My Website Manifesto, or Becoming a Webmaster as an Act of Artistic Self-Care

I figured I might as well make one of these!

It feels almost compulsory, as a neocities user. Most people with websites here have little manifesto pages explaining the ‘why’ of their websites, and there’s a lot of overlap in sentiments. There’s a huge collection of them here, curated by the yesterweb. I’d be here all day if I were just writing about why I think social media is bad and the importance of returning to personal websites, and many other users have put all of this a lot more thoughtfully than I feel I can.

Maybe some other time I’ll make my own ‘why social media at large sucks’ post, but this manifesto is specifically about my motivations for picking up coding and webmastery as an artist, and in relation to regaining control of the presentation of my work.

Part one: Nostalgia. Sort of.

I’ll probably make a post some other time about my personal internet memories of things like personal websites, old communities I used to frequent and hand-coded art sites. This nostalgia section isn’t really about the ‘better’ times so much as the ‘less bad, i guess?’ times. Memories of the ‘big’ social media sites, back when they were a little less insufferable and evil.

First, the issue of personalization. Do you remember when youtube and twitter used to let you set up the layout of your page with backgrounds?

Even something as simple as the ability to set up theme colors on your own twitter page has been locked behind a $3 subscription fee, which is… pretty fucking grim to me.

Beyond just being visually boring, it’s pretty evil that while these websites have become more and more geared towards capitalizing on and wringing “content” out of the individual, their presentation gets more focused on scrubbing away as much ‘you’ as possible. 

Make us money by monetizing your work and identity, but don’t even think about trying to make a comfortable space out of the place you do it from!

Everyone knows the machinations of social media on a technical level are evil. The algorithms and hostile communities and grind for engagement. For this post, I’m putting all of that aside and focusing more on the visual: I think the damage that social media does to your relationship with your art starts even before any of that comes into play. I think it starts from the look of the post itself.

Part two: The box.

For the past few years, twitter has been my art posting site of choice. I know that twitter isn’t an art website. The point of twitter is to be an endless feed of bite-sized information to scroll past. The search function barely works, and eventually you can only scroll a profile so long before more tweets just stop loading. Functionally, a tweet only really exists for the three seconds it takes to read it and thumb past it. There are many artists on twitter that I adore and would not have found if not because of the website, but it isn’t a place where art can really live.

For all of twitter’s other issues, I think the real breaking point for me when it came to my art is the way it looks.

There’s a specific instance I remember of hitting ‘post’ on something I’d put a lot of work into and seeing it get cropped into that awful aspect ratio, something meaningful cramped into that horrible unflattering little square and knowing it would exist to most people scrolling the timeline for only a few seconds. Maybe this is a little dramatic, but I think I realized seeing my art presented in such an impersonal way has been kind of… chipping at my spirit, artistically.

I don’t say this to guilt people into opening my art in another tab to stare at it in full resolution. Twitter by design discourages your engagement with a post lasting more than a few seconds.

I realized that I've started thinking about my art within the constraints of the timeline, and social media has kind of trained me out of taking up space. I draw smaller, less ambitious pieces, because I know most people aren’t going to bother looking at the full piece. I worry that the impression people get from me as an artist is being kind of shallow, because I shy away from even bothering publically posting my more personal and meaningful, less ‘fun’ artwork to an environment like twitter. I’ve almost forgotten that I am allowed to curate a space where people can spend meaningful time with my art.

Even as a viewer of other people’s art, i’m frustrated by this. I get how easy it is to just toss a picture onto twitter with one click and be done with it, but I hate how there are so many artists on twitter whose art I love to look at but i’m forced to navigate twitter’s barely-functional media tab page to get to.

Part three: You. Yes, you.

I’m not saying you should abandon twitter completely, especially if you rely on social media visibility for your livelihood. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting to share your art and get feedback on it. But I really, really, really don’t think that a media tab on social media should be the only place your art exists.

I think a lot of people don’t see the point of making galleries if they consider themselves a hobbyist doing art for fun rather than professionally. A gallery does not have to equal a polished portfolio site, and your art taking up space isn’t something you need to ‘earn’ by being professional or popular. You deserve a space for your art to be housed that looks the way you want it to. You deserve a functional gallery and archival system.

You don’t even have to do something as involved as making an entire homepage from scratch– maybe you don’t know how to code or don’t have the time for it. That’s fine! There are so many free to use premade html pages you can use, or drag and drop editors like wix and weebly and carrd. There are blogging platforms like blogspot or fc2 or dreamwidth. Hell, you can even just make a blank html page that you dump images onto.

I just want to be able to browse your art!!! And even if you don’t care about other people seeing it, I think it’s a good thing to do just for yourself.

My resources page includes an exhaustive amount of website building resources, and I’m continuously updating it. I’ll likely be adding a section specifically for art websites sometime soon. I am so serious about the importance of making your own website that if you have questions about making a page just for your art, you can email me and I’ll help you out.