September 7, 2023

From likes to social media aesthetics: How “sneaky posts” empower students to handle the pressure online and offline

Social media has evolved into so much more than posting and exploring content that piques our interests– it has become a place to curate who we are, and how we want the world to see us. As students become more interested in cultivating certain aesthetics on their social media platforms, they are beginning to embrace trends like ‘sneaky posts‘ which are now dominating their social media profiles. A sneaky post is when you post a picture on Instagram, quickly archive it (essentially, hiding the photo instead of deleting it), and then several days or weeks later, unarchive it. 

Why is this new trend popular among students? What is the purpose of archiving and unarchiving a post? Most students are participating in the sneaky post trend because it allows them to cultivate an aesthetic on their social media while handling the pressure of getting likes online. 

Behind the Scenes of the Sneaky Post

Sneaky posts, as the name suggests, are a subtle way of sharing content on Instagram without the immediate expectation of engagement. The intention of the sneaky post is to add a post to their grid, the curated collection of photos on their profile, without it appearing on their followers’ feeds. These posts often serve as hidden gems, visible to those who actively visit a user’s profile. It alleviates the pressure of posting something because the user knows that the post won’t immediately receive likes or comments and that it’s there simply for the sake of being on the profile and adding visuals.

This trend has emerged from the self-consciousness that can come with posting on a highly curated platform like Instagram. According to a 20-year-old college student from New York, sneaky posts are “reminiscent of how teenagers used VSCO, a photo-editing app that allowed posting to the public without tracking engagement metrics such as likes or comments.”  

While some students enjoy personally curating their profiles, many others feel pressured to develop their online personas in a way that impresses their followers. Archiving posts allows students to maintain control over their online presence while avoiding the anxiety of constantly monitoring likes and comments.

TSI’s Take

The sneaky post trend on Instagram is a response to the pressure that students often feel to be perfect on social media and sneaky posting empowers them to handle the pressure of maintaining a flawless online image. Educators can empower students to make social media a positive place and handle the pressure online and offline by fostering a supportive and understanding environment. You can do this by reminding students to: 

  • Stay mindful of perfectionism: Perfectionism among college students is higher now than in any decade dating back to the 1980s 
  • Fuel your feed: Adjust what comes into your feed in order to avoid negative social comparisons
  • Use tech to control tech: Use features and apps that help you balance technology and not feel pressured to always be connected

While social media can be a fun place for students to spend their free time, there is also a lot of pressure that comes with the platform. With 65% of college admissions officers viewing social media as fair game when reviewing applications, preparing students for college and reinforcing the importance of maintaining a positive online presence is essential. Check out our upcoming reputation-building workshop to discover how educators can equip students to play to their core and build a positive online presence. 

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The Social Institute (TSI) is the leader in empowering students by understanding students. Through #WinAtSocial, our gamified, peer-to-peer learning platform, we equip students, educators, and families to navigate their social world – in the classroom and beyond, online and offline – in healthy, high-character ways. Our unique, student-respected approach empowers and equips, rather than scares and restricts. We incorporate timely topics about social media, tech use, and current events that are impacting student well-being and learning. #WinAtSocial Lessons teach life skills for the modern day, capture student voice, and provide school leaders with actionable insights. Through these insights, students play an essential role in school efforts to support their own health, happiness, and future success as we enable high-impact teaching, meaningful family conversations, and a healthy school culture.