I learned about Instagram Stories while watching an episode of “Food Network Star.” Some of the contestants were quite savvy with their use of the medium, quickly adding text to photos and videos which explained the process of preparing their food. I remember watching the episode and thinking I should try that. That thought was immediately followed by: Why would anyone want to watch me? Then, that thought was followed by, For the same reason people read your Slice of Life story posts.
Instead of jumping in, I spent a few weeks immersing myself in the genre of Instagram Stories. Most of the people whose stories I enjoyed watching were either celebrities or chefs. Nothing I was doing in my daily life seemed as grand or intricate as the Instagram Stories I was watching. I decided to try it out despite the mundane nature of my daily life.
I created my first Instagram Story while pushing my son in his stroller on a muggy July morning. What better time to put yourself out there than when you’re sweating, right? It was also a busy day, where I was only in my home office for three hours, so I had lots of transitions running around town. Maybe it was the frenetic pace of the day or maybe it was because I was trying to figure out how to play with different fonts, music, and GIF stickers, but I found myself feeling like a bit of a narcissist at the end of the day. By the end of day one, I felt as though it was ridiculous for a 40-something woman living in the suburbs to create Instagram Stories.
However, over the next 24 hours, I received DMs from friends who said they got a kick out of my Instagram Story. (Was it because I looked ridiculous trying to fumble with the technology?) Some friends commented on specific parts of my story by DMing me with a connection. Friends who lived far away said they felt like they got to share the day with me. The comments I received fueled me. If I hadn’t received them, I think I may have stopped posting Instagram Stories. (Also, receiving comments made me think about the implications of Instagram Stories for teachers and for teacher-writers. We are moved to write and share more when we receive feedback that nourishes our writerly souls.)
A few days later, I created an Instagram Story about packing for a ten-day trip. Sounds like something that would showcase how organized I am, right? Unfortunately, that’s not the case. I’m perfectly fine packing for a business trip, but any type of trip I take with my kids (and this one included my children going to a different place than where I was going) includes lots of procrastinating and whining “I hate packing!” to my husband. Therefore, I thought it might make an amusing Instagram Story.
Again, this second Instagram Story led to more DMs from friends who were able to chuckle along with me as I prepared to take my kids to my parents’ house and take myself to New York City for the TCRWP Writing Institute. More fuel to keep me sharing.
I’ve created several Instagram Stories several times over the past six weeks. So far, I’ve only saved three Stories to my Instagram profile’s highlights, which will remain permanent for people to see. I allowed the rest of them to disappear after 24 hours, though I’ve discovered they are automatically saved on a personal section of my page for me to look back on.. It was only upon writing this blog post that I started looking up articles to maximize my Instagram Stories. The internet is ripe with pieces that explain Instagram, provide tutorials on how to create stories, and even how to make Instagram Stories part of one’s strategy! (As someone who has dabbled with a public Instagram account for years, and doesn’t share her children on it for that reason, I don’t think I need a strategy!)
After playing around with Instagram stories for the past month, I’ve come to find many connections to writing.
If your intentions are to use Instagram Stories as a way to fuel your writing, then please accept this word of caution. The times I created one near my seven-year-old daughter, she’d ask, “Who are you talking to?” I felt silly by telling her “anyone who is watching.” (Typically 25% of my followers.) This made me realize I needed to stay present with her and my son rather than “putting on a show” for whoever was watching. As a result, I don’t create Instagram Stories on a daily basis.
My Instagram account has always been a melange of things that captivate my senses, give me pause, and make me wonder. It will probably not become my go-to platform for communicating with other educators (I use Twitter for that.) or with my family (I use Facebook for that.), but I think it does add value to my relationships and to my life as a teacher-writer. The Stories feature has changed the way I use the site since I started creating them. Some of my friends have begun creating Instagram stories, which I enjoy watching. Being part of my friends’ lives — when they live far away — is a way to stay connected. Feeling connected by seeing our friends’ faces matters, which is why I no longer think of Instagram Stories as a narcissistic platform, is a way to get to know each other deeply.
Through engaging in Instagram Stories as a participant, not just an observer, I have been reminded my stories, though not grand, are worth sharing. Whether we jot them in a notebook, share them on a blog, or record them on Instagram Stories, the bits matter in the narrative of our lives.
So, go ahead and play with Instagram Stories! Jump in by experimenting with all of the creative tools Stories offers. After 24 hours, your story will disappear… Unless you love it and choose to feature it in the Story Highlights bar on your profile page.
To close, here’s a recent tweet from author Jarrett Lerner to inspire you to go forth, create, and share.
Helpful Links to Get Started with Instagram Stories:
I am a literacy consultant who has spent the past dozen years working with teachers to improve the teaching of writing in their classrooms. While I work with teachers and students in grades K-6, I'm a former fourth and fifth-grade teacher so I have a passion for working with upper elementary students.
I'm the author of Craft Moves (Stenhouse Publishers, 2016) and the co-author of Jump Into Writing (Zaner-Bloser, 2021), Welcome to Writing Workshop (Stenhouse Publishers, 2019), and Day By Day (Stenhouse, 2010).