Don't let social media make you a miserable artist: Understand the illusion of online success

All stock photos from Pexels unless otherwise stated

Do you get jealous when you see artists with Instagram posts with several hundreds of times more Likes than your post?

Have you wondered why some accomplished artists have less followers compared to less skilled artists?

Do you feel insecure when someone asks for your Facebook page but you only have less than a hundred followers?

Do you spend a lot of time thinking about how you can get more followers and Likes?

Let me try and make sense of the numbers you see on social media, be it Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or Youtube. The number of likes and followers you have on social media is sometimes meaningless. Having more likes or followers does not mean you are successful, and having a lower number does not mean you're unsuccessful.

People can click Like not because they enjoy your post. People can click Like just because it's easy to click the Like button, or they click to help remember they have seen your post, or they just want to support the artists they follow.

On Instagram, people typically spend a few seconds to look at your art before scrolling away. Clicking the Like button requires minimal effort and hence it's not really that valuable. If more having more Likes boost your ego and makes you feel good, how about not having Likes? Do you want your happiness be tied to the number of Likes you? Getting paid in exposure by clients is bad in the art industry. Getting an ego boost from having Likes is worse than getting paid in exposure. At least with the latter, in a good case scenario, you may get visibility or more work but it's still a waste of your time if you don't get paid eventually.

Don't let social media make you a miserable artist

Focusing on the wrong goals on social media can make you a miserable artist. Comparing yourself with other artists can make you feel worthless.

This article I'm writing was inspired by the many posts on Reddit from people with bad experiences sharing their art on Instagram:

I've recently wrote about whether Instagram is a boon or bane for artists. I believe is a great tool for artists, BUT you have to use it the right way and set the right goals and expectations for yourself.

Likes are not valuable. Likes don't pay bills.

Superficial comments that praise your art is not very different from Likes. It's just Likes verbalised. However comments are still slightly more valuable. It means something when your art can hold people's attention enough for them to leave a comment. With comments, you can go further and ask people what they like about your art. And you get to connect with your followers. You get to build a community.

You don't have to be successful on social media to be successful

There are many successful artists who have few followers or don't even have an Instagram page.

Ralph Eggleston (art above) who worked at Pixar since 1992 doesn't have an Instagram page. Don't know who he is? Doesn't matter. Just know that Pixar doesn't hire crap artists.

Danny Gregory who has published numerous artbooks with hundreds of reviews on Amazon only has 12,400 followers at the time I'm writing this.

My friend Don Low (art above) who is an incredible artist and urban sketcher only has less than 9,000 followers. Another friend Drewscape who's doing well with freelancing only has less than 1,200 followers.

Artist and author Marcos Mateu-Mestre (art above) who has worked in the entertainment industry with big name movie and animation studios has less than 24K followers.

I have 25K+ followers on my Instagram page. Do I consider myself more successful than them? Absolutely not. If the number of followers or Likes you have is actually correlated to the technical skills you have, Marcos Mateu-Mestre would probably have half a million followers.

Being successful on social media may not mean you're successful in the real world, vice versa. Successful artists may not have the time to waste posting art on social media.

How did Picasso and Monet survived without Instagram?

Of course there are artists who have done really well, such as Loish (2.3m), Iraville (980K), Pascal Campion (815K), Mattias Adolfsson (215K), James Jean (1m), Kelogsloops (1.3m).

Getting to where they are requires skill, talent, time and sometimes a lot of luck.

Don't look at popular Instagram artists and envy their numbers. Instead of trying to catch up to the number of Likes and followers they have, why not match their work rate or improve your art? Too much work? Why are you making art in the first place?

You can learn from successful artists for they have shown you the potential of what's possible. That is more inspiring than the superficial Likes you get on your posts.

How to set the right goals on social media

Take Instagram for example. Instagram is a social media website for sharing images, photos and art. It can be used for connect with your followers, discover other artists, create a portfolio and of course it can be used for internet marketing.

I use Instagram primarily to archive my art so that I have one convenient place to go to when I need to look for my old works. My secondary purpose is to connect with my followers. Using Instagram as a marketing tool is just a byproduct of me sharing my work.

I don't use Instagram primarily as a marketing tool to get more people to see my work so I don't really care about the number of followers or Likes I get. I'm happy when I have a new sketch to share on Instagram. And when I've not posted on Instagram for a while I don't feel good because I don't feel productive. My satisfaction comes from posting a new sketch and scrolling down my Instagram page to see how much work I've created.

Sure it's nice to get Likes and comments but those are not important to me.

You have to ask yourself what's important to you? Why is having more followers and Likes important? Is it just because you want to feel good? So what if you get more Likes? Or is it because you want more exposure so that you can get more commissioned work? Is Instagram the online place where you can get commissioned work? What happens if you don't get work from Instagram? Or is it because you want to be an influencer so that you can get free stuff? What do you want to get from sharing your work on Instagram? Why are you using Instagram and not other websites, or why are you not blogging?

Artists use social media for different goals. Set the wrong goal and you can make yourself miserable. It's equally as bad if you're chasing other people's goals. Set the right goal and you can be inspired or be more productive. Ultimately, you choose how you want to use social media.

Social media platforms are not places that determine your value or your worth. And definitely don't let social media dictate your happiness and mental state.

Remember why you make art in the first place. You don't want to associate your art with unhappiness because you did not get enough Likes. If you do that, making art will be associated with being unhappy.

This article is part of the Internet Marking for Artists series that you can follow at



I follow this blog via RSS, I

I follow this blog via RSS, I follow your YouTube via RSS (no YouTube account, no subscription). I also follow Don Low's blog via RSS.
Instagram and Facebook are closed platforms – not viewable without an account. So why publish as an artist on a platform that not everyone has free access to? Don't stare blindly at likes or numbers.

Thanks for the article and

Thanks for the article and like the commenter above me I follow you through rss feeds. I think that is one the most awesome way to follow people. it removes all the jazz and gives you the post itself.
I agree with your article likes and follows shouldn't be the goal.

I love this:

I love this:
“ Remember why you make art in the first place. You don't want to associate your art with unhappiness because you did not get enough Likes. If you do that, making art will be associated with being unhappy.”

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