Social media has planted the idea that comments are king. However, I don't give them a pawn's importance.
One thing in common both social media and art share is connection. Through social media, we seek to connect through sharing, whether it be our thoughts and ideas or with media: images, music, video, etc. Art is if anything, a mirror of this trait. But it stands alone too as a separate entity. That is, it doesn’t require social media – if one is present, to observe it in real life. But social media certainly helps to share art, especially during times of disease outbreaks like what we’re seeing globally with Covid-19.
But there is a distinction I’d like to make here. And it has everything to do with why I turned off commenting on Instagram (because there’s an option to do so with every post) and why I’m no longer enthusiastic about responding to comments on Facebook, where I can’t turn off comments, only hide them - and Twitter, where there is virtually no useful controls.
Facebook and Twitter aside, I’ll speak to why I’m turning off comments, and why I think this is the ideal situation for me as a photographer-turned-artist. Bullet point reasons - Real time responding is the ultimate Distraction / Time-sink - I don’t need an ego boost nor do I seek “attention” - I don’t seek critiques, friendly chit-chat, spam, (or trolling!) when I share my work - I find repetition of this nature excruciatingly irksome (I'd rather say "thank you" in person!) - And perhaps most importantly, I want people to “just look” - And maybe, just maybe, purchase my work or hire me
Now, I suspect this is coming off the wrong way. It’s not that I don’t appreciate people admiring my work. The cold truth is, I just don’t need to know about it in real time, or feel the need to respond to comments in a timely manner so as to not offend or to alienate otherwise well-meaning and genuine compliment-givers. This is where I’m sure I part ways with those preaching social media best practices. At the risk of appearing anti-social, I alone must navigate the best way forward in negotiating my time for creation, sharing, and what lies beyond.
Speaking of best practices, I’m only going to touch on the fact that some people only comment as part of a social media strategy, to varying degrees. That is, they seek to gain fans and likes by drawing people to their profiles. I’ve seen this at play in my comments. I haven’t found this particularly offensive, but I can’t help but think how rude it would be to leave a calling card tacked to a painting at an artist exhibition (in the real world) seeking to gain exposure off the backs of others.
I acknowledge that social media is a different beast, in all its appetites. And I want to tame it a little bit by way of reminding people that perhaps the “old ways” of observing art for the sake of observation, admiring art for the sake of admiration, is more than enough for an artist. Or it should be.
I fully acknowledge that this way of silence won’t gain me a huge following nor endear me to those who appreciate responsive social media personalities. I’ll chalk it up to a social media character flaw.
I’ll leave you with a quote from the German philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer. I think it sums up for me quite well how I feel about our encounters with new art.
“Treat a work of art like a prince: let it speak to you first.”