Social media can make us miserable – you've likely read about studies that prove this, or you've figured it out for yourself through that sinking, self-loathing feeling that sometimes creeps in after too much scrolling past people's accomplishments and perfectly angled photos.
But there are also reports on how social media can make us feel closer to friends, which makes us happier – so how can bands and artists channel that positivity, rather than contribute to the potential sadness of their fans?
Conveying a flawless existence on social media certainly won't help. While that strategy is the go-to for tons of popular influencers and celebrities (music-industry heavyweights included), for independent artists and musicians, a packaged approach can have drawbacks. Your appeal is often rooted in the emotions you evoke in listeners; many fans are following you because of how your music makes them feel.
One study pointed to the negative impact of including strangers in your feed, and bands and artists are technically strangers to most of their followers – and an aspirational pedestal of a persona can exacerbate that feeling of distance.
We've compiled tips below for avoiding those pitfalls to instead tap into the positive possibilities of social media – ways to connect with fans, opportunities to be authentic and allow your own experiences to resonate with your followers. Read on for some suggestions, and feel free to add your own ideas in the comments.
1. Celebrate your accomplishments without bragging
It's totally normal to want to share your successes on social media; that's part of its purpose, right? But comparing ourselves to others via Instagram or Facebook can be a pathway to anxiety and low self-esteem – so how can you promote something, like the release of an album or a new video, in a way that doesn't make your fans feel lesser than?
You can't completely control how followers will react to your posts, obviously. But you can give context to your accomplishments that inspires folks to celebrate with you: Mentioning the hard work of that went into a project, the resulting pride you feel, and thanking the crew who helped you achieve it all are ways to subtly remind users that they can achieve their goals too, just like you've done.
It doesn't hurt to also acknowledge that the fans are, in part, responsible for accomplishment – it's their support that fuels many musicians' hard work, for both financial and emotional reasons, after all.
2. Check in with your followers directly
If you want your fans to feel connected to your band, talk to them. Social media is made for exactly that – so take the time to address their comments and DMs when you can. Even simply liking their responses to a post is a way of acknowledging them, and you can also post general comments to fans from time to time where you thank them for supporting your work.
3. Share an inspiring personal triumph
Not everyone feels comfortable sharing the intimate details of their life online; that's just fine, and this tip isn't for everyone. But if you are okay with being open on social media, consider how a personal story might inspire others.
We all have obstacles to overcome and challenges to face, and your victory over your own struggles could help motivate others to beat their own. Maybe you've even written a song about a situation like this – why not use social media to delve into its meaning and message?
This isn't a green light to use your problems for likes or any other kind of manipulative marketing, though. It's an opportunity to be honest, and it provides an opportunity for followers to identify with you, to make them feel less alone – because, like everyone, you're not infallible, and you've endured hardship, too.
4. Don't contribute to 24/7 social-media use
Are you documenting your every waking moment in your Instagram Stories? Do you post pictures of practically every meal or videos of you doing nothing more than sitting around? Are your daily shares in the double digits? If any of this applies to you, then you might want to consider cutting back.
On average, users are mindlessly scrolling for a total of two hours each day. That can contribute to the reduction of much-needed human interaction, and can disrupt our focus and productivity. The cycle of checking-and-updating-and-checking repeatedly is not only a time suck, but can also chip away at happiness by making you feel disconnected from actual, IRL people and, when it keeps you from getting things done, will make you feel less accomplished (and, probably, subsequently bummed out).
Try to avoid being one of those users that's constantly documenting even the most minute of moments of their lives. Instead, stick to quality over quantity in your content.
5. Be your authentic self
Whatever you post, be you. Don't resort to sharing content that's not a genuine representation of you or your band because you think it might garner more engagement. Fans want to feel connected to you, and you should try to provide that – but it's difficult to do if you're not being yourself.
Of course, this doesn't mean you can't share a super-stylish photo shoot where your entire band looks incredibly cool, that you shouldn't participate in a random Instagram challenge, that you should avoid making references to news stories if you don't typically get involved with social or political issues, or post anything else that's outside of your typical content.
Just make sure whatever you post, as an artist or for your band, that you're posting it because you legitimately want to – and not solely because you know that specific content will result in loads of likes or comments.
Jhoni Jackson is an Atlanta-bred music journalist currently based in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where she juggles owning a venue called Club 77, freelance writing and, of course, going to the beach as often as possible.