Katie Chappell Illustrator
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A Social Media Experiment

Hello! This is the first blog post in a series as part of my social-media-free experiment. I'm sending out regular newsletters documenting the experience.

If you'd like to join the party you can sign up here.


Sitting in the dark, my face lit only by the comforting glow from my phone, I slide through endless updates from people i've spoken to once, maybe twice, 4 years ago... friends, relatives, and people I know seemingly everything about, despite having never met them.

It satisfies the nosy bit of me, the child bit of me that wants to stand on a chair and yell "Look what I did!" It also gives this weird sense of productivity. Getting likes. It's nice. It feels good. You just post photos of things you're working on, or places you're visiting, or stuff you like and *ping*. A message. A big red heart. A handful of followers. Wahoooo. People like my work! I love sharing what i'm up to and seeing the number of viewers, likes and comments creep up. I can almost see the dopamine explosions light up in my tiny caveman brain. 

ENOUGH OF THIS NONSENSE.

It happened last Thursday morning. There'd already been this creeping dread that I had been too much of my 'work' time scrolling and liking and messaging. Nevertheless, sitting in a sunny cafe with friends, steam from coffee curling up our noses, surrounded by the smell of scones - I was excited to catch up, hear everyone's news and share my own.

But no.  "Ah Katie it feels like we just saw you! Your updates are always popping up on Instagram! We've seen everything you've been up to this month."

My heart sank.

Social media had almost killed my real life socialising. That same day I met up with another friend who is off all social media. Sometimes I forget she exists, then a text will pop up "Fancy a cuppa? x". We talked for two and a half hours, showing each other photos, properly catching up and talking at a million miles an hour. I had no idea where she'd been, she had no idea where I'd been. It was glorious! A feast of socialising! No icky feeling like an old lady repeating herself to a bored young nephew.

So that was the catalyst it took to kick off this experiment. I packed up my whiny inner social media addict, and informed the world that I'd be logging of in 48 hours. Goodbye, pocket-friends. [plz subscribe to my newsletter for updates] Don't worry. The irony is not lost on me. Millenial habits die hard. 

Twitter. A love story.

I always told myself social media was just part of being self employed. And it has really has been. Back in 2012, freshly graduated, Twitter was where 90% of my work came from. I met so many amazing people there. Charles Gillman (Parisian makeup artist extraordinaire), Megan Claire (bad ass graphic designer turned greetings card empire queen), along with literally thousands of fellow illustrators. Working from home didn't feel lonely because I had the digital water cooler to pop over to for a chat whenever I felt like it. In 2008 our animation tutor David Hails sat us down in front of the computers and ordered us to create our first 'professional blog' to record our sketches, thoughts, ideas and test animations. Mine is still there. It was one of the best things anyone ever told me to do. That blog got me the most weird and wonderful enquiries. People from far flung corners of the globe sending me emails with weird and wonderful commission requests. A portrait, a logo, a sketch of a building, Stella Artois asking if i'd like to do some live illustrating on posh glasses. 

There's no harm in social media when it's used nicely. It's a fantastic way to show your work, communicate and let people know what's happening. It's also a great way to sell stuff, get new commissions of work, stay in touch with almost everyone.

As a freelancer I think it's sensible to keep an up-to-date online presence HOWEVER, I don't think it's totally necessary to feel chained to your phone.

It is my hope that this experiment can help me to prioritise updating my portfolio, writing, and getting work done, and view social media as the useful tool that it is. 

The pros of social media

  • Keep in touch with literally everyone you have EVER swapped online details with
  • Show people that you are, in fact, doing some work and not just sitting at home watching videos of baby sloths, in your pyjamas.
  • Use it as a very current online portfolio
  • Connect with new fellow artists, designers, editors, art commissioners

The cons of social media

  • Distraction
  • Feeling the pull to look at your phone far. too. often.
  • The comparison trap
  • The feeling that it's not *really* you that you're sharing, but just a highlights reel of your life. You can create a weird illusion of success even if you feel like you're floundering in real life. Remember that Dutch girl who created an entirely fake South East Asia trip, from the comfort of her bedroom? It's creepy, yet an accurate depiction of how much we believe everything we see. "Oh maaan they must be doing SO WELL. Look at all their holidays! Their stuff! Their house!' etc etc.

In conclusion:

Social media not totally bad. Take all social media posts with a pinch of salt. Baby sloths v. cute.

Katie Chappell