Note: if you’re a full time cosplayer or photographer then this article wasn’t quite written with you in mind. But you might gain something by reading through it as well.
Rob: Wow, social media sure can suck at times, huh?
AllyBelle: It really can!
Rob: You recently took a break from your cosplay social media accounts… which I must admit when you brought that up initially I was a bit surprised by it.
AllyBelle: It was pretty sudden. It was something I kind of decided on the fly honestly. I was scrolling through IG and suddenly I just felt sick that I was spending so much time on it. I was disappointed in myself for being so concerned with how my account was doing and how wonderful everyone else is on social media. So I decided to take a break right then and there!
Rob: Yeah, the fact social media brought in simpler ways to interact with posts it also introduced this really weird way for people to start measuring themselves that I don’t think people had really ever thought of. And then when you throw on top of that the fact that there algorithms behinds the scenes based on a number of mostly unknown factors which the platforms choose how to show things… it’s a fake measurement of anything really.
AllyBelle: Exactly! It’s exhausting trying to figure out algorithms to gain more attention and likes to measure whether or not we think we’re worth something. We’re people. And people are far more than their social media accounts.
Rob: Very. When I think about what we’re doing with MTA I knew that we were going to have an uphill battle with regards to social media especially in the space we’re working in. So there will be some steps I’ll take to get more activity on a post (and I’ve actually found a few cool cosplayers/photographers that are doing work similar to ours this way!) But once I’m done with the post aside from liking and responding to comments I don’t touch IG until I have a good reason to. We have better ways to spend our energy.
AllyBelle: I think that’s a great strategy! I think IG and Facebook are wonderful platforms for connecting with people who share similar interests. MTA was established because we were able to formulate ideas online then meet up in person to execute them and that grew to meeting more people to the team we have now. But at the end of the day, I think sharing our content on IG and interacting with people who have the niche interests we have is really where it should end. People spend so much time and mental energy on IG. Scrolling and comparing themselves to people who spend hours getting a perfect selfie!
Rob: Those last two lines… oh God, I’ve got a lot of shit to say about that.
A while back I was watching a video from a photographer I follow and they were interviewing another photographer especially about their social media strategy. And the first thing they said was “Post everyday”. My response was “Hahahahaha fuck that!” For one none of us have the time for that. Second, what exactly would we have to share everyday? If you look at what we’re presenting with MTA and how we have a level of quality we want to achieve in our work to post something just for the sake of posting doesn’t make any sense. If something is getting posted to IG and Facebook it needs to have meaning.
AllyBelle: Post everyday? That’s way too much. If I were posting everyday it would be photos of my animals and the occasional cosplay! Our MTA shoots are something we do out of passion. We want to share our content with the world. And taking the time to get the quality we want to share is how we function. If we tried to produce a mountain of content we’d be giving out our half-assed attempts at best.
Rob: Right. And I get why they said that because with what is known about the algorithms it has been shown this works. But it leads to a number of problems. Let’s take YouTube as an example. We’re starting to hear more and more YouTube personalities burning out just because they can no longer mentally keep up with the need to have daily content or else they lose out on followers. Or even worse a personality will have a not well thought out idea and end up getting a ton of backlash from it. These can also hold true for other platforms.
AllyBelle: Mhmm. Burning out is really common among social media platforms. I’m not sure people quite understand the impact the social media can have on mental health. Forcing ourselves to see everyone’s else’s accomplishments and degrading our own self worth because of an app really isn’t a healthy habit. Or even forcing ourselves to post every day and struggling to retain creativity and sanity.
Rob: There’s a flip side to this as well. There are people who will see an image that did really, really well. And they’ll go out and do the exact same thing… sometimes even going to the exact same spot! There’s absolutely no creativity there whatsoever. And I have to wonder if there’s some of this that could also apply to convention cosplay photographers. If that’s all they see on social media and they see the numbers… will it drive them to only do the same thing?
AllyBelle: I do wonder what kind of creative freedoms those people choose to take if any at all. Being inspired by what someone else is doing is wonderful, but taking it and recreating it is just boring. I do think people are driven to do what gets numbers. Rather than what sparks conversation and genuine interest.
Rob: And that is what we’re seeing. Every so often I’ll see an article that’s all “Is social media killing photography?” No, it sure as fuck is not. Good photography will exist in the presence or absence of social media. Same goes for good cosplay. The most important thing is that we have creative visions we want to achieve. And if we inspire people through our work then even better. Those two points are way more meaningful than numbers.
AllyBelle: I couldn’t agree more! Art in any form will exist so long as people continue to be creative. The existence of social media won’t extinguish those flames. Focusing on numbers is really a way to drive yourself into a hole.
Rob: And if we never fully understand the rules I don’t see how playing along would be fun for anyone.
So for us there will be a tiny bit of work to help display things to more people… but outside of that I want the strength of our work to keep people around. Numbers be damned.