Students are obsessed with filming themselves studying — here’s why

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Studygram accounts go beyond aesthetic workspaces. Photo courtesy of RIAVIDA

While higher education institutions in areas under Alert Level 3 were given the go signal to conduct limited face-to-face classes, there were also universities that opted to defer implementation to a later date or keep the option limited to skill-based degrees.

This means that most students would continue to virtually attend classes at home. To cope with the difficulty in finding connections in the absence of an actual classroom setting and having to manage increased workloads, some students turn to an online community called #studygram.

This community on Instagram might have caught your attention for its aesthetic qualities — a well-arranged workspace coupled with tips on studying and productivity, focused study-time videos, and cool desk accessories — lumped under the hashtag “#studygram.”

The concept of a studygram — a portmanteau of the words “study” and “Instagram” — dates back to 2017, as far as a quick Google search goes. It’s undeniably similar to the studyblr subculture that boomed in 2014, where students fostered a community around studying on microblogging site Tumblr.

The rise of the studygram posts coincides with the time students shifted to online classes due to the pandemic. Of the four studygrammers that we interviewed via email for this story, two of them created their studygram accounts in 2020. One followed suit in 2021, while one transitioned her bullet journal account created in 2020 to a studygram in 2021.

What is a “studygram?"

Med student Ria (@ria.vida_) describes it as “a community of students who share note-taking tips, daily routines, organizing hacks, and study tips.” The posts are “similar to study vlogs on YouTube, but instead of long videos, it is a series of pictures of one's study area or desk and timelapse videos of one's study sessions,” explains Ed (@study.gr1nd), a nursing student who has recently celebrated her studygram account’s first anniversary.

Both admit difficulty adjusting to online classes. Ed shares how she was initially anxious, “partly because I [had] no idea how I would perform academically given the new learning modality.” While she recognizes that she was fortunate enough to have had access to necessary materials and devices, the struggle “was more on having consistent motivation and discipline” in an online setup, adding that the online setup is ”not that conducive to learning as compared to face-to-face classes.”

As someone who stayed in a dorm since she was 13, Ria also found it tough to concentrate at home. “I have associated being at home to [a] vacation, so having to study at home was a challenge for me.” Just imagine adding internet connectivity problems and missing a couple of exams due to power interruptions in the mix, and it’s easy to see why online learning could be immensely stressful for students.

“I really enjoy learning and studying but since the pandemic, it [has been] hard to find motivation,” says Brianne (@studywithbrianne), another med student who used to make it a point to post daily studygrams on the platform. “I made my studygram account to track my study progress and to find people with whom I share the same struggle[s].”

Aside from documenting progress, it’s more important than ever to feel a sense of belongingness in these challenging times.

“What I like about [the] studygram [community] is that we support and encourage everyone even though the only information we know about each other is our first names and our degree programs,” says Brianne. “We don’t know anyone’s background story or how they look,” says Brianne.

Civil engineering student Bianca (@milkbiancakes) even goes as far as saying that her studygram community feels like a “family.” “[Fellow studygrammers] will help you to become more motivated, productive, and inspired to do well not [only just] on academics but also in life in general,” she says. “It’s also nice to read study tips and motivational posts from other studygrammers because it really helped me get through tough times.”

Studygram as a coping mechanism

“For some students, baka ‘yon [studygram] ‘yong coping mechanism nila; baka that will serve as their motivation to survive this pandemic,” says assistant professor Faye Martel-Abugan, M.A., who teaches at the University of Santo Tomas’ Communication Arts department and concurrently serves as the university’s Communications Bureau's Assistant Director for Broadcast.

“Importante talaga ‘yong community if you're trying to motivate yourself into doing something difficult,” says Martel. As an educator, she understands that online learning comes with many challenges, having observed them herself. Trying to focus in a non-conducive learning environment is one.

While Martel sees studygrams as a possible source of motivation, she also warns that it can also breed self-pity or insecurity. “Because it's Instagram, it's always beautified. But what if we can’t reach that standard of beauty?” Martel asks. “The virtual [environment] is affecting your physical [environment] as you see in studygram [accounts]. Physically, you want a better environment kasi nakikita mo sa kanila, ‘ay maganda ‘yong environment nila…mag-o-organize din ako.’”

Despite studygram’s rep for highlighting all things pretty and uncluttered, Bianca reminds studygrammers to consider function first before aesthetic. In a sea of visually pleasing studygrams, Ed suggests getting inspiration from others, but give it an original spin to make your account stand out from the pack.

With the boom of studygram accounts, the “social” aspect of social media has become more pronounced. “It goes to show na mas strengthened ‘yong social media ngayon in terms of linkage. Naghahanap ka ng kapareho mo, ka-like minded mo, support system mo, naghahanap ka ng inspiration from other people,” Martel says. “You also feel compelled to somehow share your experiences because as you're learning from other people's experiences, you also feel na other people have a lot to learn from your experiences [as well].”