Censored Spirit

Watch me paint this rabbit in 2 minutes (time lapse)

This is one of my art videos that was routinely censored on social media. The video would appear with a sensitivity warning that it may contain objectionable content. It did not! It is only a painting of a wild rabbit among yellow roses, as you can see for yourself.

Our spirits are censored when the very act of painting natural images is blacklisted, marked with a warning label. When I share my art, I share a vulnerable human energy. That energy is mine to keep or share. No one has the right to judge my energy as worthy or unworthy of viewing. Even if this particular occurrence was a “mistake”, the algorithms that allowed this to happen were intentionally crafted to censor material that was predetermined- without verification or representation- to be objectionable.

It may have happened because I talked about my Mom’s death when sharing the video. The word “died” may have tripped the algorithm, as it could have indicated the possibility of a violent and graphic video. But of course it was no such thing. The story behind this painting is meant to share my experience with grief, to provide hope and comfort to others. The video itself is simply a painting of a rabbit.

The word “rabbit” may have been the triggering word. I don’t want to explain why that is, as it would involve a much larger issue. Regardless, my reference to “rabbit” was literally an actual rabbit. Algorithms don’t see intent or context, and apparently can’t yet recognize that the video image was that of a rabbit, and not what that word may refer to in the criminal world.

When I shared my art video, I desired to be a source of healing and encouragement. That desire, combined with the creative energy that I freely shared, is a spiritual commodity. Imagine this commodity like a physical product or intellectual (digital) property. Sabotaging it is property damage. Preventing it from being seen (taking the video upload and hiding it away from the intended audience without permission, representation, explanation or just cause) is theft. 

It is a form of fraud when a service claims that the uploads of your intellectual property will be delivered/viewed in the manner that they describe (shown to your followers and potentially to the general public should your upload be discovered by them via hashtags, searches, etc.), but is instead secretly or openly censored for reasons that do not violate the stated terms of service. We must understand that our time, energy, and sharing has value. Our data is not meant to be used against us, to elevate some while suppressing others… and for worse motivations.

Some say that we have no rights when platforms are free to use. But we DO pay. We pay by registering for an account, participating on the platform (even if only scrolling through the feeds), and especially if uploading original intellectual content/property. These platforms generate profits when shareholders are happy with the popularity of the platforms. WE produce the data that shareholders judge when deciding to open up their wallets. Without us, platforms fail. Therefore, it is untrue that we don’t pay them. It may be more accurate to say that we work for them, without pay.

Even if you’ve never purchased an ad to boost your visibility, you have paid them with your participation. Every scroll, click, share, post, and upload are recorded as engagement- especially when we click on ads. So, in this way, we are customers even if our payment is more difficult to see. The customer relationship is so dysfunctional, it is as if we are indentured servants. We work for the platforms without pay, and must obey arbitrary rules (and secret rules) lest we be punished, banned, or even removed indefinitely. There is no representation for us, no union, no legal protections. Some are given a global online marketplace and free speech, others are denied.

I am no longer active on any social media for many reasons. I’ve been throttled, marked, hidden, threatened, listed, and “canceled”. But I don’t want to focus on these extremes, as they may not be a common experience. I want to focus on the small ways we are censored, the ways that most people don’t think about, but are nonetheless damaging… the negativity that creeps up on your spirit and causes you to SELF censor, by not sharing what you have the potential to contribute, if welcomed by a civilized society.

I would like to encourage you to give some thought about how free you feel spiritually. Do you have a Censored Spirit? No one but God has the authority to judge your heart. If you have broken no laws, no one has the right to cancel you, deny your voice, or label your art with a warning. We should not have to defend ourselves or explain our reasons for sharing what we do. 

In a free society, the burden of proof is always on the accuser, not the accused. Under mob rule and communism, we are guilty unless we can prove our innocence. That standard is unjust and often impossible, especially if the mob wants to purge you from their world. Listing, silencing, libeling, harassing, threatening, and actively seeking to sabotage and ruin another person through their reputation and business/job/income, is a crime.

It’s possible that you’ve never been a victim of this type of crime, but you probably feel the effects of it. With every post you share, you may feel the weight of the risk you take- the risk that someone will find fault with you and want to punish you.

I’ve been a blacklisted person since at least January 2017. I am no longer interested in being treated fairly in the art world or on social media. I have chosen to go my own way. Even if it means that I will never be widely seen, it is more important to me to protect my spirit. It is damaging to second guess my every utterance, my every paint stroke. I have no strings on me and I’m happier for it.

Because, when my art is censored, or when I’m rejected for unfair reasons unrelated to my abilities, the seeds of doubt are sown. I waste precious resources- my time and energy- on rebuilding my confidence and restoring my focus. The joy of creating is tamped down, sometimes to the point where I procrastinate doing new projects. I can’t afford to let that happen. If I do, I’ve voluntarily let outside forces stop me from reaching my lifetime goal of 1k finished paintings.

Whether you open yourself up to subtle criticism such as uncomfortable silence when no one responds, or backhanded compliments (small insults disguised as praise), or much bigger harm such as being blacklisted by tech companies and targeted by “activist” mobs for ruination and terror, the effect on your spirit can be immense. Limit where you share, how often you share, and take control of the feedback you receive. Set boundaries for how much interaction you allow. This isn’t about being cowardly and unable to handle authentic critique. This is about protecting your greatest resource- yourself. You have only one spirit, and you must guard it as the treasure that it is.

You don’t have to be an artist to have your creations disrespected or stolen. When you share your heart, you share your energy. In a civilized society, a certain level of politeness was expected. Today, people cast truly vile responses to people they don’t even know, and this rampant crudeness has made the typical pettiness and catty behavior from people we DO know slip under the radar, completely unchecked. 

Often, “friends” and family are emboldened to say unkind things in response to public posts. I personally don’t allow this to happen to me, as I quit those sorts of platforms years ago. Please consider how much hold this type of negative energy has on you. Is it time to cut back or quit dysfunctional habits that instill an anxious, addictive compulsion to check, check, check to see what you’re missing? Because what you could be missing is YOU… your natural organic self… the person you’d be if others weren’t influencing you.

I’m much freer, lighter, more focused, higher energy, and happier since I quit social media. I started by cutting back on how many platforms I was on until I was only active on one. Then I dropped that one as well. Most platforms I’ve deleted my account, but a few I keep open so that people can still see the art videos I posted in the past. I don’t visit those, so in my mind they are closed. You too might have to leave a few loose ends open, but as long as you resist the urge to go back to those platforms, it’s fine not to go scorched Earth. There may be a reason you want people to be able to contact you.

I urge you to cut back on the dysfunctional dynamic of social media if you haven’t already done so. Manipulated packaged contrived ways of socializing stifle the organic authentic nature of how we are meant to communicate as human beings. I think you’ll find that you are more harmed by this than you realized. We are not products to tick a like button on, or vote up or down. We are not gladiators thrown into a spiritual pit for the entertainment of mobs. We are precious human spirits.

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