The Cost of a ‘Like’





An artist online recently posted about how he spends hours doing 3D art then gets so little feedback. That got me thinking about commenting and liking on someone’s post. I’m taking about the 3D art, the poem, short story, or whatever piece of creativity they put out into the digital world to share.

This is merely my theory but it feels like people think it isn’t necessary to comment on something they see online that they like. Surely if they like it, the artist must know they like it, right? After all, the viewer didn’t post a negative comment or give it a thumbs down icon. That must mean they like it.

Actually, no. For artists, it feels the opposite. The less feedback we get, the more we feel people don’t like out work. In fact, it’s worse than disliking our work: it’s indifferent. With no positive or negative comments and icons, we feel that our work didn’t resonate with you the viewer strong enough to act. It didn’t stir up feelings of praise or even feelings of disgust. Our work was viewed then passed over. The audience felt nothing.

It may sound like artists are clingy but in some ways we are: we need those comments, good and bad, to tell us what our audience wants. If I write three stories in three totally different genres, how am I supposed to know which ones my audience liked if no one tells me? If my SF piece was the most popular and readers want me to write more SF and to stay away from Westerns because that piece was garbage, how am I supposed to know?

We’re not asking for full-blown reviews (although those are welcome too). In fact, comments can be boiled down to three words (“I like it”, I hated it”, “Not too bad”) or even down to one word (Nice. Great! Terrible!). Just that sliver of info helps us, both in our egos and in what we need to do to improve our craft. If my Western short story is receiving several bad one word reviews and my SF story is getting several positive one word comments, I know what I should write.

Is this a case of “Do as I say and not as I do”? Yes it is. I’m just as guilty about not commenting enough. But online viewers don’t need to comment on every picture and story they come across; if you follow 35 different DeviantArt artists and several more on Pixiv you’ll spend hours commenting only. Perhaps pick out a few each day that catch your eye, whether for good or bad reasons. Maybe you liked the coloring on this painting or maybe someone drew your favorite character from The Never Ending Story. Just tell the artist that.

It doesn’t take long, less than a minute to leave a quick comment. But those comments build up. Yours may be the one the artist needs to read when they are having a bad day and want to pack it in for the rest of their life. It may be yours that gives them hope to start again tomorrow, or to keep working on a project they thought everyone hated but someone actually likes. It could be yours that makes them happy!

About J P Catton

Speculative storytelling and skewed fiction: the blog and website of author John Paul Catton.
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