Bwog sits down with the creators of the popular Instagram page @columbiaffirmations.
You may have seen their ethereal graphics and uplifting messages around Instagram, the account @columbiaffirmations has become a recurring source of entertainment in the online Columbia community. On their page, titled “Campuswide Self Hypnosis”, two students post affirmative messages about the Columbia experience, modeled after the popular account @afffirmations. Bwog sat down with the two creators of the page, sophomores “Gus” and “Amon”, who respectively attend SEAS and Barnard, to learn about their process and perspective.
Note: The page authors requested to remain anonymous, to preserve their privacy in running the account, and asked to go by false names.
So, to start, how do you know each other?
- Amon: We were already friends, we met through Instagram.
- Gus: We met through mutual friends, and I followed Amon on Instagram. I noticed they would always repost from the main affirmations page, the page that basically started the trend with affirmations.
- Amon: Yes, that was in spring semester, and I was really into it, and other people were too. And then I saw that NYU made an affirmations page, and that was pretty new, people kept reposting stuff. And I don’t remember who, but someone suggested we make a Columbia Affirmations, and I thought “Yeah, we should just do that.”
- Gus: I was in this class, and there was a big final coming up, so I thought “I’m gonna make an affirmation.” It was a picture of a computer, with the text “I am good at computer science.” Amon saw that, and suggested I join them and do Columbia Affirmations on Instagram.
What is your process to create the graphics? Is there a specific app you use?
- Gus: I use Picsart, and first I crop the image to be a square, and then I raise the brightness, highlights, and shadows to bring out the light in the photos. Then I add a colored border – sometimes it’ll match the photo sometimes it won’t. I bombard it with this brush tool, it’s a bunch of sparkles, and I really go ham, add a million sparkles. Sometimes I’ll add a rainbow, or some lens flare for that special vibe. Then I go in with a tool called “focal zoom,” and it basically blurs out from a central focal point on the photo. If there’s a face, I like to blur the face. When I first started out, I copied how the original affirmations guy did it, and he would always blur faces, so that’s why I started blurring faces, so I just do it now. Finally I use the text tool, and add a shadow to the text and change the color. And that’s basically it, maybe some extra sprinkles on top for garnish.
How do you guys come up with the actual message of your affirmation?
- Gus: We’ll be hanging out, and wherever we are, it’ll just kind of strike us. Like, “Oh! this is an affirmation!” I remember one time we were hanging out in a café, and I was feeling kind of socially anxious, so we started repeating affirmations to each other. Like “we act like normal customers”, “the barista does not think I am weird”, stuff like that. Recently, I was at a Trader Joe’s, and I was getting anxious because there were so many people – I don’t know if you’ve been to a busy Trader Joe’s in NYC but those customers get vicious – and I was waiting in line to check out, and I was very stressed out. So I made an affirmation: “I will not have a panic attack at Trader Joe’s.” And I just took a picture of my shopping cart. That was one of the recent posts. Then of course, if something happens, like, there were vaccines at Lerner, and that’s easy to make into an affirmation. Or one of my classes had a final, boom, affirmation.
- Amon: I posted one about one of my finals too.
- Gus: Right! One time, Amon posted an affirmation about their calculus final that was so funny, and they have this unique sense of humor. They posted the same affirmation nine times in a row. And I was like “why did you do that?” and they just replied “to boost the strength of the affirmation.” And then Amon’s captions are usually very funny. They just have this ability to create this very vibey atmosphere – you know how the affirmations are a little bit nonsensical? A little weird, you know? Amon just has this way with words. Everything they say is so weird, so they’re very good at making the captions.
Do you take DM submissions? Has anyone tried that before?
- Gus: Oh actually, a couple of times. One we thought was funny was “I am the Chef Mike Bitmoji,” so we used that.
- Amon: I personally don’t see it becoming something that is submission-based, at least not the way that Columbia Confessions is or anything.
What kind of reception has this account had by the Columbia community?
- Amon: I think it’s been pretty positive. We have more followers than I thought, and we don’t even post that much. And we gain pretty steadily. But I guess if we are posting something so relatable about Columbia, it makes sense.
- Gus: It’s funny, most people don’t know who runs the account, so there have been situations where people will say like “Oh my gosh, did you see the recent Columbia Affirmations post?” and I just have to go along.
- Amon: In general though, because we’re all online, and online was the primary mode of communication for students, it makes sense that this is how we socialize.
- Gus: Agreed, social media created this huge wave of people interacting online. And you can see this though the rise of accounts like us or like Columbia Confessions, or some of the other small accounts that got big. And then, we don’t post anything controversial, so we don’t really get hate. It’s just positive affirmations, everything stays really positive, and sweet, and cute really.
So now that this virtual campus is slowly going to go away, and since we are going back to in-person, how do you foresee this account changing?
- Amon: We will definitely have more content to post, now that we will be back in classrooms. Things will also be a little more relatable because during the summer break, part of the reason we don’t post so much is just, what do we say? Everyone is at home, nothing is that relatable.
Do you track your engagement closely? Do you pay attention to clicks and shares and stuff?
- Gus: I like to see who’s resharing our affirmations. And I can tell who is really engaging with the affirmations, like I know Phillip is really into them. There’s also an Instagram account that’s something like “Kristin likes cows,” they consistently repost our affirmations. And that’s great, I love it. I don’t think I track our engagement obsessively though, it’s not like I get sad if we get 89 shares instead of 96 or something. It’s just fun to see the little numbers.
Do you two have a favorite affirmation you’ve posted?
- Gus: I didn’t make this one, but it’s the one of the PrezBo cutout, zoomed in, with lasers coming out if his eyes that just says “Love yourself.”
- Amon: One of my favorites is “I am campus blob.” I think about it all the time.
- Gus: I made that one
- Amon: It’s really good. We complete each other I guess.
- Gus: Ooh, I also like the one that says “My friend group will not drift apart,” because at the time I was home, and experiencing some FOMO, and my friends felt distant. But my friend group didn’t fall apart, so I guess affirmations work.
Affirmations walk the line between satirical and genuine – how do you fit into that? Is it mostly jokes, or do you really believe in it?
- Amon: I mean, there are some that are obvious jokes. Even something like the Presbo “Love Yourself” one, it’s really silly, but the message is good, and if people take that seriously that’s fine. Most of the things I say are jokes, but you can also take them seriously, it’s whatever you want to make of it.
- Gus: Personally, I’ve never been into affirmations as a way of life. Like, I know people who really believe the law of attraction and all that, they will repeat that mantra “I don’t seek I attract, what belongs to me will find me.” There are people who are into that, and of course genuine spiritual methods that people practice. But for me, if I’m stressed or anxious, I won’t do an “official” affirmation, I’ll just say to myself “everything is gonna be ok.” So sometimes, I think a lot of the account is ironic, just a humor thing. But it’s kinda like power posing—it’s goofy but it gives you confidence.