ARS BETA: Breaking the Wall of Social Media

Dear friend,

I wanted to write you an essay about social media. Is social media a wall that is dividing us, or bringing us closer together? It is a curious question that has gnawed at the back of my mind from age 21 until now (age 30).

Thank you Grace

I still remember– on my 21st birthday, I got hundreds of Facebook wall posts saying ‘Happy Birthday!’ but only 2 phone calls (one from my friend Grace, and the other from my Mom).

Which made me wonder:

Is social media bringing us closer together, or pulling us further away?

This is my thought: social media is now a metaphorical wall which obscures us from one another. Social media is like a translucent wall (slightly blurry…but you can still look through it) that divides us human beings.

For example, I can have coffee with a friend, but if they are texting while talking to me — I am still technically with them and spending time with them (which is good), yet I only have 50% of their attention. Social media (text-messaging, Facebook, Instagram, phone notifications) are watering down real-life relationships.

Thus in this way, social media is bad.

Breaking down the wall of social media

I am presenting at Stanford, part of their ‘Falling Walls’ lab. The basic idea is like a TED talk (my talk is only 3 minutes long) — and I will propose a big problem, then offer a practical solution.

1. The Problem

The problem:

  1. Social media is like crack cocaine– turning us into zombies that click, tap, and swipe (which eventually ends up benefitting Facebook/Instagram and other addictive social media platforms).
  2. Much of our “cognitive surplus” [Clay Shirky] can be used for good! What if we could use our cognitive surplus (our free time and our free brainpower) to empower other humans?

2. The solution

Mockup for a future version of ARS BETA (Version III) by Annette Kim

The solution:

  1. Cindy, Kevin, and I created ARS (Art Realization Society) as the answer. It is a productive online learning community which incentivizes artists, photographers, and individuals to give one another meaningful feedback and critique to empower one another.
  2. Instead of just ‘liking’ posts– you can give real feedback that empowers the other person. You can ‘keep’ or ‘ditch’ their pictures, which will help assist them curate their photography portfolios. Also, with critiques, we can provide meaningful and constructive critiques– to help empower the other photographer to make better photos in the future!

Supporting creators

Mockup for a future version of ARS BETA (Version III) by Annette Kim

Something else we are trying to tackle with ARS:

How can photographers, artists, and creators make money from their passion– and perhaps support themselves from a financial perspective?

1. Inspiration from Uber/Lyft

I really like Uber and Lyft– you are harnessing surplus supply (cars) and harnessing surplus free time from under-employed peoples to empower many individuals:

  1. Uber/Lyft drivers make money.
  2. Uber/Lyft riders save money by not owning their own car, and are also safer because they don’t drink-and-drive.

Everyone wins.

2. How can you make money from photography?

Mockup for a future version of ARS BETA (Version III) by Annette Kim

I also like a similar idea with ARS:

With ARS, we will create a ‘commissioned critique’ function, which will do the following:

  1. You can become a ‘verified photographer’ and get paid money for giving commissioned critiques to other photographers in the community.
  2. Users can pay money to get more in-depth critiques from these verified photographers.

And the benefits:

  1. Photographers who want more in-depth feedback and critique on their photos can pay money to get feedback and critique from photographers they admire and trust. Thus, photographers of all skills can advance and improve their photography via getting real feedback on their photos; not empty likes on Instagram which doesn’t actually help them improve in their photography.
  2. Photographers can use their free time to make money– by giving paid feedback and critiques. If a ‘verified photographer’ can do enough of these paid feedback and critiques everyday, they can make a living via their photography, and thus have more free time and freedom to create more photos! This will help more photographers become ‘location independent’ and live a ‘digital nomadic’ lifestyle.

Why is it called ‘ARS BETA?’

ars beta logo

ARS means ‘art’ in Latin.

Beta: Beta testing. Not the final version.

Thus, recognize:

Your artwork is always in ‘beta’.

This means,

As a photographer/visual-artist, you are always in a state of ‘becoming’. You are constantly growing, evolving, and changing as a photographer/visual-artist.

Thus, you can use ARSBETA.COM as a ‘beta testing playground’ for your pictures. If you want honest feedback on your photos that is anonymous and driven by a fair algorithm, ARS BETA is for you.

Next steps

In the next few days, we will release ARS BETA Version II. Version II will have a critique function baked in, and will be 200% faster, with a more beautiful and sublime design.

To be informed when ARS BETA Version II launches, signup for ERIC KIM Newsletter, and we will send you a personal email once it goes live.

Also, if you want to invest or collaborate with ARS, email us at

Become part of the movement

Curious to see what people really think of your pictures? Upload your beta photos to ARSBETA.COM >