Where to from here?

We are all putting ourselves out on display via the many social platforms with our photography, writings, podcasts and what ever else. We do this in hopes of gaining an audience that gets and appreciates your work. When it does happen it feels incredibly great, but the social platforms have all started to implement their algorithms in hopes of prioritizing our content based on relevance rather than published time. This can most definitely diminish the chance your work coming in front of the people who chose to follow you. The algorithm is not about improving that relationship, it’s more about improving the chance a sponsor/paid advert landing in front of you in hopes of enticing you to click through and ultimately spend your cash.

There are countless times I hear from followers that they do not see my work and this is very disheartening. Causes many of our peers embarking on strategies they feel are going to get them noticed more than if they did nothing. Creating alliances such as collectives (an idea I am still exploring since I had a brief exposure to that and could see it as a great playground for likeminded souls), and collaborations with individuals who come together for short term projects in hopes perhaps of spreading their nets wider to catch a broader audience. These sorts of schemes just seem like wasted efforts, because the social platforms are like black boxes and we the users are constantly hoping/guessing that we will figure it out. Once we do figure it out, they just move the goal posts leaving us to scramble. So I say forming alliances should only be for true collaborations with no expectations other than spreading your horizons wider and hopefully learning from someone quite different from yourself.

The social platforms are not here for us, they are here for their own bottomline, and that’s the mighty growth/coin. Even when the tools get loads of eyeballs on your feeds or stories, we the audience don’t really seem to take action. For example in Instagram currently I can share a story and it will get easily 300-400 views. That’s great, but ultimately meaningless if the viewers are not actually there to engage. It feels as if your story just plays to an audience that’s sort of like the occupants of the spaceship in WALL-E (great movie). The audience is not really there to engage with the work, especially if you’re not a big name. Most people (I feel) are only interested in engaging when they feel they have something to gain from the one they are engaging with. I know, that comes across as quite cynical, but I feel like we are in a “follow for follow” age. An age where one only gets engagement when there is something to be gained.  (We have left the Information Age and have entered the Follow for Follow Age, ok let me stop joking). In all seriousness it does feel sort of less one nation and more like alienation.

Previous paragraph did come across as cynical didn’t it? Let me step it back a little. I have formed some really great friendships online. I have podcast, photography, and just general relationships that I cherish immensely and if it were not for those I’d be packing it up and going offline like my friend and great photographer Devon Stapleton (who was on Through My Lens  with Clay Daly: A Personal Journey with Devon Stapleton where we do go into his leaving online spaces). If I were to leave the social platforms would I loose all those connections I have formed online? I would hope not. I have a space online to create as my own and share my images and the podcasts I create. This website is my own space and it is not subject to Facebook, Twitter, et al and their ever changing algorithms. But… and it is a big but, how do we get the audience to follow? How does someone who is not a big name online personality get the audience to take an extra step to get outside of the walled garden and in to the spaces rebels like us occupy out here in the independent web? I have not done the work, because I fear no one will follow, but perhaps no one will follow because I have not done the work. (Classic free chicken and fertilized eggs situation, amirite?) This is an important question, and the simple answer may just be, we don’t worry about the audience. We just take the leap to creating for ourselves and not worry about the audience following, because maybe you’ll reach a new audience. Or we don’t worry about the algorithms on the platforms and just keep creating on them hoping that perhaps things improve? Do we just go offline all together and take our creative creations to the next level and create the ultimate versions of our photography and other art forms (and by ultimate I mean the print of course in the case of photography). I know many bloggers, vloggers, and podcasters will end their posts with a solution, but I have none. I will simply end with a question. Where to from here?

2 thoughts on “Where to from here?”

  1. Very well written Clay. I think first we need to stop and think about why we started “insert creative pursuit” in the first place. I would hazard a guess and say that none of us started our given creativity with a single thought to audience. We started it because we enjoyed it, it relaxed us, it helped put our mind or heart at peace or we just plain couldn’t not do it. I think it’s long past time we, as artists, reclaim our true purpose for our labors and our works and get back to doing it for our own selfish pleasure. Take pleasure in creating and let the faceless, liking, hearting, thumbs-uping automatons be damned.

  2. Thank you Devon. Well said. I’m thinking that I may be in more agreement with you as time goes in.

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