When I first started posting stories on my Instagram, I never anticipated that it would actually help me focus. In fact, I always thought it was doing just the opposite: distracting me. That’s not to say Instagram doesn’t distract me — when I post a photo, I have to do it right before class or at another phone-free time so I’m not constantly checking to see if my crush (who, of course, is never online) has liked it yet.
But during fall quarter, while digging through some notes I took regarding an idea for a narrative in a creative writing class, I found I couldn’t read my handwriting. It wasn’t the first time such had happened to me, but this one felt important. I posted an Instagram story asking for help.
I received some reasonable suggestions, such as “fumed,” “forward,” “frowned” and “farmed.” But in the end, none of them seemed to fit. Even so, my Instagram stories turned into a place I could go to crowdsource writing help. From story ideas to character names to grammar questions (until recently, I was apparently part of the 2% who did not know the past tense of “strike”), my Instagram story became an even more powerful writing tool than BabyNames.com.
Around the same time, my friend started snapping me excerpts from books she was reading that were relevant to our conversations. I stole her idea and started posting excerpts from books I was reading as Instagram stories.
Though these stories were much less interactive — I occasionally asked for book suggestions because I have way more books on my Goodreads to-read shelf than I can reasonably get through in a lifetime — I loved looking for lines that I felt in my chest and finding gifs that best expressed that feeling.
I didn’t notice much about this new habit until I read a book a few weeks ago that I absolutely could not stand. It wasn’t that it was bad — the language was so dense to get through that I had to Google several words per page, and when I did, the definitions I found didn’t even feel worth the effort. I ran out of patience 10 pages in. But I had to read it for a class, so I tried my best. I really did. A few days into the book, when I finally found the first sentence I actually liked, I posted it on my Instagram story. From then on, I noticed that the only thing that kept me reading was the thrill of finding another line I liked and getting to post it on Instagram. I paid closer attention to the language, plot, characters. I later noticed myself doing this for books that I liked, too. It just wasn’t as obvious to me, since every other line could easily end up on my Instagram.
Ultimately, none of it matters, as I am still the neutral evil who marks a book as “read” on Goodreads even if I only tried and abandoned it. But it does raise an important question: Does Instagram really make me a better student, or am I so dependent on it that I can’t focus on anything without it?
Contact Eleni Aneziris at elenia ‘at’ stanford.edu if you can think of any other interpretations of her chicken scratch.