If you’ve ever tried to learn any language using Duolingo, you know that during your practice, you keep getting various motivational messages. I’ve been using Duolingo quite a lot lately, so it means I’ve seen quite a number of those messages.
Duolingo doesn’t have any great repertoire, and they keep repeating. Sometimes I read them, sometimes not. I guess it’s the same for most people. But I’m sure you’ve come across this one: „15 minutes of Duolingo can teach you a language. What can 15 minutes of social media do?”
I did. Many times. And subconsciously, I was nodding. I don’t know how long it took before I realized that I actually disagreed. And very strongly. Not so much with the part about Duolingo but with the part about social media. They don’t say it explicitly, but the meaning is quite clear.
It was slowly gaining my attention. And a couple of weeks ago, I had a conversation with my students about Instagram. I did most of the talking and became quite a passionate advocate for Instagram. And it hit me then.
It caught me by surprise. Truly. If my past self heard me saying what I’m about to say, it would think that there’s something seriously wrong with me. It may even try to save me from myself and the vanity of Instagram. But it is the truth.
And I started sharing the reasons why with my students, and I feel it’s time I share it with you, too. But let’s get back to the start.
Come up to meet you, tell you I’m sorry… Oops, not that. But I haven’t heard this Coldplay song for a long time. I might stop writing for a bit now and listen to it. You can join me and practice your English a little differently.
Well, I still remember the lyrics pretty well. And it still gave me goosebumps, but now, let’s get back to the start. Seriously, guys! Stop humming the song and focus.
So, I started my private IG account some 5 or 6 years ago, and to this day, you’ll find there 7 posts total. I have posted an Instagram Story once. I don’t even know why I started that account. Perhaps because it was cool to have one.
I didn’t spend much time there. I followed a few of my real-life friends and acquaintances. But other than that, I followed almost nobody, so there was nothing to go there for.
Then a few years back, my sister started spending more time on Instagram. Often I caught her pressing the screen of her phone, thinking what a stupid thing to do. When I asked what she was doing, she told me that she was watching IG stories, and she showed me some, and it was all too confusing for me.
But after some time, I became curious. So I wandered to my IG account and decided to examine it more thoroughly. I started following some celebrities (because I didn’t know who elso to follow) and got the hang of IG stories. I mean, I got the hang of watching IG Stories.
Then about 2 years ago, I started my business IG account, and it changed everything completely. It happened for several reasons. First, I started creating content. And I liked it, and it was fun.
I mean, sometimes it was really stressful. But not as stressful as when a month ago you were hired by a nuclear power plant by accident, and now you’re at work alone responsible for everything. I mean EVERYTHING! Ehmm, sorry. I’ve watched Chernobyl recently.
Anyway, the second reason was that I started following some interesting people. Real people. Not that celebrities are not real people, but you know what I mean.
One of the interesting real people I started to follow at that time was Kristýna Dolejšová a.k.a. @hellochristie. And I remember that in her stories, she once said that she believes Instagram to be a great source for inspiration and happiness or something like that.
And it got me thinking. At that time, I didn’t see IG like that. I saw I could use it for my business. And also as a place that eats up my time. A place where I could follow celebrities. A place where everything and everyone was pretty, and a place where I could see that everybody else’s lives were better than mine.
But Kristýna said one important thing. And I will be paraphrasing here because I don’t remember exactly. She said something about creating your own bubble and that you let in only people who inspire you, make you feel good about yourself, and nourish you somehow. If you don’t like something somebody says, you unfollow.
Simple as that. It makes total sense, but I was doubtful at first. In my mind, I had this image of Instagram as a strange and evil place, where envy, fake, and jealousy feel at home. And she’s talking about a place of inspiration and stuff?
I started to pay more attention to who I follow, how the people or brands really make me feel. If it wasn’t resonating with me or made me feel bad about myself, I unfollowed. As stupid as it may sound, sometimes it was not so easy to see it clearly.
For example, I was following someone because they were posting pretty travel pictures. And I like pretty travel pictures. So I haven’t realized right away that the other content or the overall vibe of the account or the person were not making me feel good.
And I feel it’s important to say that it doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with that account or that person. It just means it’s not for me.
Anyway, when I started paying more attention, it became easier. Now I only follow accounts that I find inspiring and also aesthetically pleasing. Accounts that make me feel good about myself or challenge me in ways that make me grow. All conditions must check. If not, sorry, but not sorry.
If we had a timeline, you could see that now we’re getting to the point in time a few weeks ago where I said the sentence “I love Instagram.” for the first time.
And also to the point where I get to disagree with the Duolingo quote from the beginning of this post. Because you can learn tons of things in 15 minutes of social media a day, and that can change your life for the better.
In the last year or so, I built a small community around myself (you can call it my bubble) that is totally supportive of my well-being. And as a result, I can now see IG as a loving, inspiring place that enhances happiness in my life.
To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, I’ll name a few topics that are important or somehow interesting to me that I’ve learned so much about in the last year on Instagram:
I found new music and discovered other new artists of different sorts and many others. Instagram also became the primary and often the only source of information about cov*d-related restrictions thanks to Dominik Feri and his profile @choco_afro. That was totally unexpected.
But one of the biggest surprises was the fact that I found myself going to Instagram to shop on purpose. I didn’t go to Google, Fler, or Etsy. No, I went to Instagram.
I did it about 3 times before I realized that. But it makes total sense to me. Instagram is full of pretty things. Full of people who make pretty things who post about the pretty things they made on their profiles.
So when I wanted to get a new pretty mug, I went to the search bar and put (I almost said ‚googled‘) #ceramicmug and bingo. I got tons of them. And most of them really pretty.
And why this ode to Instagram on my blog that is about the English language? It’s simple. The pictures I used for this blog post are from Czech accounts, but most of the accounts I follow and get inspiration from are in English.
So apart from learning all the other important and interesting things I am improving my English as well.
But it’s not only English. It sure works for any other language. I follow some accounts in Spanish to build passive vocabulary. And since November, when I started learning Norwegian, I’ve been following a few accounts in Norwegian.
You don’t know where to start? I have a quick fix for you – start by following my profile @englishstories.cz to get more English into your everyday life. The majority of the posts, whether text or video, are in English, so you are covered.
I plan to do some new things, and now I’m testing the first – weekly speaking prompts so you can talk to yourself and practice your English that way. You find them in this Guide here.
If you don’t know, a Guide is a collection of posts (yours or somebody else’s) and are usually grouped by topics. It means that you can put together posts that are somehow connected. You can even use it as a pinboard or a vision board.
I also plan on doing mini masterclasses. Short videos with tips and tricks on how to better use English you already know, and also how to deal with your fears and insecurities about English. You can find one here.
I post IG stories almost every day. Now and then I hit you with a question, quiz or a poll. In return, I share posts that I find interesting, funny, or inspiring. It means you get easy access to other accounts in English. Then you can choose what resonates with you and who you want to follow.
And I share bits of my everyday life, too. Like which shows I watch, books I read, and normal things I do. Most of it in English. That way, you get to phrases that you don’t find in textbooks.
Also, every month, I post a wallpaper with an affirmation you can download and use on your phone. These affirmations can help you get over some of the most common but useless beliefs about English.
It’s fair to say that it’s not all just roses, and there are serious downsides to social media. But I don’t want to get into that here. Here and now, I am the advocate for Instagram, so don’t crucify me for that.
But I want to say that you should go in with your eyes open, and be aware of the fact, that insta-perfect pictures are rarely perfect in real life. And if you want to build a supportive bubble around yourself, you have to become sort of a dictator of said bubble. Set your rules and stick to them.
And if you do, you may surprise yourself with the same statement as I did. In case you’ve forgotten or still don’t believe it, I’m going to say it again for you: