All The World Will Be Your Enemy

Have you ever wished before, on a star, or a birthday candle, or a fallen eyelash? If so, what was the unspoken rule about making sure that wish came true?

Never telling anyone about it. Right?

Because by the “rule of wishes”, revealing your wish means it won’t happen.

As far as I know, the only exception to this rule is the Make-A-Wish Foundation, but that’s because the person making the wish is expected to die in the near future. So that’s different, obviously. But for the rest of us (presuming neither of us is near death), spilling the beans negates the effort.

So what happens when you reveal your wishes on social media? Nothing?

I have bad news. It’s worse than nothing.

To begin with, keeping your wishes to yourself means the odds are tremendous that within hours, you’ll forget all about it. If your wish does come true, you might not even make the connection. It’s not unlike praying, to God or some such. It’s a brief meditation on one’s desires and hopes; relatively harmless from a psychological standpoint. Maybe even positive.

But posting one’s wishes on social media is another story. Now the wish can be referenced; by you, as hard evidence that it never came to pass, but also by people who are jealous of you, as hard evidence that you are a failure. And thanks to the obsequious and sinister nature of social media, you will believe it.

It is impossible to please everyone, and like you might have heard, there’s no pleasing some people.

If you are a creative person, it is lethal to be in touch with the ideas and opinions of so many people. Imagine spending a substantial length of time crafting an intensely personal piece of art, and then blithely tossing it to a million critics; actually they’re not even critics, they’re pretending to be, for attention and clout. It doesn’t make sense on any level. In fact it’s self-sabotage.

Think about that; when you share your original ideas on social media you are murdering them. This is why your average “webcomic” is lettered with fonts and looks as though it took literal minutes to draw. There’s no point in crafting or perfecting it, when it’ll be shared and tossed aside in less than a half-hour. Expending actual effort makes you look like a dumbass with too much time on their hands. You’re competing with caffeinated middle-schoolers that were gifted drawing tablets and laptops. Why even buy art supplies at this point?

Have a look around this site, or its all-but-ignored sister site Ceaseless Fables. Every single piece of work I’ve drawn is in pen and India ink on smooth-surface Bristol board, then scanned, then if necessary, colored digitally in Photoshop (using a Wacom drawing tablet). When I see dozens of slapped-together meme .jpgs getting massive traction and laughs per day on social media, how should I feel? Like I’ve wasted my time? Like I’ve wasted my life?

Here’s where that nagging little voice rings out in my head, chirping but what about your fans? What about the ones who do enjoy my work, and might be hurt if I stopped being transparent with them on social media?

Well, nagging little voice, I know my fans better than you, and I know they’d be more dismayed if I stopped making stuff they like. They became my fans because they liked something I created on my own, that resonated with them in a way that other art didn’t. They want me to carry on, in perpetuity. That’s about as healthy as a creator-fan relationship can be. Before the Internet Age, no entertainer communicated with their fans one-on-one. They were buffered through a publicist, or an agent, or a fan club. Nothing was ever immediate, which gave strong or angry reactions proper time to dissipate. Instant contact annihilates desire, intrigue, and healthy anticipation.

As a creator, you will only succeed by creating what you want to see, not what you think will interest other people. If you go with the latter and fail, you will only imagine yourself rejected by your audience, and your self-image will plummet. It is impossible to compete with the dozens of thoughts and concepts you scroll through on Facebook. You’re not an AI or a computer. Just because you saw a picture of a mountaintop, doesn’t mean you’ll ever physically set foot upon it. You absolutely cannot be all things to all people… and that’s exactly what social media will make you want to be, in the blink of an eye.

Have you woken up yet to how internet ads manipulate you? Every one of them features a human being looking you right in the eye and speaking directly to you. Often it’s a beautiful woman, or a dapper man. Does it not feel like direct communication? Of course it does. You’re being manipulated, practically every single second of your life. We all are. It’s a common practice of corporations now. There’s no point in getting mad about it; the persons responsible are buffered from you, for their protection. They expect you to get mad. They want it. It’s the only emotion that gets results. They just don’t want the negative repercussions that come with it.

Mining social media for inspiration is pure folly. You will find thousands of others succeeding at things you only dreamed of, and you’ll give up on your own ideas. You will drown in the emotional effluvia of everyone else. You will convince yourself that it’s impossible to compete with millions, which is actually untrue. Of course you can, if you invest the time and energy required. If you invest those things in social media, you will quite literally never accomplish anything worthwhile.

If you are a creative, social media is your enemy, and you should treat it as such. Treat it like an enemy you want to win over to your side. Promote yourself like you’re trying to convert an entity that hates your guts. Presume you’re considered worthless, and then prove your worth. Because the reality is that social media is worthless. You aren’t. If you disappeared tomorrow, people would absolutely care. If YouTube disappeared tomorrow, people would move on to something else and forget all about it.

Trust me. I’ve been at this game a long time.

“All the world will be your enemy, Prince-with-a-Thousand-Enemies. And whenever they catch you, they will kill you. But first they must catch you, digger, listener, runner, Prince with the Swift Warning. Be cunning, and full of tricks, and your people will never be destroyed.”

Richard Adams, Watership Down

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