I Created A Mildly Successful Internet Thing And I Still Feel Unhappy

Dave Shaw
Dave Shaw

Last Sunday, I posted some artwork on Tumblr. About an hour after I posted it, it had accumulated something like 400 โ€˜notes.โ€™ A lot of people I knew had โ€˜rebloggedโ€™ it or โ€˜likedโ€™ it. It felt good to create something that other people enjoyed, I felt like I was contributing positively to an artistic community. It was nice.

Three days later, that same piece of art had accumulated roughly 14000 โ€˜notes,โ€™ making it my most popular post on Tumblr. It has been reblogged by people with usernames like โ€˜LA-DICKSUIT-XXโ€™ and โ€˜IM-THELITTLE- MERMAID-DUH.โ€™ I visited the blogs of some of these people and saw my artwork next to photographs of shoes and โ€˜Tyler the Creator.โ€™ My initial excitement decayed into something closer resembling anxiety or shame. I sat at my computer and shook my head quietly.

I felt like my mildly successful artwork had become a disposable array of pixels by which strangers could express their individuality. I began to suspect that all of my previous artwork was failed attempts at becoming a disposable array of pixels by which strangers could express their individuality. One person had posted my artwork and wrote โ€˜gpoyโ€™ below it. I was unhappy.

Tumblrโ€™s accounting of total โ€˜notesโ€™ attributed to individual posts was the problem, I thought. Because every bit of content on Tumblr displays its total accumulation of โ€˜notes,โ€™ it was almost impossible not to equate that number with the โ€˜valueโ€™ of that bit of content, I thought. Everything gets a number, some things are better than other things.

I realized that if my โ€˜goalโ€™ on Tumblr was to generate content that was well-received (i.e., content that got a lot of โ€˜notesโ€™), then I had basically achieved my goal. It was like I had left the cave and found the outside of the cave just like the inside of the cave. Plato was wrong, I thought. There is no sun. Not on the internet. I had pursued hollow success and was still surprised to find it hollow. I had become a disposable summation of my โ€˜notes.โ€™ I drank a glass of water while sitting on the grass outside. Water from the grass soaked through to my skin. It was nice.ย TC Mark

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    Reblogged this on Big Blue Dot Y'all and commented:
    Internet fame. It isn’t all peaches and cream…

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