Overthinking How We Treat Content Creators

As I browse online spaces, it seems like many people seem to be utterly confused about what it means to be creative. Creativity, as well as art, gets divided into two categories – good and bad, worthwhile and a waste of time.

Honestly, it breaks my heart. So many creative people choose to stay inside a safe lane, showing less than they could have. If you’re not sure what I mean, let me give you an example.

A successful portrait artist may stay away from publishing pictures of herself because her online presence is typically all about her art and drawing techniques. Showing her face or, god forbid, her body will lose her followers and gain her a dozen of comments like “I subscribed for your art, not for the bod”.

I didn’t just come up with that story. This is exactly what happened to a fashion illustrator Victoria Kagalovska when she posted a more revealing than usual picture of herself in her Instagram stories. There were hundreds of unfollows.

Before I talk about this case in-depth, let’s take into assumption that no one ever owes anyone a follow on social media. Also, likes and follows on Instagram are not just vanity-driven. These numbers translate into income, a sense of fulfillment, and exposure to new opportunities. This blog is also not about featuring one’s body or not; rather, it’s about accepting that there’s a living human on the other side of the screen, the mastermind that has birthed the works of art that people enjoy (or used to enjoy) so much.

In my opinion, we are now living in an era when there’s a ton of free content available to you at the snap of your fingers. Do you want a free drawing tutorial? You got it, just find a video on Youtube or IGTV. Do you want to ask an artist you’ve been following for years a question about their unique technique? You can now slide into their DMs or ask them in the comments. No problem, easy-peasy. After all, artists want people to know their work and follow them, right? So they’ll do whatever it takes for their audience.

The problem is, the audience… is not exactly loyal anymore. Of course, there are still people who are so fond of their favorite content creators, they’ll follow you across various platforms, and they’ll be your loudest cheerleaders months and years down the line. However, not everyone by far is lucky to have that kind of fans.

Many followers view content creators as a function, for the lack of a better word. It’s fine and it’s understandable, to a degree. After all, you don’t really know this person anyway, right? You’re not attached to them in any way, you just consume their content. And if you see something you don’t like, you can always unsubscribe. Chances are, you’ll find many new content creators that you’ll vibe better with.

And while the paragraph above is factually correct, it is just so… consumerist. You consume artists’ work, you use their content for inspiration and ideas, and the second you don’t like something, you walk out on them. Possibly, after dropping a spiteful “Unsubscribed” message to show how disappointed you really are.

To me, it seems like it’s all take and no give. Instead, there should be a balance or at least something that resembles it. In the ideal world, followers on social media are meant to engage with the content they subscribe to see (i.e. likes, comments, shares, etc). In the perfect world, followers realize that they’re communicating with another human being who gets happy or hurt just like they do. And while I solemnly believe that we’re all responsible for our own reactions and emotions, I still see no good reason for people to openly provoke others by writing mean things online.

And if the content creator decides to come out of their shell just a bit more and show off their personality in a different light, I feel like their audience should be a little more understanding. People should remember that you’re dealing with a person, and a human cannot be simplified down to one function, one type of art, one tiny tight niche. We’re all more complex than that. We have multiple facets: hobbies, music preferences, type of humor, and even alter-egos. A content creator doesn’t owe you to be what you imagined them to be. Just like you don’t owe anything to them, really.

But we don’t live in the perfect world. Internet trolls drop their loads in people’s social media profiles, haters hate, and consumers consume. Gratitude is rare but priceless, and it’s always heartwarming.

Content creators work hard doing what they do. And just like everyone else, they are looking for appreciation, attention, and kindness in return for their work. Money’s also a great perk, but that’s a different topic entirely.

My point is, please remember that content creators are humans. Again, I’m not asking for devotion or following for life, but please don’t treat them like a vending machine either.

And just because you don’t consider selfies worthy of a serious artist (whatever that may mean), they don’t need to evoke a spiteful public response. Just because you hate reading a 500-word essay on the origins of the recipe you’re about to use, doesn’t mean that all food bloggers should stop doing what they’re doing (and what seems to be working well from the SEO standpoint since you have, in fact, found them through a search engine).

All I’m asking for is some slack. If you see a fashion blogger who inspires you to recreate their outfits, let yourself accept the fact that someone will want to advertise products with them. A painter may come out with a line of brushes under their own brand, and even use them regularly in their paintings and how-to videos. And if you have subscribed to an all-around creative person, don’t be turned off when they decide to explore a totally new field. Give the content creator a chance. If you really like their art and trust their judgment, you might actually get exposed to something different and wonderful.

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