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An Instagram positivity post from the perspective of the person scrolling through the app. The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on collective morale, and some people find comfort in positive thinking reminders. // Illustration by Emma Toscani.

By Victoria Corkum

According to the radio station KUGS-FM’s social media manager, Serafima Healy, there is a fine line between positivity and authenticity online.

“Every once in a while a post about positivity is awesome. It’s really helpful, positive emotions are important but there are different positive emotions than just being happy,” Healy said.

As a social media manager, Healy utilizes a technique known as social listening to create the most appropriate content for her audience.

“You see what people are putting out there and why they’re putting it out there,” Healy said. “Being conscious of what people are liking, what comments are coming through different accounts and being weary of what's going on in the greater world.”

Social listening is one of the strongest tools for social media influencers, Healy said. If influencers post content that involves fake, toxic positivity, that does more harm in the long run, she said.

“The world right now doesn’t need any more fake facts,” Healy said. “Keep people smiling.”

During this time where much of the world is in need of support, Bellingham resident Katie Miller has utilized social media and felt the positive effects of online encouragement.

“I was quite terrified as to what was going on because I was listening to the news and seeing a lot of things that were happening and there was nothing I could do,” Miller said.

Miller is a single parent to her three-year-old daughter. She said they typically do their household shopping once a month. However, once the virus broke out, Miller said she found it much more difficult to get supplies for her family.

“When it started, everything was gone off the shelf,” Miller said. “It scared me because I thought for the very first time I wouldn’t have been able to provide for my daughter.”

Miller said she turned to the social media app Nextdoor and posted a request for help.

“I posted because I was scared but people reached out to me and it was awesome,” Miller said. “It was just like that [Beatles] song, ‘With a Little Help from My Friends.’ The amount of help that I had gotten was beyond anything I could fathom.”

Shortly after she posted, Miller said that neighbors flocked to help. Fresh baked bread, pastries and cleaning supplies were among the items community members offered her.

“I had no idea our community was that helpful and I’ve still been getting help,” Miller said. “A couple days ago I got fruits and vegetables, things I haven’t gotten for a good month.”

After receiving so many kind gestures, Miller said she felt a need to give back with what she could. She and her daughter created a sign that reads ‘STAY POSITIVE,’ which is posted in their front window.

“I’ve had a few people reach out and say thank you for the poster,” Miller said. “I want them to know they’re not alone and to stay positive because that’s the only thing that will get you through this.”

By utilizing social media, Miller said she was able to receive the support she was in dire need of. On the other side of social media, many content creators are working to create environments for positivity to thrive.

“The news is full of very scary things,” said Morgan Strickland, manager of the Instagram account, positive_enneagram. “People are spending more time on media then I'm guessing they ever have. Accounts that are positive and encouraging are super important during this time.”

Positive_enneagram has over 1,500 followers and focuses on the nine personality types as categorized by the Enneagram Institute. The enneagram test, as defined by the website, was developed by Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson as a tool for deepening one’s understanding of themselves and others.

“Posting things that are encouraging right now is crucial to our world,” Strickland said. “The internet is becoming our world right now.”

Shortly after the first several posts, Strickland was contacted by a follower who thanked her for the content she created. Strickland said the individual expressed they had been going through a difficult time but seeing that encouraging content had saved them.

“We were able to give that person advice and to see the positive impact on that one person was crazy,” Strickland said. “That’s why I’m so passionate about it. Having that relationship with people is really important to me.”

Another Instagram account that focuses on spreading positivity and creating an environment for support is emotions_therapy. The account currently has over 688,000 followers and posts encouraging content daily.

“Every morning when I wake up, I grab my phone, I go onto the account and I see everything,” Cally Tate, manager of emotions_therapy, said.

“Seeing so many different people all connected in one spot makes me feel even more connected to the page to keep doing what I feel I need to do,” she said.

In January 2019, Tate was admitted to a hospital for suicidal tendencies. While there, she met many people and experienced a wide variety of perspectives. They were hurting in different ways but essentially they were still experiencing the same emotions, she said.

“After getting out of the hospital, I came home and I felt like I needed to do something, I felt like I needed to help other people,” Tate said. “Because I couldn't help each and every person that I met in the hospital, I wanted to help as many other people as possible.”

The account has grown larger than Tate ever imagined it would and she continues to use her account as a way to lift others up. She said that from a creator's perspective, she works hard to see each and every person who comes to her account looking for help or positive messages.

Tate said the COVID-19 pandemic has brought her account the opportunity to reach out and help more people than ever before. However, the journey has been like a rollercoaster.

“In the beginning when everyone started staying calm and getting serious, my account kind of dropped,” Tate said. “Less people were liking my posts, less people were following me and less people were DMing me. I saw that as people losing hope and that was pretty understandable.”

After some time and persistence, Tate said her account and the number of people being reached has begun to bounce back.

“Since the pandemic I’ve seen a lot of ups and downs but right now, since people have started to realize that there can be positivity in this, that it has gotten a lot better,” Tate said.

According to Miller, Strickland and Tate, they were each able to experience the power of positive thinking via social media. In the same way that Healy described, the difference between positivity and authenticity is crucial online.

“Even though we’re isolated physically, we’re not isolated mentally,” Tate said. “We can still move our minds, our bodies and find safe spaces where we can remain healthy. Growth doesn’t stop just because school or work does. Things like that are temporary but life don’t stop in the way that time does.”


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