If a Tree Falls in the Forest

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to post it on Facebook, does it make a sound?

irene-young-photographer_by-sardi-kleinOver a span of four decades I have had a career as a photographer. I have seldom advertised and rarely have I tried to get work. I never made a killing, but I made a living. My photographs have served people well enough to gain me a very good reputation. The word spread that I could deliver and, at some point, it has all amounted to over 600 CD covers, and many more promotional photographs for musicians, authors, actors, and others in the public eye. Showing my clients their beauty has brought me great joy. When I get responses like… “OMG! OMG! OMG! OMG! OMG!”…it’s not about me. It’s about our coming together with what each of us can bring to the creative act. I have had a lot of practice guiding people energetically to that safe, open, inspired space, and I know it is an acquired skill which I treasure with great gratitude. However, instead of going to my head, it has gone to my heart. I love inspiring people to be happy with themselves. Anyone can do it, and if I can help, it’s a gift for both of us.

However, what I don’t love about being a photographer in today’s world is that artists and other self-employed people have been forced into shameless self-promotion because social media has somehow become the barometer that indicates supposed activeness in one’s profession. Also, being a web designer, I am efficiently tech savvy for someone my age, but I often think about my peers (with far superior talents than I) who struggle to stay afloat in today’s sea of social media. Are we overlooking great artists, writers and thinkers because they aren’t announcing their creative ongoings? Is modern life somewhat a “smoke and mirrors” deception? Does our success lie in the telling rather than the doing? It doesn’t have to take vast amounts of effort in order to make a success of yourself on social media platforms like Instagram. “I boosted my followers with Nitreo,” a friend told me, and she now has to do very little to organically grow her online presence which means she can focus more on her work while having more people to share it with.

If we don’t post what we are doing on Facebook will the world forget that we even exist? And if we do post on Facebook, what is the best way to maintain a sense of humility?

Brilliant writers, artists, and thinkers need to stay deeply focused on their work in order to wander in the place where genius dwells. According to Nancy Milford’s Savage Beauty, poet Edna St. Vincent Millay would sit in a chair by her window without saying a word. Her husband knew never to disturb her because she would often compose a poem in its’ entirety before writing it down. She didn’t need to know everything that was going on in the world every second of the day. She only needed to stay in touch with the goings-on in her own brilliant mind.

So, perhaps the obvious solution might be to stay focused on our art, post infrequently, and try to do it in a humble, informative way. However, I am no expert on Facebook, but I know the more you post, the more relevant you are. The less you post, you become irrelevant. The following criteria is how Facebook determines what appears in the newsfeed:

  • How often you interact with a friend, page or public figure.
  • How many likes, shares and comments individual posts have received.
  • How much you have interacted with that kind of post in the past.
  • Whether or not your post is being hidden and/or reported a lot.

When one of your social media savvy friends posts a question, such as, “what was your favorite movie and why?,” they are trying to surf the algorithm wave. The more comments they get, the more people will continue to see their posts. Frankly, I cannot blame them. They are trying to stay in your newsfeed. They are also, often, doing great work in the world and want you to know about it.

So, if we do not make attempts to increase our visibility-if we do not make announcements about what we are creating, we run the risk of becoming invisible. We simply live in a world that doesn’t support the natural aging process of brilliant creative minds. Instead, it’s a slight of hand, smoke and mirrors world. If I tell you I am prolific and great, you will believe I am great, and then, the world will see me as great.

The need to be “liked” has become an annoying standard business practice. Recently, I was in a grocery store line and verbally exclaimed my reaction upon seeing a milk carton with a large Facebook logo on it. Multiple times I have gone into CVS or Home Depot and I have been asked if I will please go online and rate the cashier. It’s annoying and completely time-consuming, not to mention-an energetic invasion. You want me to take you home, turn on my computer and think about you and your job. Can’t we all just go back to having a personal work ethic?

Every artist loves someone genuinely enjoying their work. Every writers feels the hours of internal exploration are worth it when someone understands the depth of their message. Every seasoned portrait photographer is pleased when a client loves their own image. However, the driving force of creativity is not a desire to be liked. The propelling stimulus is an inner authority governing over a sense of excellence one cannot ignore. It is a quest to reach the summit of one’s own potential. It’s a peak where it doesn’t matter if anyone is around or not, you know when you hit the mark before anyone clicks a “like button.” If an artist creates a work of art in a forest and no one is around to “like it” on Facebook, can it still be great art if no one is around to appreciate it’s beauty? Yes, there is always someone around-and the artist’s reflection can always be found in the art itself.

The Wonder of the Human Mind Unplugged

Everyone maneuvers in the social media arena differently. I have never posted daily, but I have glanced at my newsfeed when I would get notified to do so. A few weeks ago, I realized that I needed to reclaim the space in my own head. I needed more time to discover the wonder of the human mind unplugged. I turned off all notifications in my Facebook iphone application and every notification on my cell phone in general. I did this by going to SETTINGS > NOTIFICATION CENTER > FACEBOOK > ALERT STYLE > NONE. I also turned off the “BADGE APP ICON” and “SOUNDS, and under ALERTS I turned off “Show in Notification Center.” Now when I look at my phone I see a useful tool rather than a electronic poltergeist constantly tapping me on the shoulder trying to get into my creative space.

Performance vs. Achievement

I now enjoy checking in with Facebook friends over a cup of joe at my morning cafe, or in the evenings after my work is done. I now understand, for me, multi-tasking can be misleading. I get a lot of things done, just not the things I truly want to accomplish. I perform, but I do not achieve.

The Count of Procrastination

The chirping, the beeping, and the whistling are over, and I have put a stop to the multiple daily invasions. The sweet sound of silence has been restored, as well as, my focus, my determination, my creative wanderings, and my peace. In the beginning, “notifications” seemed like such a polite little word. However, beware The Count of Procrastination who depletes us of our life force by the proliferation of the unimportant. It is quite appropriate that it is called a NewsFEED.

Secret To Life Has Not Changed

Whether we are age 16 or 60, we must keep our eye on the design of our own life. Though the world around us has drastically transformed, one secret to life has remain the same. Stay full of our own dreams-and stay focused on achieving them.

Creativlty, Photography, Social Media