Today, sharing art on social media is like running on a treadmill forever. At least, that’s how illustrator Lois van Baarle describes it. “You have to post constantly,” Van Baarle, who got her start in the early aughts on DeviantArt, explained. “Otherwise, the algorithm decides you’re not interesting, and will not show your posts to your followers.”
Before big tech shepherded the vast number of online users onto a handful of sleek websites, there was a scrappier internet—where offbeat chat rooms and eccentric niche websites reigned, and carefully crafted “away statuses” were a kind of personal branding—back when you could be away from the internet. Until attention spans became a commodity, the internet was dreamed of as a “bastion for people to direct their own education,” as Charles Broskoski, co-founder of internet bookmarking site are.na, remembers.