External vs. internal metrics
I think the biggest issue with social media is not even that its mostly a waste of time and its addictiveness. The huge culprit of social media is the “likes” concept.
I’ve never thought about this being a particularly bad thing, but I now think it’s really bad.
I already knew that Instagram is so addictive because of the dopamine spikes the likes give us. Even if you try not to care, the likes act as a reward, and that provides us with a dopamine hit. That’s just evolutionary psychology, and we can’t simply opt out of it i.e., the dopamine will affect us no matter what.
The even darker side of the liking system is that it affects our mood and self-esteem. People become like little junkies craving for another hit.
It’s also devastating for artists’ creativity.
E.g., you make a certain photo, and you get a number of likes. Then you make another type of photo, and you get fewer likes. Try how much you want but you can’t but help to make a conclusion that the last one wasn’t that good and people don’t like it as much.
We have a deep-rooted need to be liked. Of course, to a certain extent, it’s possible to have an “I don’t give a fuck” mentality, but it’s not something you can just switch on. Instagram will affect how artists do their art. Even if slightly, but still.
The likes is the devil. It’s one of the worst inventions ever.
The data Instagram provides about our work is the external metrics. The likes and also comments provide “data” of how good or bad our art is. Getting caught up in this is dangerous.
This is also the reason I decided to opt-out of Instagram for a while. If I could turn off the likes and comments, it would be awesome, but unfortunately, there’s no option for this.
Without external metrics, we’re free to do anything. It’s honestly liberating to post pictures and articles without any heart count. It requires me to think by myself; with my own head. It forces me to use my internal metrics. My own standards.
There’s a shift from “what do people think of this?” or “I wonder if people like it” to “do I like it?”, “do I think it’s good?”.
This is the difference between external metrics (other people) and internal metrics (you, the creator).
I’m not saying to opt-out of social media. My point is that we should realize the dangers and the traps and not get suckered into these.
For artists, the best option is to build your own platform and not count on someone else’s platform.
This doesn’t apply to just photography or art. It applies to our lives in general. Instead of deciding the level of our success by external metrics, we should use internal ones instead.
E.g., you see on Facebook, that your friends are getting married and having kids and if you get blasted with such stories and images over and over again, you naturally get affected. You start to think that this is what a successful life looks like. You start to think that this is what you have to do as well.
There is no such thing as the correct way of living, and even if there is, none of us humans could possibly ever figure that out.
Use your own internal metrics to measure your success! What is a good life for you? What are the things you know you need to do, in order to consider yourself to be successful? Don’t get suckered into the social conditioning of other people.