Study blogging: an inspiration or an unrealistic ideal?
Oxford University student Una Yates, 19, explores the rising trend of study blogging and the opportunities to encourage learning, but also the pressures it can put on already-overwhelmed young people.
As a student studying history at Oxford University, I have become very familiar with the way that social media has impacted academic life for students. The two main sources of online study inspiration I’ve found are blogging, a primarily aesthetic trend, and vlogging, which offers practical advice and an insight into the academic life of students.
Blogging and vlogging have been around for a while now, covering beauty, lifestyle and much more. But study blogging really took off in 2014 and has been thriving ever since.
The #studyblrs craze on tumblr, also prevalent on Instagram (known as #studygram), involves creating visually appealing notes and posting them online. It takes inspiration from lifestyle blogging; the quintessential ‘look’ includes coffee and porcelain, a faded Instagram filter, clean lines, pastels and pristine calligraphy.
'The internet as a creative outlet can ease the process of revision, making learning more dynamic'
It can be a supportive space for young people to work towards their academic goals. Using the internet as a creative outlet can ease the process of revision, making learning more dynamic. As a visual learner, I found that beautifying my A level notes helped me absorb them more effectively. Also, the world of #studyblrs is dominated by women, providing an online trend that focuses on female creativity and intelligence rather than appearances.
Tara, a 19-year-old Edinburgh University student who runs a #studygram account, @procastinating.planning told me, ‘Since joining this world, I have found it both enjoyable and inspiring. To see people sharing their art and work, which would likely otherwise never see the light of day, can be a pleasure.’
Despite enjoying it, Tara is aware of its flaws. ‘It is also a perfection driven environment, and can seem competitive at times, driven by the algorithm and likes which are central to all social media’.
Just like lifestyle channels on YouTube, study vloggers have picked up their cameras to offer advice to viewers on everything from good revision note-taking methods to applications to university. Vloggers like Revision with Eve (Eve Bennett) and Unjaded Jade (Jade Bowler) have taken their viewers through their own A level journeys, showing academic success and failure.
I find the candidness of these vlogs reassuring to viewers, as Ruby Granger and Unjaded Jade spoke honestly about the disappointment they felt of not getting into Oxford university.
The sharing of experiences through YouTube videos can also inspire those from disadvantaged backgrounds, as Cambridge student vlogger Ibz Mo has demonstrated. Ibz struggled in secondary school due to difficult home circumstances and being bullied at school. However, Ibz went on to achieve two A stars and one A at A levels and is now studying Psychology at Cambridge university.
Though it is mostly female bloggers creating this type of content, both sexes are being inspired by study tubers. Michael, a 17-year-old school student revising for his A levels, finds practical advice in study vlogs.
‘[Revision with Eve] shows how she plans work and techniques she uses for motivation which are easily applicable to my own study routine.’
'Study inspiration online can create unrealistic expectations’
Despite the positives, study inspiration online can create unrealistic expectations. Popular ‘study with me’ videos often represent a 15 or 20-hour study day. Some study blogs promote self-care, encouraging followers to be open about creating dialogue about mental health, whilst also publishing pictures of unrealistic 7 am to 9 pm schedules.
This can leave some students feeling inadequate. I remember deliberately avoiding ‘study with me’ videos during A levels to preserve self confidence in my own study routine. Just as Instagram has been criticised for its curated version of people’s lives, these study inspiration blogs and vlogs depict students only at their most productive. Followers don’t see the hours it takes to edit a video or create a beautiful set of notes photographed in perfect lighting.
Is study inspiration online a harmless hobby for creative students, or a competitive race for people seeking followers and likes? I think this online trend can be inspiring for ambitious young people. But, it can present an unrealistic image of academic life. For visual learners, like myself, study blogging is a dynamic way to liven up the often-mundane task of revision, while study vlogging can offer invaluable advice.
As I head back to university in October, I’ll continue to be inspired and engage with study blogging and vlogging, but I’ll also remember to keep a critical eye out for its flaws.