Monday, 05 September 2011 13:52
Last month I was working on a set of illustrations for Label magazine and now I can finally show you guys the work I did for them. So here it is!
I made three illustrations for an article debating some issues about the use of social media. If you know me well enough, you also know I have some mixed feelings about this topic and my views on it have changed quite a bit over the years. So I would like to share my thoughts on this and explain some of my ideas.
I used to try to stay away from things like Facebook, Twitter and My Space as much as possible. I didn't feel very comfortable posting private information on the web for everyone to see and I also didn't really see the point of messaging or "poking/high-fiving" my friends through social media when I could call or email them just as easily (and it would be private). So this was my view on things when I was in high school and for the most part in art school. Most of my friends were on My Space and this Dutch thing called Hives (a cheap, bad functioning clone of Facebook), but I stayed away from it.
However, this changed when I went into my final year of art school. I was very busy working on my graduation assignments and we didn't spend much time at school. This was because we had a couple of months to work on several assignments on our own. We only had to come to school once a week to discuss sketches and show our process, most of this also took place in private one on one meetings with the teachers. So I barely saw my classmates and most of my friends for a long time.
That's actually when I decided to give in to Facebook. I used Facebook to stay in touch with my friends and classmates and see what kind of work they were making or what they were doing. I was really surprised at how fast I got hooked to it. And it actually kind of scared me at times. I heard a lot of stories of digital stalkers and Facebook or Google using your profile information to personalize advertisements which are displayed while I'm browsing the web (Here's some more information on how that works). And I found these things rather disturbing to hear.
So naturally when I graduated and had the time again to just meet up with my friends like normal people do, I really considered ditching Facebook. Especially after seeing this artwork project at an exhibition: suicidemachine.org Through this website you can basically erase your entire online presence.
I started talking to a lot of different people about this and I got a lot of different responses. Some of my friends are really against social media and stay away from it completely. Others are against it but still use the media, but try to "fuck it over" or try to stay as anonymous as possible while still using it (they change their profiles every month for instance).
The thing is, I'm not sure if it actually works to just decline social media like that. I know social media is relatively new and for some people it's harder to move on to the next "thing", but you can't ignore that Twitter and Facebook have become very important tools in our lives. Especially since the the smart phone came onto the market. Social media have literally changed how we communicate.
Some years ago it was ok to wait for an email reply for a few days. Right now, if I don't get a reply from a client the same day or maybe the next day if there's a time difference, I get annoyed and start to wonder if something's wrong. I keep my phone with me at all times, so I have an internet connection and I can read my emails almost instantly and also reply instantly if it's necessary.
For instance, with this assignment there was a deadline of only a few days and in the first email the person contacting me clearly stated this (with a nice apology for the short notice). Unfortunately I had planned that day for meetings with various people (for work) and I was in Amsterdam most of the day (I live in Rotterdam). He needed a reply that day because of the deadline and I wouldn't have been able to reply on time if I didn't read over my new emails and Twitter messages while sitting on the train in between meetings.
My point is, it's possible to do things at a much faster pace now because of these new technologies. I work with a lot of traditional media and my working process usually takes quite some time, so I really love it that communication can take place at such an easy and fast pace right now. If communication with clients still took days, I wouldn't have been able to do this job in 5 days. And I don't know about you guys, but sometimes I like this fast pace. It keeps things interesting and challenging. Besides, good communication is important for me. If we can communicate fast, there is more time to discuss things and ultimately this will make both parties happier with the end result.
Secondly, social media is a really important tool for self promotion. Good self promotion can give you a really big head-start if you're a freelancer. I think there are already a lot of articles discussing this point, so I don't feel like going into this too much right now. But I can tell you that since I started using Facebook and Twitter in a different way, the number of visitors to my website didn't double, they pretty much multiplied by ten. Of course it's not that easy to do and I had a lot of help from David Jonas who is an expert at online strategies. If you guys are really interested in getting some more tips on this, let me know and I'll write a big article about it with some more detailed tips when I have more time.
Of course this increased number of visitors also meant I got a lot more attention on the internet from various people. Some of these people turned out to be very important people with job offers for me, so now I also have more work.
This doesn't mean you should sign into Twitter right now and start tweeting your ass off. there is a certain way to do things and I'm still trying to figure out the best way myself (I really like how Bart Aalbers promotes himself for instance). I just think you shouldn't think too lightly of these "silly little websites" but think about them and try to figure out if maybe they could be useful (or fun!) for you after all.
I know there are still some issues to be worked out and things are changing rapidly, but I think it's better to at least already dip your toe into this social media pool, before things become too complicated and it's going to be a lot harder to catch up. Because you might have to in the future (think of your parents or grand parents who can't use a computer properly).
As for the privacy issue; I still feel a bit uncomfortable posting all this stuff about myself to the internet as well. And I do have a friend who avoids it as much as possible because he literally got stalked in the past and he doesn't want his information displayed all over the internet. But on the other hand, is it worth it to keep that one potential stalker away from you while at the same time making it very hard for all the nice people and clients to find you? The guy was stalking my friend even though he didn't have Twitter or Facebook any way.
Plus, I think a good social etiquette will eventually develop itself for social media. Maybe now it's still too new and people don't fully see or understand what happens when you post certain information or photo's on the web. We don't know what will happen to our photo's now posted on Facebook 10 years from now and what kind of impact they will have. But on the other hand, it might be completely normal to have drunken photos of yourself on the web and nobody will think twice about it in a couple of years. Actually, I think it's already like that right now.
In Holland, unlike most countries, I can walk on the street and literally see into peoples houses if I want to. Our houses have very big windows, with no curtains or they're always open, so I can see people watching tv, cleaning their dishes, eating dinner, etc. But this is so normal here that we just don't look inside people's houses at all. You just on the street and don't pay attention to it. In fact I only started noticing this when I started hanging out with foreign people and they found the big open windows very strange.
I think a similar thing will happen with social media, it'll become a very normal and common thing. It already kind of is and this will just keep on developing. I already think it's quite strange if you don't have a Twitter or a Facebook page. How am I supposed to keep in touch with all the interesting friends I meet if I can't easily find them on the web? I promise I won't stalk you ;)