We all have that friend who pollutes our Facebook or Instagram feed. Now the actual toxic waste they spill might differ, but whether it's cringy boomer comics or their very, very amateur nature photos, even the most mundane posts can become poisonous in huge amounts.
I usually try to distance myself from these people without actually confronting them; I unfollow them. But Michael James Schneider, a writer and artist living in Portland, Oregon, has found a more creative way to deal with them.
When he got fed up with the ridiculous amounts of balloons popping up on his social media feeds, Michael decided to point out how ridiculous they can be by becoming part of the cult.
"I try to make commentary about, or poke fun at, social media. The balloons were a social media trope often used in bridal showers and gender reveals, so they were a natural progression of that idea. I love the contrast of profound, funny, or challenging quotes spelled in silly balloons. And since another common cliche is endless selfies, I tend to put myself in most of the photos. They often make people cringe, but the cringe is the point," Michael told Bored Panda.
The artist usually gets the phrases from the Internet. "I source them online, most of the quotes are curated from other, far wiser people, and me and my friend slash assistant, Andrew Jankowski, try to attribute them as accurately as possible." Michael is also asking people who repost his art to please do their best to credit the people who originally said these phrases too.
Words aside, another important part of each photo is its background. "One of my favorite things to do is spot a brightly colored wall when riding my bike in Portland, and make a mental note to visit it later," Michael explained his location scouting. "I choose colorful walls based on what direction they're facing (for lighting reasons), how public they are (so that I can set them up subtlety), and how textured the wall is (since very textured walls won't hold the type of tape I use)."
After the photoshoot is over, the balloons go back to Michael's basement, waiting to be used for the next shoot. The artist said these types of air-filled Mylar balloons aren't great for the environment, so he discourages people from buying them if their intention is to throw them away after use. "I reuse them from shoot to shoot and I have an alphabet in each color. I sometimes choose to use different colors if I’m out of a letter, rather than purchase more, and then I photoshop the colors to match afterwards."
Michael has been trying to make it as a creative ever since he put his 20-year experience in retail management on pause. He paints, directs, writes, is an amateur interior designer, and has done theatrical set and production design. "I don’t claim to have the answers for anyone, least of all myself, but I’m having fun on the journey. Or at least pretending to on social media."