Tuesday June 11, 2013 | 09:00 AM
Posted by Rob Gould

Tanja Hollander was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1972 and she moved to Maine after receiving a B.A. in photography, film, and feminist studies in 1994 from Hampshire College. Her current project ‚ "Are you really my friend‚" was recently exhibited at the Portland Museum of Art and continues to receive international media attention. She did a TEDxDirigo talk in 2012 and has lectured through out the country about this project. Her work has been exhibited nationally at galleries in New York City and Boston and has twice been selected for the Portland Museum of Art Biennial, winning a purchase prize in 2007. In 1994 Hollander opened and directed Dead Space Gallery, Portland's first art venue for local art, music, spoken word, and performance. She founded and was the volunteer director of the Bakery Photographic Collective from 2001-2012.  Hollander is represented by Carroll and Sons in Boston, Massachusetts and Jim Kempner in New York City. She is currently a resident of Auburn, Maine.

For the first time I've given you an interview in two parts. Due to her work on "Are you Really My Friend: The Facebook Portrait Project," Tanja just had too much good stuff to say to squeeze into one post. So, I'll pick right up where I left off in Part One and here you have Part Two ...

In real life fetishes, self-curation and on being a social media scholar

As with most of my interviews, what you'll read here is a greatly condensed version of our conversation.

What do you dislike about social media?

"Obviously there are things that people do that get on my nerves, but I wouldn't call that a societal bad. There's always the 'train wreck factor.' There was before social media. And, I love the train wrecks. They don't bother me."

If there were one key learning about social media that you've learned from your work with the Facebook Portrait Project, what would it be?

"I don't know if there is one thing but it makes me think of something that Nathan Jurgenson, a social media scholar who I sat on a panel with at UMD, talks about. He calls it an 'in real life fetish.' It describes how people are always talking about online vs. in real life, and his position would be that they are one in the same. And, I guess I agree with him at a fundamental level. You hear that people are different online vs. offline and I don't think that's true. When you're talking online you have your same voice and it's the same kind of discourse. I think that's when brands often get in trouble. They try to perform in ways that's not their real voice. I mean, I hate to use the word 'authentic,' because I just don't like it in this context, and think it's overused, but it's much more interesting to see a CEO post photos of the view out his window then it is to see messages about, 'come on down and buy this sweater on sale.'"

"People will say, 'Well, you self-curate online and you don't offline and that's bullshit. You say certain things in a certain way in different places online and you do the same thing in real life. You self-curate in real life as well. What Nathan's dissertation covers is that there is not online and offline life, there is just one big life. It's just different ways of communication in different places and to different audiences. Social media may hold different ways of communicating but not a specific way. Although, I use social media a lot more professionally now, so I use more of a professional voice as opposed to a personal voice. But we do that in real life in different situations too."

"Things like bullying have always existed, it's not a product of social media. However, the Internet can just really magnify things. I mean, one of the meanest things you can do is to sic Reddit on someone intentionally. That's just mean. I wouldn't want that kind of negativity associated with me. Sometimes things just happen, but there is also a calculated way that you can do things. That's another really interesting thing I've learned."

"Now, I'm some kind of social media scholar. I was contemplating a PhD. I mean, I could at this point. I'm talking to all of these students and meeting these people who are doing their dissertations, working with professors and participating in their classes. I could totally get this. Whether I want to spend my time doing that or not is another story. I'm a photographer. There has just been this whole other learning experience. And, I can see—sometimes I really understand the way that things flow and sometimes I'm totally at a loss. But it's a really interesting the study of the human dynamics. I guess it's what we've always done as artists, but now there's just a new platform."

"People are surprised that I study how brands use social media. As if I'm studying some kind of corporate culture that artists aren't a part of. I mean, you have to understand how everybody uses it, you can't just study art people. I follow museums, I follow other artists, I follow photographers—but I also follow big brands that I think are using it well."

What would it be like for you to disconnect from social media for six months?

Laughs ... "That's a good question, I don't know. I mean, so much of it now is part of work. And, I think that's something friends don't understand. Because my Facebook is up and open all of the time doesn't mean that I'm necessarily actively engaged and I'm going to be able to answer them right away. People don't understand that I'm often posting for business reasons. Like if I'm in Portland and I have the time to be on Facebook, why don't I have the time to call and see them? Now, often what I'm doing online is about business decisions and not about personal decisions."

"I feel like I've gotten to the point where I can give myself a break from social media when I need one. Sometimes. On the other hand, sometimes I feel like I can't disconnect, whether that's true or not, I don't know. But, I feel like I'd be completely fine going to an island for a week and disconnecting. That would definitely be no problem."

"But honestly, six months? I mean, why? I mean, like why would I do that? I love when people make these huge, grand statements that they're quitting. And, then they have a new record coming out, or a new book coming out and guess what? Guess who's back on social?"

If you had one message to communicate to art students, or artists who had not used social media, what would it be?

"My advice always to students is to have a presence on the Internet and find the medium to do it that you feel most comfortable with. They all have a different voice. If you love animated GIFs then Tumblr is your place."

If you could only use three words to describe social media, what would they be?

"New platform to communicate."

Is there a person or brand that you think uses social media effectively?

@typetruck - Kyle is a visual artist and letter press printer - her eye and wit brighten my social media days

@mkramer - Melody was the producer and social media guru for Fresh Air.  She is one of the funniest  and most thoughtful people to follow on all SNS.  I enjoy Tumblr because of her.

@jbchang- Joanne is chef owner of a few very successful restaurants in Boston.  Her tweets and pictures are a great behind the scenes of the restaurant world, they are funny and down to earth.  And the last time I was in Boston I went to Myers + Chang because I adore her on social so much.  Well that and the food is spectacular. 

I want to thank Tanja for taking the time to talk with me about her opinions on, and experience with, social media.

You can find Tanja on Twitter at: @tanjahollander

You can find Tanja on Instagram at: @tanjahollander

You can find The Facebook Portrait Project on Facebook at: Are you really my friend? The FB portrait project

You can find The Facebook Portrait Project on Tumblr at: Are You Really My Friend




About this Blog

Subscribe to the
Social Social RSS feed

Social media has changed the way that many of us learn, purchase, interact and explore the world around us. And, things are just getting started. Social, Social is a place to discuss social media with people from all walks of life. No experts allowed.

About the Author

Rob works as a digital marketing & public relations consultant to agencies, brands, and individuals. He has 20 years of marketing experience. He also currently serves in a volunteer capacity as director of pr/communications for TEDxDirigo. From 2005-2011, Rob served as director of social media & agency communications at The VIA Agency (Portland). Prior to VIA, Rob worked with several PR & advertising agencies in London & Boston. He is a graduate of The University of Vermont (UVM) and a Maine transplant (2002).

Follow Rob on Twitter at @bobbbyg

His real-life interests include art, travel, writing, design, psychology, the beach, & exercise (grudgingly at times).

Previous entries

March 2014

February 2014

January 2014

December 2013

November 2013

October 2013


September 2013

August 2013

July 2013

June 2013

May 2013

April 2013

March 2013

February 2013

Further Discussion

Here at PressHerald.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)
Prefer to respond privately? Email us here.