Hope hinges on a square
Where Instagram once boasted curated photographs from travels and meet-ups, self-help gurus are now clogging feeds with inspiring verse, making it the new comfort place
It was at the recommendation of a mutual friend that Preetkamal Singh first read up on self-help book writer Priya Kumar, 10 years ago. Singh, who then lived in Malaysia, was going through a tough time professionally. Kumar's writing provided relief. "It felt like she was speaking to me," recalls Singh. "Every time I read her, I would brim with positivity. People around me started noticing the difference."
Three years ago, when Singh found out that Kumar had taken to Instagram (@priyakumar7272), he decided to embrace social media, although reluctantly. "I don't understand how social media operates, but I was ready to do anything for a dose of motivation," says Singh, who now logs in daily to experience Singh's posts and videos, before sharing them. Sometimes, he jots down a thought he particularly liked in a diary.
Chetna Chakravarthy @positivityangel 4k followers Posts to empower people to live their potential Pic/ Nimesh Dave
His recent favourite is: "Finish what you started". Singh, a Delhi-based banker, says, "Her advice helped me see the positive side of my job, too. Her words have kept me going, more in tune with my professional goals."
Kumar is aware of the change she is making in Singh's life. It's also why she makes it a point to post routinely: To help people do better.
The two lakh followers on her Instagram have been built gradually. Every day, Kumar, 46, shares a photograph of a note where she hand-writes the quote of the day. "Work on your own advice, before you share it," one note reads, accompanied by a longer caption, where she goes on to discuss her message. "When I joined Instagram five years ago, I was told that using it as a motivational platform wouldn't work. It was a space for pictures from your life. You couldn't even post long lines of text back then," says Andheri-based Kumar. "But, I wanted to use it for something more encouraging. I find that kind of interaction [pretty pictures] meaningless."
Kumar is aware that not everyone reads her books or is able to attend the motivational workshops she holds. "But, there is a large audience that is addicted to social media, and while they are at it, I'd like to put a good word out."
For a very long time, Instagram was the space where you camouflaged the banality of your life with glossy filters. Three years ago, when actor Arunoday Singh started writing verse on his handle @sufisoul, he was being followed more for his celebrity status, than for his writing. Today, many of the 1.12 lakh followers check Arunoday's feed for his meditative musings on life and love. "There are two parts to his Instagram post: one is his hand-written calligraphy that is very old-school and charming. Second, is his verse, which is not just relatable, but also soulful. He is a true poet at heart. People might say that he is talking about everyday things, but he infuses a certain lyricism to it," says Sohini Mitter, journalist and poetry enthusiast. After the actor split with his Canadian wife Lee Elton earlier this year, his posts became less frequent. His writing too has turned poignant, and touches the themes of healing, gratitude and self-love. "If you follow his work, it becomes a habit. When he stopped reflecting on my feed, I went to his page to check if he had written anything new," says Mitter.
Priya Kumar @priyakumar7272 2L followers Posts a photo of a handwritten note with a "quote of the day" Pic/ Sameer Markande
Mumbai-based Ranveer Allahbadia, 26, who describes himself as a 'warrior' on @beerbiceps, says he wants to "raise the world's positivity levels through social media". Through stories and posts, he speaks of everything from facing insecurity to fighting mental health and exam stress to setting fitness goals. When the engineering graduate joined Instagram in 2015, the account was meant to exclusively address fitness. "Eventually, I tried all kind of self-improvement content," says Allahbadia, who has over six lakh followers. "I ended every video or post with an underlying message, because that's how I viewed situations personally. But as my followers started growing, I realised I needed to discuss issues that I dealt with as a teenager, too."
This led to a series of mental health posts and videos on YouTube. "This kind of content doesn't grow like comedy or entertainment, but it is essential nonetheless, because people are not talking about it, otherwise. Any visual medium is perfect to help someone out of a dark place."
Allabadia quit the idea of being an engineer when he realised his calling lay elsewhere. Most 'healers' like him, provide advice and guidance full time. Apart from running a self-improvement channel on YouTube (BeerBiceps), Allabadia also runs a brand consultancy firm called Monkey Entertainment. Priya Kumar, on the other hand, conducts corporate and open workshops on leadership and motivation. She is currently writing the official biography of Olympics badminton coach Pullela Gopichand.
Divya Tejwani, 21, follows more than one motivational Insta account, and screenshots quotes to save them on her phone gallery to use as wallpaper. "I recently took up a job in public relations. In the initial days, I'd find the stress hard to cope with. Sometimes I would break down." It's during moments like these that Tejwani found help on Instagram. "It's like having a great friend. There are days when you don't have anyone to talk to, and a picture or a quote reminds you that this will pass."
Chetna Chakravarthy, who has just about 4,000 followers, is a professional healer and life-coach. Chakravarthy runs @positivityangel, a page intended to "empower people to live their potential". "I recently did an Instagram story called Truth Bombs, aimed at calling ourselves out on the things that we are saying, and might be the cause of the trouble in our heads."
Arunoday Singh has been sharing hand-written verses on his Instagram handle @sufisoul for three years. Faith, love and gratitude are some of the recurring themes in his writing. File pic
Having said that, Chakravarthy admits that it's impossible, even for her, to be eternally positive. She doesn't want her page to seen as a space that will help you live in a happy bubble. "You cannot and should not be positive 24x7. And so, what I post is not diabetic sweet. I can be blunt with my advice. If you're going to be positive all the time, you won't be able to grapple when trouble hits you for real."
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