Or how social media makes us feel empty inside.
Since I was encouraged to make this public, I've edited this journal to make it more focused. I may write another journal later about my classwork writing experiment.
The original journal included this:
In other news, I'm seriously considering finding another 'home' site to replace dA. I'm not saying I'm leaving or anything. But dA is falling apart right in front of us. I was having a conversation the other day about this, and I mentioned how dA is basically becoming facebook with a different color scheme and back when I joined, it was because I wanted to be a part of a community of artists who supported each other. That's how it used to be on this site. Looking back on it, it really becomes obvious how far dA has fallen since then. I said that without really thinking about just how true it was, but looking back at the changes really highlighted the truth of what I said.
I'm not bashing the admins, either. Most of them are hardworking people trying to serve the people they're supposed to represent. I know they want to bring new people to the site and prevent people from leaving for other social media sites. However, I think they've done themselves a disservice by ignoring the general sentiments of the community. They make up their mind about what they want to do, then let the community know. Even when there's a backlash, they still go through with doing whatever they planned. It frustrates people and sows anger and dissent within the community. It makes people feel like the admins don't care what we want. I think if they were wise, they would apologize and take steps to listen to the community in a non-condescending way. Then they should actually implement the changes people want to see. It's not enough to pay lip service to opening a dialogue if you don't take the steps necessary to gain that goodwill back.
I'm sure some of my complaints are due to nostalgia. After all, I was in high school when I first joined and many of my friends were here. Perhaps I'm looking back at my earlier days on dA through rose-tinted glasses and my growing discontent is because that feeling has been wearing off. Since then, most of my old high school friends have dropped away. But I think the dA community is dying. As dA moves closer and closer to becoming just another social media site, artists are jumping ship. Instead of being a second-rate social media site, dA should have stuck with enhancing the things that made it special. After all, dA is never going to be twitter. If an artist wants to tweet, they're going to go to twitter. If an artist wants to share a status update, they'll go to facebook.
A lot of the artists I watch are migrating away from dA. While most of them still keep their dA profile, they only come on occasionally to share on here what they're doing on other sites. Tumblr seems to be one of the big ones that the people I watch have moved to, but I don't particularly like tumblr that much. People there tend to be way too uptight and politically correct. I haven't found anywhere yet to move to, so I guess it's just hypothetical at this point.
After some discussion, I've decided to clarify some of the points I was referring to.
Why does having dA become more like other social media sites contribute to the disintegration of the community? It has to do with a number of things, which I will point out as clearly as possible.
The first is on the self-focusing effect of social media. It's isolating and self-centered, which is bad for any community. Before you write me off, let me explain what I mean.
Social media encourages people to share with others their day-to-day minutia. In my comments, I used status updates (which dA has adopted from facebook) as an example. A status update is a lazy way to tell other people what you're up to. However, sharing a status update does nothing to encourage discussion. Put frankly, status updates are usually boring. There's usually not much about a status update that sparks conversation. It's just another piece of boring trivia that floats by our eyes and means nothing. It's self indulgent, letting the person who posts it feel like they're doing something when they're not.
This brings me to the bane of any deviant's existence- page views, llamas and faves. Wait, you may say. Those aren't bad things! I love getting views/llamas/faves! Well, sure. That's only natural. What you're really saying is 'I love getting attention!' And that's a perfectly natural thing to love. However, it becomes bad if it becomes the motivation for doing things. Psychologically, we know that rewarding something that is already intrinsically rewarding (that is, the reward for doing the activity is the activity itself), the person becomes LESS motivated to do the thing. When the thing is done, it's because of the external reward, not because of the enjoyment of doing the activity.
Faves are the equivalent of facebook When you think about what a like is, it's really just a shortcut way of showing approval. But, like status updates, it's a lazy way of going about it. What it really says is: 'I sort of approve, but not enough to do more than click a button.' It also says: 'I don't care about this enough to contribute anything or make any kind of commitment. Anything more than a mouse click is a waste of my time.'
Page views don't mean anything except that someone's eyes have happened to land on your page. It doesn't say whether or not they liked your work, or whether or not the work is good or bad. It just means someone looked, even if it was an accident. That, by itself, should not be a thing to strive for. At least a fave is an active response to your work, showing that the viewer at least cared enough to click a button. A view only implies that someone happened to move their eyeballs in your general direction.
Llamas, while a pretty thing to put on your profile page, are effectively useless. This isn't to say anything bad about people who like to get llamas- if you like it, go ahead and llama away. But what do llamas really say about you or your work? Nothing. How many times have you had someone drop by your page to give you a llama, and not leave one comment or fave on your work? A llama is just a pretty bauble, a shiny distraction that does nothing to help you improve as an artist or make you feel appreciated.
What all three things have in common is that they get used as a substitute for meaningful interaction, and as a reward. You don't even have to draw/write/create anything to get the reward. Instead, it's all mindless clicking. They're empty, which is why no amount of faves, page views or llamas ever satisfies the need for interaction. I'd trade every single llama I have for one meaningful critique of my work.
I'm as guilty as anyone of faving without commenting. Yes, that makes me hypocritical for saying it's a problem- but the first step to fixing a problem is knowing you have one. This is why I hate 'symbolic action'- whether it's faving, re-tweeting, giving a like or whatever. It lets you feel like you're doing something when you're not.
For example, remember the #BringBackOurGirls thing that happened when the 'Boko Haram' terrorist group kidnapped those Nigerian school girls to sell as 'brides' (aka, sex slaves to older men) after killing their families and forcing them to 'convert' via threat of death? It was all over social media, a veritable firestorm of symbolic action. Now, can anyone tell me what happened to "Our Girls"? No? I'll tell you- the terrorists didn't care about the social media outrage and after a while, people forgot all about Our Girls.
That's the problem with symbolic action. It's no substitute for real action. It lets people balm their own conscience, giving them the opportunity to tell themselves 'I did something.' They can say that, even if the 'something' they did nets absolutely no response in the real world. The whole 'BringBackOurGirls' is a far-out, extreme example of the failure of symbolic action, but it's no less applicable to the smaller scale. I use it here to illustrate my point so that no one gets confused on why symbolic action fails. It fails because nothing substantial ever really happens.
This brings me back to my point of why social media destroys community. Instead of interacting with each other -giving REAL support, REAL feedback- we cop out with symbolic actions that aren't satisfying. As people become more focused on increasing their false rewards for themselves, they ignore going out of their way to communicate with other people. You can't have a community when you're only focused on consuming- art, faves, views, llamas. You have to give, have to interact in order to create the bonds that keep a community together.
DeviantArt has become all about the self-consuming, both in eating away our own time on pointless endeavors and caring more about ourselves than about reaching out to others. Every change to the site seems to push us further and further into this self-perpetuating cycle. The people who actually value substantial interaction leave for greener pastures, leaving dA to self-cannibalize into a pale shadow of what it used to be all about.