In October 2020 Artquest withdrew from Facebook and Instagram for promotional purposes.

Reflecting on discussions amongst our staff during a two-month pause of Facebook and Instagram, we decided to withdraw from Facebook and Instagram for programme promotion.

Online social networks have repeatedly failed to act on reducing harm for their users, leading to a call for an advertising boycott in July 2020, amongst other scandals. Facebook responded to some of these claims online in September 2020.

We noticed an increase in transphobic and other negative comments on our pages. In this year of EQUITY (extended to the end of 2021 due to programming changes required by the COVID-19 / coronavirus pandemic) and in light of our commitment to review our processes and budgets in support of Black Lives Matter, it would be hypocritical to continue to spend money advertising on these platforms – and, even if not spending money, to provide them with data that they monetise.

We have an extensive social network audience – at the time of withdrawal, around 17,000 likes on Facebook, 5,500 followers on Instagram, and 28,700 followers on Twitter. Withdrawing from Facebook and Instagram will have a negative impact on our website users and reach, which we will mitigate with other marketing programmes instead. We are prepared to defend this decision with our funders and partners.

What we’re doing with our networks

We will no longer create posts or administer comments or messages on our Facebook page. It will remain online for now, to direct artists to our website and other services. We will monitor traffic to the site from Facebook and remove the page once this reduces to a low level.

Our Instagram page will be used for takeovers by artists we work with who wish to do so, although we will no longer create posts related to our programme. As this network is more visual and has an established following, artists that we work with on our projects can use it to present their work in progress and promote their own channels outside of social networks if they choose. We will continue to monitor use and traffic from Instagram and may withdraw completely in future.

We will continue to use Twitter to promote our programme, link to and share the news of partners, and promote useful opportunities to artists. We will also get better at calling out bad practice and amplifying the voices of artists who experience structural barriers in the arts. Alongside this, we will post regular reminders on safe social network usage.

More emphasis will be given to our own newsletter, and we will develop this to create targeted segments to keep it relevant to different groups within the arts – artists, artist-led activity, and higher education professionals.

In 2021, our 20th anniversary, we are already planning an extensive website redevelopment that will include bolstering and improving our Exchange network to enable artists to better link to each other outside of social networks.

What we’ll do instead

Each year we spend around £4,000 on marketing, much of it with social networks. We will spend this instead direct to artists, paying artist-led projects to promote Artquest on their newsletters and / or websites. Our priority will be supporting projects led by Black and minority ethnic artists, disabled artist groups, groups supporting migrant artists, those from working class backgrounds, groups supporting women and artist parents, and those supporting trans artists.

If you are a member of an artist-led group, gallery, studio, workshop, network or other project supporting artists from these diverse backgrounds, please get in touch to talk more about our plans. A formal call-out for submissions will follow before the end of 2020.

We are also developing plans to commission or license work from artists to appear in our regular newsletter header, also prioritising work by artists who are under-represented in the arts. More information and an open call for works will follow soon.

We’re also planning to formalise co-promotion opportunities with our partner organisations on our newsletter to help diversify our audiences and bring more opportunities to artists.

We are keen to hear your thoughts on this move, and invite you to email Russell Martin with comments.

Tips for social networks

To avoid the worst addictive effects reported about social networks, consider the following:

  • Turn off notifications and app badges to break the link between social networks unexpectedly taking up your time
  • Consider uninstalling or deleting apps that you feel waste your time or do not support your wellbeing
  • Decide how many hours a day you want to spend on social networks and install screen monitors to tell you how much time you actually spend online
  • Consider anonymous browsing to reduce the amount of data you share with social networks – Qwant, DuckDuckGo and Firefox all have options and plug-ins to block social network tracking
  • Avoid clicking on recommended links after watching a video or reading a story – choose your own content to avoid rabbit holes. Some extensions for Chrome can block recommendations
  • If you find something emotionally provoking online, fact check it before you share. Either perform a simple internet search or check it with fact-checking services: BBC News Fact Check, Full Fact, FactCheckNI, Fact Check from Channel 4 News and Ferret Fact Check are the main UK services.
  • Avoid so-called ‘clickbait‘ advertisements – by clicking, you help create a financial incentive to social networks and advertisers to continue
  • Aim to get different points of view by following people with different opinions from you – although avoid those who treat other people’s identities and existence as a matter of opinion or debate
  • Talk to your peers about your action offline and find out what other people think about social networks

Additionally, if you are a carer or parent for young people, consider:

  • Not allowing devices in the bedroom, or limiting it until a certain time each day before bedtime
  • Do not allow young people to use social media until at least 16, and review their use with resources from the NSPCC
  • Agree a ‘time budget’ with your children to decide how long they want to use social networks
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