Day 71: The Problem with Social Media

It’s two days before October 1st, 2018, and last night I had drinks at my bestie’s home in Tempe. She’s a musician and I’m a photographer. She is incredibly hilarious, insightful, eloquent, and compassionate, so I’m always excited to see where our conversation takes us whenever we get together. After a glass of wine and some rearranging of sofa pillows, I asked her, “Would you rather play to a filled room where people boo’d you, or play a show where zero people showed up?”

You see, in two days, I would be launching 100 posts for photographers in 100 days and my biggest fear wasn’t internet haters or trolling comments, it was that no one would care.

A few weeks ago I found myself watching an interview with Cameron Diaz. In this interview she tells us that over the years many young women have told her they also want to be a famous actress. “I want to be just like you” they would say and Cameron replies, “Why?”

She then goes on to explain that fame doesn’t define her and that fame doesn’t guarantee happiness, but the part that struck me was the fact that she seemed genuinely perplexed at why someone might want to be a famous actress. I mean… I can probably answer that.

As human beings, we crave acceptance. We want to be validated, and heck if it’s on the table, adored. Additionally, our biggest limitation is money, and famous actors are flying on private jets to Paris while we would be cool with a coach seat on a commercial plane to literally anywhere. Pair that with having a hair and makeup team and a personal shopper to ensure we look amazing while spending our money, our biggest annoyance being when *another* person asked for our autograph… why on Earth would anyone want that? So strange, right Cameron?? While being young, rich, and famous might be a double edged sword and come with its own mess of problems, it totally seems like the best shot at solving our most common problems.

Skipping over to 2018 and our generation has opened a new door to fame. Before social media was invented, you had to land a role in a big movie and work your way to a magazine cover. Now, all you have to do is have enough Instagram followers or go viral on YouTube. Almost daily a new unknown shows up demanding you Cash Her Outside and by Friday Friday, she’s a millionaire. Seeing these stories flash before our eyes makes fame, adoration and dolla billz seem completely attainable, which only makes us want it more.

As photographers, we have a front row seat to this new lifestyle where unless you post photos of yourself, latte in hand, standing in your designer kitchen looking like Joanna Gaines, you have no chance of being noticed. It’s a tough pill to swallow when someone tells you your photography is actually 80% how you look resting your hands on a keyboard and 20% your actual work. It’s a tough pill to swallow because I don’t drink lattes. I don’t place my hands lovingly on my keyboard because there’s some pizza sauce on my tab key from last month. I don’t post photos of myself in my office because my office is a disaster and I don’t wear pants in my home office.

So what’s a photographer to do? What if you want to be a successful photographer but you’d rather not obsess over your Instagram likes, you’d rather not hire a photographer to take photos of you taking photos for your feed, and you’d rather not subscribe to the notion that in order to do what you love, you have to win a popularity contest?

I 100% understand a person’s need for validation, especially when it comes to their art. I also understand going down the rabbit hole of comparison. Looking at his or her Instagram and wondering why her post about a really good quesadilla got 4,000 likes while your post about your newborn baby only got 25 likes. I get it. I get that comparison steals your joy, makes you feel less than, and makes it seem like no one cares. I get that worst of all, it’s addicting. But the thing you have to remember is, the most important people already care.

When it comes to your art, the first person you have to impress is yourself. You’re in a race with no one but who you were yesterday. Build a body of work that you love. If you’re not happy with your work, no one else will be.

The next most important person you have to impress is your client. If I deliver photos to a bride and groom and they’re over the moon, it doesn’t matter how many likes it gets on Facebook, my client is happy and I’m happy.

Lastly, your biggest supporters are going to be your family and friends, and these are the most important people in your life. There are few people I respect more than my mother and the fact that she loves my work means more to me than any number next to my profile photo.

Don’t disregard their opinions as a “given.” “Well of course they like my work, they’re my family.” Nope. Their opinions are hugely important because they’re in your corner. They’re the ones you turn to for support and to lift you up when things are looking grim. They’re the ones that will celebrate with you when things go well! Their opinion and support matter much, much more than the thousands of people on Instagram who you’ve never met.

What we need to realize is, most people are on social media for themselves. They’re trying to create a spotlight… it’s one big “Look what I did!” Maybe we can change what true success looks like from the number of likes we get to creating meaningful work for those who step in front of our camera.

Day 98 is currently reserved for any questions you have throughout the 100 days. To submit a question, please click here!  If you’re interested in supporting this project, please share, PIN and comment! Any other questions, comments or ideas, please feel free to email me at denise(at)denisekaris(dot)com

Denise Karis is an Arizona photographer who enjoys musicals, Doctor Who and breakfast burritos. IG @denisekaris