What brought me here today:
I had a strange thing happen to me earlier in the week. By the time it was over, it had become uncomfortable. Bordering on scary. This interaction was with someone on a social media platform who is a follower. They admire my artwork. This person seemed to quickly go from pleasant admirer, to irritated and demanding in the blink of an eye.
The fact that I didn’t see how quickly the interaction had changed to a negative tone disturbs me. I was so pleased to chat with someone who had questions about how I created my artwork. In the past, I’ve had some incredibly lovely interactions with people via social media about my artwork. This must be why this negative interaction with this person disturbed me to the degree that I’m actually writing a blog post about it.
I received a DM from a follower on Instagram. This person does not speak English. And I don’t speak her language. Messages had to be run through an online translator so we could understand each other. The conversation began like many that I’ve had. This person admires my work. They had some questions about some specific techniques and processes as well. It was pretty close to other conversations I’ve had with people online.
The first mistake I made was in taking a photo of a technique in process and sending it to them. This made the follower want more, in the way of a video. When I told them that I didn’t have any videos on YouTube or my website yet, this seemed to kind of make them pissy. My second mistake was offering to video chat and show them the technique. This failed miserably. My phone is old and the connection was bad. So I ended the chat.
This follower then started pelting me with video chat calls. I did not pick them up. This made the follower angry. They didn’t understand why I wouldn’t answer. I decided to end the whole back and forth by telling them that I had to work to do and that I could talk to her at a later date. The follower then got demanding. They wanted me to show them what I was working on. They didn’t understand why I couldn’t just set up my phone and let them watch me making art.
My tiny freak-out:
I really started to lose it at this point. I was scared. Whether or not the follower intended this or not isn’t the point. I just needed this person to go away. Now. They were repeatedly told that I needed to return to work, and no, they couldn’t watch me work. When I stated that the work I needed to do was not art creation, but writing and computer work, it just seemed to piss them off more.
By this time, I had spent over an hour talking to this follower. There was work I needed to be doing instead of dealing with them too. To get away, I simply said that I wouldn’t respond to anymore of their messages. After sending five or six messages that I didn’t answer. They finally stopped messaging me.
I have not blocked this person. Yet. If and when they start this kind of stuff up again I will block them. My husband thinks I’m being way, way, way too nice. I don’t disagree with him. Giving people the benefit of the doubt is something I like doing. But believe me when I say, if the line is crossed again, they will be blocked.
I’m an incredibly talkative person by nature. Small talk is not something that I’m bad at either. I’m better at keeping my mouth shut now. Finland taught me that. I’m kind of an ambivert. There are times and places where I’m quite animated an chatty, like when I’m teaching art to children. I require down-time in between these interactions to recharge myself. Time alone with my own thoughts is a requirement for a mentally and emotionally contented self.
I’m a small art business owner. A one-horse operation. This requires me to be a bit more extroveted in a few different arenas. Social media platforms are one way for me to be out there connecting with the people who like and purchase my artwork. The pandemic has made this kind of interaction the safest option for me and customers from a physical standpoint.
I require some down-time to be alone with my own mind in between my more extroverted interactions. Social media platforms are something that I can easily turn on and off when I need that break. Or when I have to work on any of the many pieces of my business that I need to. Creating my artwork is one of the ways that I prepare myself for interactions through social media.
I do not consider myself in any way, shape, or form to be a social media big deal. The number of followers that I have is not incredibly large at all. Compared to many art creators, I’m a tiny little art fish in a HUGE art making and selling pond. That’s okay with me. I value all of the people who take the time out of their day to like and comment on my posts. I’ve made some insanely cool connections with fellow art creators that I value a great deal. These followers make me feel less alone in my little one-horse art business.
Who I am in reality, and the person I choose to show to the world through social media are not the same. It’s a strange dance. I know that I tend to over-share here in my blog posts most of the time. Time, and a lot of editing are involved in the creation of my blog posts. What ends up being posted has been carefully constructed for my readers. It’s definitely me. But it has to be noted that it’s a very currated me.
The same can be said of the photos that I post for people to see. I rarely post pictures of myself. Almost all of the photos posted on social media are of my artwork. The way I see things, I’m not selling my physical image. I’m sharing and selling my artwork. To be a bit more honest, I detest having my picture taken. What I personally look like should also have no baring on whether or not someone purchases my artwork either.
The curated content is what people who follow me on social media interact with. That’s me, but like I said before, a version of myself. I enjoy making connections with people. I’m a teacher at heart. Sharing my love of art and creation is a big part of my identity. A part of my identity that sometimes can overwhelm other parts of my identity.
I’m an artist who sells their artwork. There is a transactional nature at the center of my rationale of even being on social media to begin with. It feels callous to say that, but it’s true. Even when there is no money and goods being exchanged, this transactional aspect is in play. If you like a picture I post, you give it a thumbs-up or a like, or a pin. Or perhaps you visit my website and comment on a post. The algorithm has been fed, and I receive more viewings and more likes, etc.
The big problem with the scary follower is that they were demanding more of me than what they were paying. Liking my artwork on a regular basis does not give a perfect stranger access to watching me create my artwork. Nor does it allow them unfettered access to me explaining how I create my artwork, including patterns.
So, now what?
It’s a weird balance that I need to find. I want to be open and friendly with my followers. But at the same time, I just do not have the bandwidth or time to deal with the scary, demanding followers. There have to be some solotions to be found to this potential problem.
After talking with my husband about this incident with the scary follower, I will be making some changes. There were some rookie mistakes that I made in my initial interaction with this follower. Those mistakes will not be made again. This also made me think about the FAQ that I have on my webpage. I can make some adjustments to that. Then direct people who may get demanding to reading that.
Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Friday.