Nearly all of us have been in this situation at some point in our lives. You just posted the funniest meme you’ve ever seen since yesterday, quite possibly the deepest thought you’ve ever put to words, or maybe it was a vacation picture you’re sure all of your friends and followers would be thrilled to see. Then you wait. So much waiting. It seems like an hour has passed. It’s been fifty seconds and I only have ONE like?! You refresh the feed a couple minutes later. The negative thoughts begin to run through your mind. I have 783 friends, how have only 25 liked my post? Has everyone unfollowed me since yesterday? Did I post too many things recently? Am I an annoying person? Why can’t I just get more people to like me? Maybe I just need to post one more thing to get their attention!
As someone who’s sat staring at the array of light-emitting diodes in the corner of my monitor, waiting for the notification button to illuminate, I can attest that garnering approval from your friends on social media is a force like no other in our digital age. As a matter of fact, if you type “our brains and social media” into your preferred search engine, you’ll likely get over 4.5 million results to comb through. The studies done by professionals are more thorough, but effectively, each “like” we get triggers a release of Dopamine that our brain relates to a reward. The more you get, the more you want, and if left unchecked for some people, can lead to serious addictions. As an artist or designer (or anything done with creative process), seeking out approval for your work can mean wading through a lot of emotions that can range from joy to abandonment.
When the opportunity came up to write this guest blog for Arts With Love, I was unsure of what my topic would be at the time. I pondered a few life-lessons that I’ve learned over the years, but I decided the best way to figure out what I was going to do would be to make sure a previous blog hadn’t already covered the material I was thinking about. I made my way through all of the blogs, enjoying each bit of experiential truth that Abby was sharing and appreciating her dedication not only for writing but also her investment into everything that AWL stands for. It was at the end of the most recent blog that a subconscious realization triggered an actual thought; Abby had been putting all this effort into writing and sharing her thoughts about the creative process, but likes and comments were found to be few. Sure, there could have been comments and discussions or texts outside of the AWL page, but I only had the information that was in front of me. It would be easy to look at the theoretical “return on investment” of her writing and conclude that the effort wasn’t worth the benefits.
At that point, I still hadn’t confirmed a final direction for the writing, but an uncommon occasion a few days later sealed that trajectory. I say uncommon because it involves change. Not the change that happens with temperature or weather, but actual, physical coins. Through the embarrassment of a parking-ramp fiasco that ended with me leaving a envelope in an empty guard shack with fifty-three cents and a note detailing that it was all the currency I had in my car to pay for my parking, I vowed from that day that I would always have at least $5 in coins in my vehicle at any given time. It usually takes between six to twelve months for the container to fill up, at which point I’ll cash it out and start over again. It was brimming, so I dumped it out on the table to get a rough estimate of how much cash I’d get in exchange when I brought it to the bank. As I was sorting, the stack of quarters caught my eye.
I’m no stranger to decorative quarters, as I had collected the whole ‘50 states series’ that started releasing five new quarter designs every year starting in 1999. Apparently I had been out of the loop for a while, because I was somehow unaware that another fifty quarter collection had been started several years ago. As I appreciated the minutiae of each coins reverse, I had a convergent thought similar to when I finished reading through the blogs; the artists and sculptors that designed these pieces of currency had spent hours each day, likely for weeks or months at a time to make something that most of us want nothing to do with because it jingles or weighs too much in our pockets. Be honest with yourself right now and try to remember the last time you took more than two seconds to appreciate the detail of a coin.
We’ve been in a multi-week series at our church titled “Anchor Verses,” which are prominent Biblical truths that we can hold onto when the world around us seems to be a sea of roiling water. Each person will have different anchor verses for their lives that have been applicable for a particular season they’ve gone through, but one of my personal favorites that I’ve gone back to consistently for the past thirteen years has been Colossians 3:23-24. I was in the middle of a design degree back in 2008, and being around hundreds of exceptionally talented artists and designers had me questioning if I was cut out for such a field. I was comparing myself to others and based my success on peer and professorial approval. Coming across the verse in Colossians hit me hard because it spoke directly to what I was dealing with at the time. It states "whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve."
When we get caught up in the distraction of seeking acceptance and approval from the people around us, we’ll eventually end up at a point where the reward we get feels empty. It’s the reason we feel a tinge of depression when our social media post didn’t get as many likes as the last one, or being sad that a TikTok video we made has, in fact, not gone viral. God created each of us to have particular strengths in creativity that would point others to His goodness, so when we try to please men instead of working in a way that pleases God, we’re investing our creativity in a reward that is fleeting and unsustainable. Trust me, I’ve been there.
The next time you’re wondering why the likes aren’t piling up as you think they should, or you’re concerned over how a song you’ve composed, a painting you completed, or perhaps a blog you wrote will be regarded, remember to think about whom you’re seeking approval from. Maybe it will trigger a memory of the medallic artists who spend untold hours designing the backs of coins that are rarely appreciated by the masses and perhaps also remind you that seeking the Lord’s approval is greatly more rewarding and lasting than the approval of men. When you feel like your efforts have gone unnoticed or that no one around you appreciates your work, remember that God notices and loves you. That’s the one ‘like’ that really matters. At least, that’s what I’ve found.
Hi, I'm Abigail Dorn, the founder and director of Arts With Love.
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