These Super-talented Illustrators are Exploring our Obsession with Social Media

Art that shows how we have the increasingly negative attitude toward social media, but yet, how we can’t bear to be free of it.

Ben Fearley

Many artists are inspired by everyday life and what surrounds them, so it’s no surprise that when social media crept into our daily routines, some started to explore and reflect on the emotional, social and greater societal repercussions of our interactions online.

We’ve discussed the relationship between artists and social media in a range of different situations at Digital Arts before, including what social media has done to political graphic design and art, the importance it plays in gaining clients when starting out as a freelance illustrator, how it affects what clients want – or the power it has to make art 'viral' – and most recently, how it can negatively affect our mental health.

But it’s not just us talking about social media. Fake news, the Cambridge Analytica scandal and Facebook’s loose data protection have been in the spotlight this year, contribute to a growing awareness of learning to use social media healthily and responsibly.

Here we feature personal projects by artists which explore our different interactions and habits with various platforms, and the potentially destructive role it plays in our lives, but yet, how we can’t bare to be free of it. Mike Campau, Andrei Lacatusu, Sharmelan Murugiah, Paolo Beghini, Ben Fearnley and Igor Kozack explore themes of addiction, self-esteem, jealousy, searching for validation, and ego-boosting habits.

US digital artist Mike Campau explores the increasingly dark, anti social media public perception with his dystopian Antisocial series – the title itself alluding to how feeling social online can ironically encourage us to be more antisocial within our physical environments.

Taking Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Instagram and Behance and transforming the brands we usually only see on a digital screen into tangible, neon road signs, the scenes becomes all the more sinister.

See more of Mike's Antisocial series

Each neon sign reveals common truths about how we can perceive, or use, the individual platform and subconsciously sign up to its culture and unspoken etiquette, such as using Instagram and Facebook to portray a highlight reel of our lives, and Twitter to voice political views based on what others are saying around us.

See more of Mike's Antisocial series

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Brands that normally rule our online worlds, and therefore sometimes our real worlds, are rarely presented as destitute and on their way out. So there’s something captivating about seeing Silicon Valley icons, and game changers of the western world’s adoption of social media, in the shape and form of derelict, Las Vegas-esque signs. It paints a striking image of their mortality.

Self-taught digital artist Andrei Lacatusu has created 3D visualisations of the social media brands we all use everyday – Facebook, Google, Twitter, Pinterest, as well as Tinder – in the form of rusty, falling-apart and neglected neon signs – a stark contrast to the slick, shiny digital versions we see on our phones, and the slick, shiny versions of ourselves we upload to them.

See more of Andrei's series

London-based freelance illustrator Sharmelan Murugiah partnered with us to open up about his experience with depression for Mental Health Awareness Week, and he mentioned social media as a negative influence.

"The growing effect of social media on my work can also make you feel pressured. Seeing work pour out of other artists social accounts even though I know we use social media generally to present the best of ourselves online," he says.

You can read Sharmelan's personal story here, or learn more about how social media affects freelance illustrators who've experienced depression, anxiety, addiction and more.

This illustration is part of his personal series exploring the effects of social media on mental health.

Italian illustrator Paolo Beghini created a personal series visualising the side effects of specifically using Facebook – "one of our favourite daily activities".

See more of Paolo's series

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Illustrations in the series poetically explore the patterns of Facebook behaviour, such as posting images to seek attention, validation, wasting time checking it, the paucity of language, and easy labeling.

See more of Paolo's series

New York-based artist and designer at Vault49, Ben Fearnley, has created witty 3D illustrations that visually communicate how each social media platform impacts how we connect with each other, and the individual nature of how we interact differently with each platform.

For example, binoculars for Facebook represent how much we observe other people’s lives through the medium, 'Insta-feed your ego' as a play on words on the glamorisation of Instagram and a megaphone spilling out hashtags explores the constant circulation of angry tweets on Twitter.

See more of Ben's social media reality series

"Each one of these platforms encourages a different kind of communication and the amount of time we spend on social media has skyrocketed. I challenged myself to create a visualisation of how I could represent each social platforms user interaction in the most simplistic way that people could relate to and find conceptually amusing at the same time," says Ben.

Ben's also created an illustration series transforming iconic emoji faces into 3D sculptures.

See more of Ben's social media series. 

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Polish illustrator Igor Kozack, aka Rocketboy, explores how addiction to social media, and the desire to share our lives digitally to gain reaction, can sometimes remove us from reality.

See more by Igor Kozack.

See more by Igor Kozack.