I often hear things like “I only got 10 likes”, “I only have 100 followers”, “I only have 10k followers”, “I only sold one painting”. “I only… (insert your own)”. We want more of everything and often don’t even know why, it just seems like a right thing, adult things. We want to make more money, own more objects, have more friends, attract more followers. Don’t understand me wrong, I am no different, or dare I say I wasn’t? I think our egos just like a pat on the back in a form of another milestone, another goal reached. We compare ourselves to other with no deeper reason and just want to get what they have, and of course we often look at those which have more. And yet we don’t see what we have already achieved and don’t really understand what those achievements mean.
Once I hit 10 000 followers it really hit me back. Suddenly I realised, shit, those are actually real people. It is not “10k”, it is a ten thousand humans. Smaller city or a bigger village. Even if there is 100 people which followed you, of which you don’t know the majority of them, that is 100 individuals, human being which took their time to look at your stuff you put out there and they actually enjoyed it so much they want to see more of you, so they follow you. Those are folks with jobs, partners, kids, dogs and cats, houses and gardens and their own lives, hobbies and destinies. They are often people “outside” Instagram, just a regular everyday gals and guys, they don’t understand all this algorithm drama, they just enjoy what we do.
One of the things which made me totally change my view on this whole numbers game was an article from Kevin Kelly called 1000 True Fans. It is ridiculously practical but mind blowing article! And honestly, who need hundreds of thousands or millions followers anyway? Some people do I guess, but I am pretty sure most of you don’t. Once you have some sort of skill or craft, you don’t need masses. You just need all those right people, those which really want to follow you and love everything you do. These are important and those matter to your recent and future work. You can see yourself that there are some followers which are just glad you are posting and they just like what you do for you. They will rarely complain or dislike something. Those are your diamonds and you should take care of them!
And those who unfollow? Good! Because they were not the people for you, they were nor your tribe neither your future friends. It is sort of like not breaking up with the boyfriend you know is not any good. Instead of trying to convince yourself and him that you are a perfect match, you could already use all that effort on someone who appreciates you. I used to get so disheartened when my numbers were going down or people didn’t like my new picture enough. But slowly but surely, with working on myself, I care less and less. And as Tara Swiger amazingly explains in this podcast episode, with every other no you are statistically much closer to the future yes. (I love her and her podcasts are totally life changing, promise)
So when my self doubt really creeps on me, I try to imagine all those people in one room. Those which voluntarily clicked on my Instagram profile and click a little heart under every picture. Those who read my thoughts and communicate back! That would be bloody concert hall in my case, but even with a couple of hundreds, phew! Noone force them to follow me, noone paid them to either (not judging here). They just genuinely like what I do. If you think about it, it is such a privilage to get such an instant feedback and respond. If you look back in history, well, most of the artist never really found out they were appreciate until they were long dead. Nowadays we are in touch with out audience in one click. And they are not only numbers, they are human beings, so don’t forget that.
Lovely post, full of wisdom. My following is small and growing so slowly. I’ve been frustrated and sad about it lately but I’m taking what you’ve said on board. I need to step back and feel grateful for each of those dear people. I’m going to check out the podcast too.