Blog / 2023 / Mistake #3: Trying to Be Like Everyone Else

April 3, 2023

In a few weeks, my art career will officially turn twenty. To celebrate this special artiversary, I’m doing a blog series about everyday errors, because, if I had to choose one reason why I’m still making art after all this time, it’s that I refused to let these little missteps stop me.

Today’s installment of the Blunder Blowout is all about trying to be like everyone else, instead of figuring out what will actually work best for me.

[video transcript]

I talk more about making images slowly in this article and more about quitting Instagram and all the rest of corporate social media on this page.

For more about the robot painting and the series about mental health that it’s a part of, check out this online gallery.

slot machine robot with a heart for an activation button, reels that show angry face emojis, and coins that are sad face emojis spilling out
Gwenn Seemel
Lottery of Likes
acrylic on panel
18 x 14 inches

I was late to the Instagram party. I didn’t get a smart phone until the end of 2015, which is a full five years after IG launched. When I finally set up my account I was immediately overwhelmed by Instagram’s focus on “spontaneity” and being “instant” while also demanding images that were high quality and time-consuming to create. For a while, I tried to get into the IG flow, posting all the time.

In other words, I was trying to be like everyone else, and that’s always a mistake.

There’s a difference between directly imitating others and using their careers or business choices as a model. Instead of copying the successful Instagrammers, I should have been looking closely at what they were doing and then evaluating what might work for me.

So, top IG artists do two things:

  1. They reach out to their audience every day.
  2. Successful Instagrammers put a lot of work into a platform that they don’t control—a platform that switches things up on them all the time, with regular algorithm tweaks as well as new formatting requirements for videos as the platform tries to imitate other popular social media sites.

When I look at it like that, it’s clear to me that I never want to copy that second bit. Reaching out every day though? That’s something I can get behind! Especially when I adapt it to what works for me. Because reaching out doesn’t have to be posting on IG. It could be anything from a text to a friend about a piece I’m working on to a press release sent to a writer I want to cultivate a relationship with.

I make art slowly and my mind turns to a mush of self-loathing when I try to talk to the entire internet instead of just having a conversation with one person. Since I know that’s how my brain works, shoving myself into a prescribed version of Instalife was obviously a mistake.

And this painting is a reminder of just that. Social media success will never be something I want to imitate exactly, because as far as I can tell corporate social media is little more than a slot machine that gambles with people’s emotions.

I want to live in a world where interactions with another human are interesting-helpful-awful-wonderful-amazing, and not monetized by companies selling our data. While I can’t totally opt out of that monetization—not as long as people I want to talk to use Gmail, because then Google owns all our exchanges—I can get myself closer by staying off of Meta and YouTube and the like. I’m doing just that, remaining true to myself while also learning from the successes of others.

This video is made with love and microdonations from my community!

Maybe this post made you think of something you want to share with me? Or perhaps you have a question about my art? I’d love to hear from you!


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