is Cara just another platform for views and engagement rates?

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there’s that group of people asking about why ‘my engagement rates are so low?’

I got an invite for Bluesky a few months ago and I didn’t even last a week on it. “It’s like a massive party in which everyone is having a slightly different conversation to which other people may or may not be invited to, but will jump in guns blazing, uncalled for and uninvited,” is what I told my friend who sent me the invite.

“That’s basically Twitter,” she replied.

Regardless of the dismal state of my social media affairs, I joined the Cara revolution, excited to jump off the Instagram bandwagon as much as I could, though I am no longer an illustrator.

I was a little off put in the beginning because all that black background was giving me serious ArtStation / Carbonmade vibes and I did not enjoy it for the sheer fact that I personally thought AS and CM to be extremely user unfriendly, built upon a strange form of art elitism, mainly revolving around a concept/dev art core.

Though as soon as made my way through the platform, I was overwhelmed with deviantArt nostalgia, a time when I made art only for myself, no one else. When I enjoyed external validation from real people who were either a. making it in art or b. trying to make it in art. It was a place by artists, for artists.

You sign up and immediately you see art. I’m there for art. No need to establish my friend group first and fill out an extensive profile page to explain how I’m going to be the next big influencer. Art is the mainstay and that’s the first thing I see in my feed (of which I can control content percentages!)

Cara’s UX patterns very similar to what’s out there right now (X, Instagram) so first time user friction is very minimal. I kind of already know what goes where. Interactions are free flowing, personalized and intuitive, similar to Twitter. But unlike Twitter’s RT feuds and mindless back-and-forthing, Cara actually manages to keep conversations constructive and coherent by the simple act of linking threads together so that, even under a large OP thread where multiple commentators are sharing their two cents, two people can diverge and have a quiet moment to themselves without other people splitting off into retweets that take on a life of its own, out of context and eventually subsuming other conversations.

Point being, comments stay as comments, instead of diverging into free-floating retweets that lose the original thread of conversation. Retweeting in my opinion was by far the most unconstructive, anti-humanist way for people to converse in the history of humankind.

This is the crux of everything I now hate about social media. I was part of the first wave of Facebook adoptees as soon as it got off the .edu network. Same with Instagram. But I’ve learned that more platforms won’t make the market better. Nothing will change the social media landscape unless we actually have conversations as to why we’re even bothering to build social media platforms. Why people are using them. Why does the world need more than one and how social media platforms contribute to the cultural fabric of humanity.

Meanwhile, the anti GenAI movement and a generally better emotionally regulated GenZ has led to a really, really, really nice and chill atmosphere on Cara. Like, people are actually just.. so nice. Many artists are noticing how high their ‘engagement rates’ are with just 50 followers, despite having upwards of 10k followers on Instagram and basically begging for engagement from a largely catatonic IG user base.

But still, there’s that group of people asking about why ‘my engagement rates are so low?

Meta/X kinda broke us with their caustic, trauma-inducing platforms so I totally get it. Expressions like ‘engagement rates’ and ‘working the algorithm’ have entered our vernacular and become a processing framework that give us meaning for the interactions we have online.

But I wonder what people’s definition of “engagement” is on a platform like Cara. What are artists flocking to Cara for? To relive the golden days of dA?To find randos meandering into their comment section with wows and platitudes? To break record number of likes with each post? None of this is qualitative data, hence why the plague of bots and trolls continues to harass users on the daily. The only real metric that might yield for artists and creatives out of IG is e-commerce based and what does that say about the state of the creative community online?

Engagement metrics on Insta are nothing but data sets stripped of context or meaning and do not reflect human centered information in any shape or form. Unless of course, you’re considering bottom line at the end of the day. Which raises the question, is Cara another outlet for raising bottom lines? Is it meant to function as a capital generating machine? Is its value purely transactional? Or is it a space for meaningful community building, which requires time, consistency and a humanist approach to relationship building, just as it does in real life?