by Lydia Hansen
Hamline alum and former Untold Copy Editor Lydia Hansen (’20) chatted with the creator behind the beloved @hamline.affirmations Instagram. And by “chatted with,” we mean DMed on Insta because the creator chooses to remain mostly anonymous. Intrigued?
TYPE ‘YES’ TO AFFIRM 👇👇
Lydia Hansen: I’m dying to know – where did the idea for Hamline Affirmations come from?
Hamline Affirmations: aside from a few other affirmations pages for college campuses that I’ve seen floating around here on there, the main source of inspiration comes from the @afffirmations page on instagram! They were the first people I had seen who employed the sort of surreal off-kilter format that I try and cultivate for my affirmations, and I found that style so hilarious that I wanted to bring some of that energy to hamline 🙂
LH: I wanted to ask about that surreal off-kilter style too – one of my favorite things about this account is the bitter irony under the almost relentless positivity of every affirmation. What drew you to that approach?
HA: partially, it’s just due to the fact that my sense of humor is so completely busted that I doubt I’d be able to produce anything without that sort of touch to it even if I tried. but also, i think it meshes very well with the concept of an affirmations page that’s specific to a college campus! People often send me affirmation requests that are complaints masked under that relentless optimism, and I think a lot of people who follow my page feel affirmed by seeing their gripes about campus life addressed with an optimistic rather than pessimistic approach. For me personally, there are many things I love about campus as well as several things that I don’t, and I think the most honest way for me to go about running this page is to include some of both!
LH: I certainly feel affirmed! especially to the one about not spending excessive amounts of money on printing lol. How much planning, if any, went into starting the page?
HA: not much at all, actually- my original plan was to start a hamline related meme account, although I see some other people have cornered the market on that by now. i started with the affirmations concept by spitting out a bunch of random word-salad affirmations pertaining to general areas on campus, but over time i’ve tried to focus in on relevant events in my newer affirmations, which is an approach that seems to gain more traction from what i’ve observed
LH: Tell me more about the response. I first found out about the account when several friends sent me posts and were like “who is this, this is so funny”. What was that early response like and what’s it like now?
HA: I first started seeing a response when I posted an affirmation about the schilling pizza fire alarm incident! I knew that was an event that would be on people’s minds for a while and so I wanted to make something that would be relevant to the situation. At first, I saw a whole bunch of people sharing my posts onto their stories, and since I haven’t gone public with my personal identity yet, this included a lot of close friends and people i had seen around campus. I knew people would discover the page at some point or another but I definitely did not expect it to gain the following that has- I’m especially flattered when people comment or message me to tell me that seeing my posts is one of their favorite parts of their day. at this point, i’ve told a fair amount of people about being the one behind the account, so the element of mystery and the excitement of total anonymity isn’t as much a part of it anymore, but i still get a pretty significant reaction whenever i put something new out there and i’m very grateful to still be able to occupy that kind of space in peoples’ daily lives 🙂
LH: Heck yeah! I love that! Do you plan to stay anonymous in the long term? And was there a particular reason you started it as an anonymous account?
HA: I do plan to stay anonymous in the long term (or at least for as long as i can keep it up), partially because it’s fun to have a platform that isn’t intimately connected to my personal identity. believe it or not, there have been people that have gotten pretty heated over some of my posts (particularly the ones pertaining to the baseball team lol), and while i try to be as respectful and understanding as possible in instances like that, i feel that there is a freedom for expression/critique that anonymity allows
As for why I started it as an anonymous account, I felt that the cryptic “out of nowhere” nature of it could become part of the appeal, and so far that seems to have been the case! people are always amused when i tell them who’s behind the page, and some have even gone to me directly to ask if it was me, but generally i’ve felt as if it keeps the page more interesting to have it exist as its own entity, without being intrinsically tied to my personal identity
LH: You mentioned you started it at first just for fun. Is it still mostly about the humor aspect or do you feel like the account has become a way to potentially call out Hamline or the HU community for different things, maybe in a less confrontational way?
HA: it’s definitely for both! I think humor is a valuable method of critiquing elements of institution and campus life that deserve to be critiqued. as i’ve mentioned in interviews with a few other folks, my long-term goal is to use the platform this page has given me as a means of challenging inequality, although i’ve struggled to toe the line with communicating the serious themes that such an endeavor would attempt to address through such a lighthearted and perhaps tonally inappropriate format
LH: Where do you get ideas for new affirmations from? Do you use ideas sent to you from fans and followers?
HA: often, yes! Lately I’ve been struggling to generate new ideas, although I often use physical features of campus as a starting point. I’ve also been careful not to tread too heavily into the realm of gossip, which I’ve seen some of the other hamline-affiliated meme pages doing and I feel like it can perpetuate a lot of toxic interpersonal drama and negative attitudes that I’m just not here for! [Editor’s note: The Oracle published an article and staff editorial on these accounts.]
but the majority of my affirmations are “original” rather than fan submissions, to be concise
LH: I was going to ask about that! Cuz I feel like parody accounts, especially anonymous ones, often fall victim to gossiping and generating drama. How do you try to find that balance between humor that’s relatable because it’s so true and making jokes at the expense of others?
HA: As often as possible, I try to avoid making jokes at the expense of others. There have been a few exceptions, such as the aforementioned meme about the delta variant and the baseball team, although in general that kind of attitude is not what i’m about at all! if it’s only funny at the expense of someone else, i don’t post it, and so oftentimes the posts in this category that do make the cut are phrased in a general sense that avoids singling out any particular individual, and pertain to behaviors that (i believe) are worthy of critique. For example, I’ve noticed a fair amount of behaviors that are totally not conscientious to others, but rather than trying to make anyone in particular feel bad about it, I want to take the approach of raising our collective sense of community accountability! hopefully the silly format can encourage people to investigate their own behaviors and hold themselves accountable for things that may not be very beneficial to others in the community
LH: I gotta circle back to style for a second because the aesthetic of this page is like half the humor for me. The font, the photo editing, the grim positivity speaks to my jaded college student soul. What’s the software you use to make the memes???
HA: thank you so much, i’m glad it resonates :] also i use picsart!! some of the earlier ones i made are kinda scuffed but now i have the process down by heart
LH: I say this with nothing but love for the art form of meme making – it’s the carefully curated shittyness that makes them PERFECT
HA: It is very much intentional!! once again, glad it comes across
LH: Okay, you mentioned earlier other Hamline parody pages. I feel like every year there’s a new batch that pops up. Any that come to mind as notable from your time at Hamline so far? (Besides affirmations of course)
HA: I’m a second year student and I didn’t really see any active ones last year, but this year a few come to mind, including hamline confessions, the hamline squirrels page, and hamline backgrounds, although I will outright admit I am not a fan of the last one. their whole schtick is to film strangers without their consent and post insulting fictitious stories about them, and it makes me extremely uncomfortable 👎👎👎
but the squirrels one is pretty funny
LH: What qualities do you think can make a parody account stand out? And by stand out, I mean in a good way lol
HA: I think a certain degree of self awareness is important to any parody page! I won’t claim that my idea for the affirmations page is completely original, but I do think it makes a big difference to be aware of what you’re doing and make an effort to take a unique approach rather than adhere strictly to a format. I also think adding your own personal flair to your posts is important, both for the sake of your enjoyment as well as the added sense of individuality that your page will gain as a result. Most importantly, be nice to other people!!! having a positive attitude is essential to making sure your page is a silly goofy time for all involved
LH: Any idea how long this page will continue? Or maybe it’s better to ask, how long do you hope to keep updating this account?
HA: for as long as I can, at least through this school year! Realistically, I can see myself moving on to other projects someday, perhaps even another hamline-themed parody account at some point in time, but in such an event I would definitely want to pass the torch to somebody else who may be interested in continuing the page. either way, i intend for hamline affirmations to continue to exist in some form or another, just possibly not in exactly the same form as when it started
LH: Since you brought it up…is there something people might not realize or expect that you’ve discovered is part of what it takes to run an account like this? You mentioned you didn’t do a lot of planning before just jumping in with it
HA: this account has been for fun first and foremost, so i haven’t really imposed too many stringent regulations on myself pertaining to its operation, although one thing i will say that has proved to be tougher than i expected has been consistency. right now, my usual schedule has been to release a huge burst of posts at a time and then disappear for a couple days, which seems to be working fine for the account but its not as preferable as a more consistent posting schedule would be
LH: Ha! Sounds like how I post on the main, tbh 😂 OK, last question and I’ll call it – have a particular favorite affirmation or affirmations? The funniest or one that hit close to home?
HA: “I AM Bishop’s Bistro Bountiful Banquet” “I will NOT perform rituals in the Star Memorial” and “I do NOT derive a sense of sick gratification from forcing cars to stop at the crosswalk on Hewitt” are probably my personal favorites that i’ve made, gotta give it up for the original