Last night, I had the amazing opportunity to share my passion for superheroes to 850 people, mostly strangers, with a presentation called “Punching Hitler in the Face: Superheroes As America’s Therapy” at this year’s Ignite Phoenix. The experience was the culmination of months’ worth of tutelage under various fellow creatives, whether those friends and acquaintances knew it or not. I’ve been gleaning knowledge from fellow comic artists and poets to shape the direction of my work for the coming year, and the lesson is clear.
I don’t use that word in a rhetorical way, as an inspirational soundbyte meant to drive an afternoon’s worth of exertion until the next motivational meme comes along. I use it as a strategy, to narrow the effort to the one thing, so all else remains fuzzy on the edges until its necessary to the big picture. Basically, what I’m saying is, I like Instagram.
I’ve put off Instagram for a long time, but now I’m all in, like a kid that sets his alarm for 4 a.m. to finish the homework he should’ve completed the night before. (Or was that just me?) Instagram is the focus, the attention to the single image, without the dangling tentacle of text. Instagram reminds us to let the picture, presumably worth a 1000 words, speak for itself. It isn’t the result of social media’s destruction of the attention span; it’s a callback to when the portrait or painting was enough.
I remember the good old days of an infant Internet, when I toiled at making my Geocities page look like a real website, and when LiveJournal was my blogroll of choice because the word “journal” made it feel raw and artsy. The quick extinction of these platforms has made me skeptical of anything new. Blogger was my line in the sand; as an extension of Google, I figured it will always exist, and if someone wants to find me online, that’s where I’ll always be.
Enter Facebook. Then Twitter. LinkedIn, Tumblr, Google Plus, Flickr, Photobucket, Pinterest, Etsy, Snapchat, and dozens more platforms I don’t know I probably know. While remarkably similar, each of these outlets are also remarkably different, and useful to an artist if he knows what he’s doing. I think everyone agrees that Facebook is the torso from which all of these other limbs flail, so I’m on it as my lead comic character Speed Cameron (in an attempt to blur the lines of reality, as my comic does). Over time I’ve grown to appreciate the contrast of the “status update” versus the “blog post.” To have one forum for snippets of thought over the other for long form, it’s like choosing between drive-thru and buffet. The choice just depends on your appetite and taste at the time.
But, I’ve realized recently, we old timers are killing Facebook. We’re dragging our LiveJournal mentality into what was meant to be a mere status update, and it’s smothering what should be a roll of friends’ fleeting thoughts into a series of “See More” links and sales pitches. I’m just as guilty of this, but suffering from the weight of text, Instagram is my diet, demanding smaller soundbytes, requiring viewers to chew the morsel instead of gorging on a meal. Gram may pay homage to “telegram,” but it also hints at the post’s unit of measurement, as in, a small one.
Obviously, you’re here (and if you’ve made it this long, there’s hope), so the blogs still exist. Amazing Arizona Comics is the comic, KaraokeFanboy Press is everything else, but with just a few posts visible at a time, and the themed tabs above help you find the work. Finally, I’ve made something that looks like a real website! My Instagram is the torso from which my limbs will flail. It will stand alongside my blogs as the shorter, snippy sidekick. Remember the Chip ‘n Dale’s Rescue Rangers Nintendo game, when Zipper the fly would temporary buzz about your avatar, knocking out enemies at a distance? That’s Instagram, quick, short, and sweet.
Ignite Phoenix truly sealed the deal, with its succinct, image-driven focus. Ah, there’s that word again, in its purest sense, as the audience sees only the presenter standing before a mere twenty pictures of his choosing -- no parters, no props, no sound effects. Interestingly, Ignite Phoenix insists that the presentation isn’t the thing, but a pitch for what your thing is. Sometimes we all need a reminder: the social media isn’t the thing, but the pitch. And if you want the pitch to get into the strike zone, you have to narrow your eyes . . . and focus.