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- The Power of Social Media in Activism
In quarantine we have learned to do everything online from our shopping to our social chats to our studying. Now, we are learning to use the internet for activism. On May 25th 2020, the horrific and graphic footage of George Floyd’s murder circulated the internet, reaching millions and angering entire nations at the injustice of police brutality towards the black community. His death was seen all over social media and touched people’s hearts, motivating mass protests that began in countries all over the world and lasted for weeks at a time. It forced businesses and celebrities to release public statements of solidarity. It led to conversations beginning between entire communities who were once enemies and it led to the softening of hardened hearts around the world as people were forced to reflect on the importance of talking about race and their attitude to racism. All from one video. The identity of the person who posted it and the question of whether they were an influencer or had less than 10 followers is irrelevant because what stuck in our minds and stayed in our hearts was the video that was posted. That is the power that social media has in activism. Social media is slowly becoming a more and more effective tool for change and millions of internet users plug their feeds everyday full of posts raising awareness about important issues and how others can help. #slowfashion has become a trend, BLM petitions are linked in people’s Instagram bios and art featuring political slogans such as “F*ck the Tories” have become mainstream. But there is a huge misconception that this power to enact change lies in the hands of those with thousands of followers or more. I am evidence that this is completely wrong. Recently, at my university, an incident occurred and the response from staff was one which many students felt was unacceptable. The specific details of this incident and who was involved are not appropriate to discuss in this scenario without consent, and it’s more important to discuss how people were made aware of the incident through social media. At first, I made one single post on my page entitled: “A Royal Holloway student is racially abusing black women online and RHUL are doing nothing about it. Why?”. At the time, I had just over 1000 followers and each of my posts got an average of 70 likes, so I didn't expect this message to get far and just wanted to do what I could as many students at the university were trying to raise awareness and I wanted to help. Within hours of posting, however, the post quickly gained much attention from Royal Holloway students who began resharing, causing their followers to see it and repost which started a chain of events. That night, the post had about 500 likes and I was shocked. Some more time passed and the post gained 5, 000 likes (I was even more shocked!). By the end of the next day, before it was deleted, the post had received 13,100 likes, 819 comments, 6,108 shares and it had reached over 94,000 accounts on Instagram. The post was liked by RHUL and London university students, parents of sixth formers who were now reconsidering if RHUL was for them, influencers, witchcraft pages, ANTIFA pages, black charities, news reporters, singers, American college students, blog writers and more. Comments came and conversations started from young BAME university students, elderly white parents and everyone in between. I wrote a template email for people to use to send to university staff and all of these different communities who may have never even communicated before came together beautifully to achieve this singular goal. After this, people began making their own posts and the sharing of one piece of text started a movement of solidarity. Because of all the shares and attention, the university was eventually pressured into releasing a statement acknowledging the problem and assuring others that disciplinary procedures would be followed. I repeat: in less than two days, a university was pressured into disciplinary action by a bunch of teenagers using their phones. The end goal still hasn’t been reached, but the first victory was getting the university to admit to a problem they wanted to hide. This part of the story is not in any way to gloat or claim personal success but rather to show you just how much power we as social media users hold at our fingertips to influence change, and how easily this could be your story too. But how did all this happen? Personally, I don’t believe that a large following is needed to make this impact. If a person with 10k followers uploaded evidence of the incident with a caption expressing outrage, I don’t think it would have had the same impact. So here’s a breakdown analysis of exactly how I got my particular post to spread to widely: Analysing the post itself. The background is colourful to get your attention and your focused is placed entirely on the words in front you without image distractions. The text is written in ‘clickbait’ format to engage viewers and encourage them to click on the post to find out more. The use of the short sentence that provides an accurate summary the whole incident means that you know exactly what is going on and your naturally short attention span isn’t exhausted by reading it. The use of the word ‘why?’ at the end is also important - it leads your mind to find answers to this question for yourself before you’ve even opened the post. It causes you to question the behaviours of the university. Why IS this really happening? And when you ask the question of why, you then begin to think about HOW the situation can be improved and WHAT people are doing about it. The evidence of the incident was necessary to cause outrage - its one thing to say racism is happening but its another to see it happen. The call to action. One skill I’ve applied from experience in owning a business to this post is the importance of a call to action. For example, when you’re on a shop website, there will usually be a button on the homepage telling you to “Shop now” or “sign up here”. This is telling viewers exactly how to act and where they can find information they need. Without this direction, there’s risk of confusion as to what to do next. When customers are confused, they leave your website and don’t come back. A situation like this was likely to cause mass anger and outrage so it was vital that I use my page not only to spread awareness but to guide viewers in exactly how to act after receiving this news. I wrote an email template for people to add their names to and send to the university. This forced people’s energy to go into a productive outlet instead of just getting angry and not knowing what to do. Of course, there were some who attempted to initiate violence but I was constantly monitoring comments to remove those that weakened morale and to firmly assert my position on non-violence and solving issues by the book. Without this direction, i believe the reaction received could have been likened to a mob and sprung out of control with no productive impact. Reaching out. I spent a lot of my days DMing students, societies and influencers to repost this. If they were on Instagram, I messaged. I didn’t care who it was - situations of injustice are sometimes only resolved when there’s mass public outrage and to quote something I wrote in one of my Instagram captions “If it takes public outrage from an entire nation to stop racism, then we’ll get the nation”. We often think we can’t have an impact in activism because of a low following. I like to think of activism as a 5-layered pyramid and I’ll use the example of homelessness to illustrate this: At the very top you have justice… a homeless community receiving housing or better healthcare or whatever your goal is. But that doesn’t happen without funding. Funding doesn’t happen without people coming together. People don’t come together without being made aware of the issue. No one is made aware of the issue without someone to spread that information and say why it needs attention. The pyramid needs all of its layers to stand and you can fit in any one of those layers. Social media is a powerful tool that we underestimate greatly. From one post, movements can start, behaviour can change and entire laws can be created. Do not ever underestimate the power you have to be the change you want you want to see. Do not let injustice creep away unheard. You have a voice and you should not be afraid to use it to its full potential to create positive change for yourself and others. True influencers are those who use their voices to uplift others, whether they have 2 followers or 2 million. So, I would like to end this by saying to you, how are you going to use your voice today? General tips for effective social media activism Do not use social issues to make profit. An example of this is a jewellery company that came into business in the months following the end of American protests against police brutality. This company hit headlines when it used pieces of glass from the windows of smashed businesses to create jewellery and named its jewellery after victims of police brutality. An example of this is their infamous $240 Breonna Taylor necklace. This type of intended activism abused the publicity of the BLM movement and was an attempt to profit off the death of black victims for selfish monetary gain. Activism is not for profit and it should not be done to gain praise or money. Do not make it about you. If you are a white person posting about BLM, no one wants to read a speech about how you took a privilege test and went on a long journey to discovering that racism existed. That’s great for you, but it doesn’t help anyone else. In fact, it can be very offensive to black people that you only just realised racism existed when we’ve had to struggle with it for our whole lives. If you’re posting about a cause, keep anything you say ABOUT THE CAUSE. Be honest. If you’re a business owner promoting fair pay for workers and sustainable fashion, but your clothes are made in sweatshops by child labourers, people will call you out on your hypocrisy. You can still advocate for the cause, but its better to be honest and admit your faults with a promise (followed by action!) to improve your behaviour. Customers deserve honesty. Don’t talk like a robot. Most statements published in solidarity of a movement go something like this: “We at MadeUpBrand are committed to fighting injustice by posting this letter and nothing else… We recognise the issue at hand which we wont go into any detail about… and we recognise that change needs to be done although we won’t mention what that change is or who will bring it about… We are guilty of not being considerate enough although we won’t admit exactly HOW we are guilty… and we end this letter by encouraging you to ignore our mistakes and continue to give us money as if this never happened” Recognise it? It sounds robotic and its clear that you’re just using a template. Admit your faults. Say EXACTLY what the issue is that you’re trying to fix. Say EXACTLY how you’re going to fix it. Spoken solidarity means nothing. Actions mean everything. The overuse of slogans and hashtags within a speech also makes it sound like you’re just parroting something you’ve heard and know nothing about. Speak from the heart.
- 8 Types of People Who Annoy Artists
Being an artist is fun - you get to create what you love and, if you're so inclined, sell a couple pieces of work here and there. At least, being an artist seems fun until you remember that difficult customers exist. How difficult, you ask? Well, I went to some fellow creatives with the same question to find out what makes artists want to put their heads through the wall: 1. People who ask for free or discounted drawings "[For] People who say ‘woah that’s expensive’ and then proceed to ask why - [it's] because it’s a bespoke price of artwork that will take me a lot of time. Don’t like the price? Do it yourself or find an artist who will do it for a cheaper price. At the end of the day, you get what you pay for." - Anonymous "Being an illustrator isn’t easy. It takes a lot of mental work to draw out what you want and hoping you like what I’ve drawn for you is quite nerve racking. And don’t get me started on staying up all night to finish off the piece of art." - Anonymous Behind every pretty picture you see an artist paint is hours (and sometimes days, weeks or months) of concentration, money spent on art supplies and years of practice. If your artist is selling physical copies of their work, their budget for selling to you will also include postage, packaging, possible commission taken from the sale (if your artist is using a platform like Etsy or Asos Marketplace which charges you to use their website) and several other costs. So, with all these hours and financial costs, why would you want your artist to do all of that without compensation? It's honestly heartbreaking as an artist to hear people tell me things like: "Mates rates? Can you give me a friendly discount?" To ask me for a discount, whether you're a friend of mine or not, is deeply insulting. It tells me that you don't believe my art is worth any money. Every artist prices their work appropriately to ensure that all financial losses are covered and they can make enough profit to reproduce that work again for more clients. "That's so expensive, how about [suggests a lower price] instead?" Like any other service, art is one that deserves recognition and financial payment for the effort behind it. Every artist is a regular person like you - we all have to pay for things like bills, housing and food and, as much as we love doing our craft for fun, we deserve payment for the time and effort it takes to make the perfect item for you. You wouldn't negotiate the price of a burger at a restaurant, so why do artists get treated differently? Art is a profession just like any other and deserves just as much respect. "Creating art takes more time than you could ever imagine (and part of that time is brainstorming ideas, talking to the client, going back and forth and sketching/reworking). So please understand when fees are higher than you expect - there is a reason why they are what they are." - Lauren Rust (https://www.instagram.com/laurenrustart/) "But you didn't even do that much, why should I pay?" The very fact that you need an artist to complete a piece of work for you means that they possess a skill that you need but don't have. That in itself is deserving of some form of respect and if the artist really "didn't do that much", then you should be able to recreate it yourself. If you can't do something yourself, you better show respect for the people that can when you need them to do it for you. "But [Insert name of other artist] doesn't charge that much" If that's the case, and you prefer the work of someone else, then why are you asking me for art? "But I can't afford your prices because [insert sob story] so can I get it for free?" "People should know that art is HARD. It takes time and a lot of technical skill combined with creative direction. As an artist you’re the visionary and the technician. It’s kind of like Steve Jobs creating every iPhone by hand. That would cost a lot of money. So asking for free art is simply out of the question." - Aaronya (https://www.instagram.com/aaronya_paintss/) "I'd wish if people would understand that free art isnt an option for me since I buy the supplies and the paper and and it's really time consuming so I don't do all this for free art." - Anonymous "People who think they can ask for free art need to be aware that art takes such a long time to complete, it’s a hand crafted piece of work that takes patience, skill and talent to complete. Asking for a free piece without giving anything back for that artists time is rather insulting and makes artists feel as though their work is not valued" - Anonymous 2. People who repost work without crediting the artist "It's annoying when people repost [art] and don’t give credit as if they did it or remove the tag name and... blur out your tag name" - Daeartt (https://www.instagram.com/daeartt/) "Always add the artist’s @ or name when you want to reshare" - Anonymous Knowing how much time and energy artist put into their craft, it would be completely disrespectful to repost this work without crediting the artist. When you repost someone's work without crediting them as the artist, you're robbing the artist of an opportunity to gain exposure. You have no idea who will see the artwork you're reposting - perhaps that person's art will end up on the cover of a bestselling book, a gallery owner could see it, a news article could repost it or maybe a potential long term customer could see it. These opportunities deserve to be given to the artist and if they are not rightly credited for their work then their art could be taken and used for any sort of purpose - maybe even resold - without their permission. "Some people have misconceptions about who made the art and sometimes the repost gets more views than the original piece which is a bit disheartening." - Pink Artist (https://www.instagram.com/kottonkandyqueenie/) 3. People who think all art must be hyper realistic "That painting doesn't look exactly like the photo" Visual art means many things to many people. It can range from hyper realistic oil painted portraits to random cans of paint spilled on the pavement and everything in between. All of these styles are individual and beautiful and all of these styles need to be examined before you ask for a commission. I have had clients message me in the past to ask me for commissions, only to complain that my style does not perfectly match the details or colours provided in the photo. Personally, I am not a hyper realist artist and do not advertise myself as such. Like many artists, I paint in my own style which slightly differs in colour and detail from photos provided to me. It is so frustrating as an artist to be asked for a commission by people who haven't even taken the time to look at my style of painting to see what they're getting for their money. "Sometimes your opinion isn’t as necessary as you think. Especially if it is negative, unprovoked and unhelpful" - Chantay James (https://www.instagram.com/artworkbytay_/) If you don't like the work that an artist produces, you are fully entitled to your opinion but insulting the artist won't get you very far. Even if you pay for your art, you have no right to to insult an artist's personal life or art style. 4. "When people send very dark or low quality reference and you have to invent half of a persons face" - Brynn Eckert (https://www.instagram.com/brynniebrynn33/) Artists can often produce work that looks stunning and fantastic, but we're not magicians. If you send us a photo to complete a portrait, you must ensure that every part of the photo is visible. If half of your photo is in a dark shadow, or if you send a photo of yourself with a Snapchat filter that blurs your features, your artist won't be able to see what you want them to paint and they won't be able to do the best job that they can. 5. People who give unwanted career advice "If you wonder what people do with a fine arts degree then you need to get a little more in touch with the world around you. Observe - behind every city design, behind every ad and every product, and every tv show and every magazine spread, there was an artist. A visual artist. An art director. A photographer. A graphic designer. Take note of this and you will see it is everywhere!" - Isabela Escobar (https://www.instagram.com/isabelaescobart/) Almost every creative has had that awkward moment where they tell someone they want to be or already work as an artist and are met with the cold response of "That's a nice hobby!" or "So... when are you going to get a REAL job?" Art is a real job. The website you are reading this on was designed by an artist. The font in which I am writing this article was designed by an artist. The laptop or phone you are reading this on was designed by an artist. The chair, sofa, carpet, bus or train you are likely sitting on was designed by an artist. The house you are likely sitting in to read this was designed by an artist. Art is not an easy field to break into and not every artist will become a famous millionaire from their work. Not every artist wants to become a famous millionaire either - everyone has a different definition of success. If someone's definition of success is art that makes them happy then so be it - unless you are bound to a financial agreement with them such as sharing rent then how much money they make is none of your business. 6. "When people expect endless rounds of free alterations" - Brynn Eckert (https://www.instagram.com/brynniebrynn33/) If you don't like the work your artist produces, they will usually amend any details that you don't like if you ask politely. Asking artists to amend so many details that they almost completely redo their entire piece of artwork without being paid, however, is possibly something that may not be so easily accepted. When you ask for that many amendments, you're pretty much getting a second free piece of artwork and this may take your artist hours of work and planning which they may not be willing to do for free. 7. Customers who are too demanding of your time "It’s clear in my highlights that it takes 2-3 days to complete edits. However, some customers assume they are an exception and demand immediate edits. They should not assume they will get them the same day. They demand them with words like ASAP." - Destiny Butler (https://www.instagram.com/destinydarcel/) "It's not fast fashion or fast food... someone put time and care into devising the piece you're purchasing." - Anonymous Sometimes when you order art, you may be in a rush or hurry to get things done by a certain date, but remember that artists do not work like Amazon Prime and we are not machines that can immediately churn out new work just for you. We often have personal lives to deal with, jobs/studies to get to and, on top of this, clients ahead of you who we need to do work for. Despite you being in a rush, artists are not obligated to drop everything to suit your time schedule and you should bear this in mind when making orders. "Art is not as easy as it seems to create. Especially if you’re talented, there’s so much thought, anxieties and second-guessing that goes into each fragment of the entire piece." - Pristina (https://www.instagram.com/pristina/) 8. People who spam your comments section "Commenting “follow me” does nothing for your page engagement and doesn’t get you new followers. It drives people away, its annoying and bland. You want new followers? Find genuine ways to engage with fellow artists. All generic comments accomplish is a swift block" - Isabela Escobar (https://www.instagram.com/isabelaescobart/) Growing your social media page is hard. I understand. When artists with a larger number of followers post work, the comments section can sometimes be the perfect place to get your name out there and reach your ideal audience. It's very difficult to do anything but annoy people, however, when you spam someone's comment section by saying "Follow me" ten times. WHY should people follow you? What do you have for them to offer? If you're trying to get people to follow you just for the sake of it then you won't have any genuine followers who are really engaged with your posts - you'll just have a bunch of ghosts on your page. It is always better to have 50 followers who love and engage with your posts than 50K who don't care about you, so give people a reason to love and engage with your page in the comments. Using my page as an example, if I wanted to reach a new audience using the comment section of a popular page I would say things like: "I'm a young artist with a passion for making black art mainstream - follow to join me on my journey" "I'm a young watercolour artist trying to grow my page, can someone look at my art and tell me how I can improve?" With these comments, it is clearer what I stand for, who I am trying to reach and it is more likely to engage people than spamming a comments section with 'FOLLOW ME's. So, being an artist is fun and, most of the time, creating work for other people is a heartwarming experience. For those of who who relate to any of the types of people listed above: there are very simple steps you can take to become the perfect customer. - Credit artists when you repost their work - Respect art as a noble profession that is deserving of payment - Look up the artist and their work before ordering because everyone has their own individual style