Instagram is filled with accounts known as "studygrams", which post their academic notes and study tips online. These notes are typically beautifully written, indulging in a myriad of different colours and layouts. While this is ultimately very inspiring to look at, many people have come to question whether this is a productive way of creating notes or whether it may encourage a negative way of learning.
There’s no way of knowing where the studygram community originated from. People have seemingly always been posting their prettier looking notes for audiences who adore their neat layouts and easy-to-read handwriting. Posts containing snaps of people’s notes can be traced back to the very beginning of websites like Tumblr and Twitter, which have each birthed their own form of the clique. As these sites grew in popularity, so did the studygram community, with many accounts gaining thousands of followers.
This community is one of the largest on Instagram, enticing people to join on the daily. I first stumbled across the community when I was studying for my GCSEs, looking for inspiration to make my endless hours of revision more fun. I would spend hours scrolling through the different notes posted, paying most of my attention to the vast array of stationery people were using.
To understand how and why people got involved in creating studygrams I reached out to creators within the community. User @zoestudies is a student at Cardiff University with over 40,000 followers on her Instagram. While discussing with her why she joined the community, she said that she thought posting her own notes would motivate her to actually “do some work”, which certainly worked for her. The community overall seems extremely focused on spreading the motivation and inspiration to create, learn and achieve.
But these accounts don’t just post about studying. Daily life and other fun ventures are a part of their feeds, too. Commonly, these accounts also show their bullet journal progress (a form of self-made diary), which usually shows off some page layouts, different stationery and beautiful drawings. They also share different music playlists specifically for studying, which are perfect for people who can’t work in silence. While most of their content is sharing notes, studygrams are clearly far more than just pretty pages.
For the most part, the community is extremely positive. Comments on posts are almost always filled with encouragement, often discussing the notes in the photograph and different revision techniques. It is extremely rare to find any criticisms on these accounts, which makes posting within their network an uplifting escape from tedious, constant revision. The community can also introduce you to different items of stationery to buy, such as Leuchtturm1917 notebooks, Zebra Mildliners and Muji Fineliner pens, to name but a few. This can be great if, like me, you can spend hours on end browsing in Paperchase.
However, this community isn’t as wonderful as it may seem at face value. The stationery used by almost every account is ridiculously expensive, as almost every product has to be imported from places such as Japan or Singapore. Their photographs are also extremely high quality, so you have to be familiar with photography and have a high-resolution camera to create similar photos. These things make the community somewhat inaccessible for people with lower incomes. There is also huge pressure to keep up follower counts, stay active and to post daily. While this could be seen as encouraging, it creates pressure during exam season when people are focusing less on pretty notes and more on effective ones. This pressure can lead to people stealing other user’s posts to keep active - which is never good.
The biggest question posed by the studygram community is whether making pretty notes is effective at all. Everybody has different ways of learning, and some think that by focusing on making notes pretty, colourful and neat, they aren’t focusing on the content. It can take a lot of effort to make notes look aesthetically pleasing, and sometimes far more effort than actually learning the content. However, if the notes are bright and memorable, it can often help you remember their content in times of stress. This definitely depends on your personal study methods, and you have to accept that this truly does help some people learn.
For me, this community definitely can help motivate me to revise at times, but it shouldn’t be idolised as the only way to really revise. Every post is perfect - every word, line, colour and diagram. This is great to try and do if revision gets really boring, but often just writing knowledge on a piece of paper, or writing up notes normally works just as well, if not better. The posts definitely make me want to work more and succeed, but I don’t learn by making these aesthetic sort of notes. The community is valuable, but it is important to know that copying these styles isn’t the only way of learning effectively.