to be rude and mean to others.  What happened to standing up for what is right?  What happened to defending yourself?  Are we just supposed to put up with it and deal with it, letting them continue?  Possibly moving on to someone else?

Think about this.  Aren’t these responses blaming the person who has received the mean/rude messages?  I hate to use the word victim here, because it’s one of those words that can be abused quite often, but a range of synonyms would be appropriate.  It completely negates any and all of the feelings, and makes it wrong to speak out.

If you are someone who has never had someone send you a negative message then maybe this isn’t making any sense, and sounds like an awful lot of whining.  Honestly, I think you should count your blessings and be thankful you’ve never run across the issue.  And if you ever do, and need someone to vent to or a proverbial shoulder to cry on, look me up.

How do I wish people would respond?  Hmm.  Good question.  Maybe with a bit of sympathy and/or compassion.  Just because it’s happening to me now doesn’t mean it won’t happen to you next week, or next year.  Or maybe it’ll happen to someone you know personally.  How would you want people to respond if it was your sister, or friend dealing with mean people?

This isn’t just about my art or me.  It’s about the way we treat others.  It’s about the people who sit behind a device and think it’s ok to be nasty to complete strangers because they are just typing on a keyboard.  It’s not ok.  I know that at times people can be overly sensitive and overdramatic about what bullying really is.  I get that there are times when people need to toughen up, just suck it up and deal with it.

It only takes a quick Google search to realize that nastiness happens daily.  Read through the comments on any social media platform.  You’ll find a ton of random people and their rude comments.  It’s a real thing.

Since joining social media, I’ve tried really hard to be nothing but encouraging to others.  I’ve failed at times.  We all do.  We’re human.  Some days it takes a bit more effort than others to remain positive and nice.

Sometimes we have a million other things going on in our real lives that make it hard.  But other people have things going on in their lives that we don’t see as well.  Maybe today is the day they need that kind word.  Maybe today they are in need of an encouraging person to run into their path.

Think of all of the real life problems out there.  It really makes someone calling my art terrible seem extremely insignificant.  It makes someone calling me an idiot seem absurd.  But it’s not always about just that one statement.  It’s about the combination of life circumstances.  Which is why it’s really just important to remember to be kind.  Be humble.  Be encouraging.  Be compassionate.  Be that one person that stands out as being overly nice.

It takes each of us making an effort to make the world a better place.  It’s worth the effort.

Thanks for reading, and I’ll be back soon with the next normal post.