Date of Award

Spring 2023

Document Type


Terms of Use

© 2023 Katherine Carlson. All rights reserved. This work is freely available courtesy of the author. It may only be used for non-commercial, educational, and research purposes. For all other uses, including reproduction and distribution, please contact the copyright holder.

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Sociology & Anthropology Department

First Advisor

Maya Nadkarni


This thesis describes and analyzes the working conditions of illustrators who work on social media platforms such as YouTube, Instagram, and Patreon. Ultimately, it argues that the perceived perks of self-employment that artists publicly discuss on social media are paradoxical because they are limited by the social media platforms on which the artists post. Additionally, the cons of self-employment artists experience, such as burnout, are systemic issues, even though they are framed as personal problems on social media. The various solutions that artists used throughout the course of this project to combat these issues are individual, rather than collective. Finally, it is in the interest of the social media platforms on which the artists post that they believe in paradoxical narratives surrounding self-employment, experience adverse work conditions, and pursue individualistic solutions to those conditions. These four points demonstrate the entrenchment of neoliberal logics in contemporary discourse and illustrate the experience of artistic labor under conditions of neoliberalism. To make these claims, this project draws from interviews and digital ethnographic research conducted on YouTube and Instagram, as well as scholarly works on neoliberalism and work conditions in digital spaces. Self-employment on social media and artistic work on digital platforms remain understudied and emergent topics in the fields of anthropology and sociology and this thesis contributes to both of these areas.