Being present on the internet

I grew up pretty online. I spent a lot of time on Neopets, Yahoo Messenger, Runescape, and Club Penguin, with some dabbling in AOL messenger, as a child and tween, if that tells you anything about my demographic. Later on, throughout my early teens, I spent a considerable amount of time on MOCpages.com, a now-defunct social network where kids and adults shared LEGO creations. A little later I started spending time on DeviantArt, and at some point during middle or high school I got on Facebook and to a lesser extent Instagram and Tumblr.

Then, in college, I fell off of all social medias—because for once I felt socially satisfied and nurtured where I was. Within a couple years of graduating, I had deleted pretty much all of my social media accounts. Not coincidentally, this was during a time in which I started learning about surveillance capitalism and how companies use and sell our data. I started researching privacy-friendly alternatives to major websites and programs.

In the last year, while I have continued to adopt more secure internet habits, I also decided to return to social media. I am returning to the same sites—sites, I would say, of a mostly toxic atmosphere and which are immorally run—but the reason I'm back is to create a platform for my art and attract an audience. There is a huge artistic community on Instagram, especially in the indie comics community, so I started posting on Instagram about a year ago, and I am really thankful for the connections I've made. This week I started a Patreon, and with five patrons already (!!), I'm very excited for what that space can become. I felt like I kept delaying making art, and running a Patreon has been a goal of mine for a couple years now, so I decided I shouldn't wait around for the “right time” to start a Patreon and just made the thing.

Overall, I am feeling good about the decision to get back on social media: my following is slowly growing, I'm getting more feedback on my artwork, and I even have some invitations for collaboration, which is especially exciting. I am submitting fully to the algorithm. I'm posting 3 times a week and sharing every post to my story. I even shot a cheesy promo video to let me followers know how to support my work and to let people see what my face looks like.

I do worry a bit about two things: one, that I am throwing my privacy out the window and volunteering my data to these companies more than I'd like. As things stand, I'm definitely doing that a bit, but my hope is that I can separate my art/business internet usage from my casual browsing—for instance, I can post to Twitter and Instagram in one browser and do the rest of my browsing in another. But I need to have them on my phone to access all their features; perhaps I should invest in a used phone which I can use for those apps, since they do plenty of tracking in the background. That would also be better for my relationship with my phone...

...which brings me to thing two: I don't want to fall back into my old tendencies and obsessions with my online platforms. I certainly know that I am already concerned with my follower count and the general performance of my art online. I know I can mitigate this some, but I want to draw better boundaries between work and non-work—that side of me does exist on the internet, both anonymously and publicly (like here). Where my Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter profiles exist on volatile, privately owned platforms, my personal website, my worldbuilding encyclopedia, and this blog all feel like peaceful, in-progress creative projects that I am in control of. In these spaces, I'm not worrying about—or at least not notified about—viewer counts or likes. It feels good to be writing for myself, but publishing in a corner of the internet where anyone can read if they'd like.

The write.as community, where this blog is hosted, seems fairly privacy-focused. Do any of y'all use social media? Do you use it for personal reasons or business reasons? How do you manage?

Discuss...