I really like likes. I really hope that you don’t suffer from the same affliction as me, but I suspect that most of us now harbour this terrible desire within us.

The problem is this: we crave that hit of dopamine, which is a chemical released from the brain when we do things such as smoking, drinking and eating. This little chemical makes us feel great, and we crave it over and over again, which is why habits form and addiction can occur. I’m not quite sure how I’m not an obese chain smoking alcoholic due to that special little chemical hit (I have come very close). However, this brain chemical works very effectively when it comes into contact with social media. I post something, I wait, people like it and I get a hit of that nice feeling, which is compounded by every new like.

This philosophy professor can explain the problem with millennial dopamine addiction better than I can.

As artists, illustrators and designers we HAVE to post our work online. It is expected of us and we are expected to do it regularly and for it to be consistently good (if not amazing). It’s a hell of a lot of pressure for us highly emotional creatures to cope with. I have found it especially difficult to do this, and for a while I even didn’t share anything at all, as the vulnerability was too much for my fragile heart. So I had to develop a few techniques and rules to help me to deal with it. I’ve decided to share these, just in case they might help anyone else out there:

1. Set up your posts in advance so that most of them are automatic. This way I can sometimes forget when they are being posted and therefore don’t feel the need to check for likes. This doesn’t work so well on Instagram as they don’t allow 3rd party applications to post using their API at the moment, like Hootsuite or SocialPilot, however I can use bullet 2 to help with that one…

2. Don’t watch the posts for likes, step away and check it next time you post something. By then I will be posting something new and I will be excited about that and less interested in checking to see how many likes my last post got. I repeat this process each time to curb my addiction.

3. Keep your time on social media networks looking for new people/stuff and re-tweeting separate from your time posting your work. This way I won’t be keeping one eye on the likes as I keep flipping back to that thing I just posted. These activities are separate anyway so it’s useful for me to keep them that way.

4. Know that there are loads of factors for getting fewer likes: it’s definitely not personal. There are major debates online about when the best time to post is. Using applications like Hootsuite or SocialPilot can help  by posting at specific times for you that are suited to each social network, but no one has a definitive answer as to when these times are. It’s not an exact science. There may be loads of other factors why some of my posts have had less likes than others, for example, perhaps I posted work in a style that’s slightly different to my usual work, and this can throw people off slightly, as people are creatures of habit. Trying new things is good though and people do get used to you being slightly random after a while.

5. Support your friends. Like their work as much as you sincerely can.  I know how difficult it is to constantly be making yourself vulnerable by sharing your work. It takes a long time to build up loads of followers and also get consistent numbers likes on social media so helping my friends out with liking their work is important to me. I also know some really talented people-so this one isn’t difficult.

It’s one thing dealing with likes online but another when you are faced with haters in real life. A fellow artist friend of mine, the excellent John Bond, was doing an art stall at an event when a woman, who was looking through his prints, picked out this print, scowled, shook her head at it and put it back and walked off. As John rightly said when he was telling me this story “What on earth is offensive about that?!”. This really tickled me as I found the vision of someone finding John’s work offensive hysterically funny, as pretty much everything he draws is so sweet. Thanks for the laughs scowling lady.

Another one of my friends, who is quite a well-known street artist, told me that his beautiful work has hundreds of threads online slagging it off. This business can be cruel AF.

I think that a lot of people people have become desensitised by social media and depressed and hateful when faced with the difficulties of modern life. These angry people use the internet as a shield to express their anger and put others down without having to face any retribution. I always tell myself whenever I am faced with a situation where someone is being mean or rude for no apparent reason that: “happy people don’t say mean things”. If you are happy then you don’t feel as though you need to put people down to make yourself feel better.

At the end of the day not everyone is going to like your work. Some people just won’t get it, and some people just won’t get you as a person either. I’ve made peace with that. As long as you like it and a bunch of people (who you care about) do, that’s all that matters. We should all ignore the rest. And anyway, as Peaches rightly says:

peaches

Be excellent to each other.

P.S. If you like dogs and/or amazing artwork, check out John Bond’s exhibition at Unlimited Gallery in Brighton in town centre now. It’s so good that he’s having to paint more dogs as they have flown off the walls. Here is my dog Hennie at the gallery in front of John’s prints and paintings.