Make no mistake: Caroline Calloway‘s Instagram page isn’t just a scrapbook of photos, it’s a full-on memoir. The 23-year-old art history student, who moved from New York to the UK to study at Cambridge University, is using the social networking platform to tell her personal story one snapshot at a time.
It’s a brilliant concept: rather than posting real-time updates as they happen, Caroline’s been structuring her Instagram posts about a year behind her real-life happenings — making each photo a true fragment of the memoir she’s in the process of working on. Each photo is accompanied by about two to three paragraphs about a moment in time — conversations she’s had, or reflections on an event. And unlike most of the people using Instagram, Caroline actually types out the posts on a computer beforehand and often has her friends edit her words.
The result is an utterly vibrant narrative of college life—from falling in love, to freaking out in class and making life-long besties in the process. Here’s a little sample of her work:
“… my golden-retriever friendliness was extra apparent the afternoon I met my future best friend, Maria. But now I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start where we left off, surrounded by Cambridge University’s most beautiful people, all of whom clearly belonged in Lecture Room 2 but me. As I tried to stay a mini anxiety attack by taking notes, Professor Massing paced merrily behind the lectern, offering advice that seemed as applicable to Art History as cattle ranching in Texas or how not to survive a tsunami. . . I wrote down everything, complete with his quirky pan-European accent. But savvy Instagram blogger that I am, what I didn’t record with either or pictures or notes was when Professor Massing excused us for lunch and Maria and I found ourselves shuffling side by side to the door and walking into town. .. ‘Let’s,’ she said in her proper British accent. ‘Let’s be best friends.’ It was one of the luckiest things that would happen during my first year Cambridge…”
“I was interested in absolutely everything about Oscar. Just looking at his face was interesting. The way Oscar sat on grass: interesting. How he blinked in sunlight: interesting; boyfriend-material.”
“Oscar would later tell me that he fell in love with me the first time he saw me in my onesie. (You know, my onesie that looks like a giant strawberry and is made, unsettlingly, for adults?) ‘I thought you were the most confident girl I’d ever met,’ he’d say. ‘It was like you didn’t even care you looked insane.’ And to be fair, I didn’t, but it wasn’t because I was the girl Oscar hoped.”
“Much like Ring Pops and disposable razors, memories deteriorate with use. It’s science. According to a study by Northwestern University, every time we access a memory we tamper with it, editing the past with our feelings in the present. Or to put it like this: the only way to preserve our most precious memories is to forget them.”
Now, two years into her story-telling, Caroline has racked up an avid readership of well over 300,000 Instagram followers. She also plans to turn her online collection of anecdotes into a book of essays when she graduates in 2016.
“I try to mimic my favorite writers, and I know what appeals to me above all else is honesty,” Calloway recently told Mic. “I try to do [it] as honestly as I can. I think readers are very smart — they can tell when you’re trying to self-mythologize and make yourself look better in a story. I hate that when I’m reading, so I try to just write like the writing I like.”
While she worries her followers “will come to their senses and be like, ‘Wow, I really don’t have time to read about the average happenings of a 20-something at school in England,” she’s grateful for the attention her work has received.
The young writer has a way of capturing the preciousness of the everyday, both in her often-animated images and in her language. She’s also got a knack for describing what it’s like being an American at a foreign college, citing in one post, she feels like “Harry Potter, turning up for dinner in the grand hall in my robes and having beautiful three course meals.”
“The rules are so funny and bizarre,” she continues, “and it’s just incredible to imagine the history that people have been studying here for hundreds and hundreds of years.”
That’s not to say she doesn’t get a little home-sick at times. “In the U.S. we have the mentality that you can make it on your own,” she told ABCNews last month. “I also miss wearing my PJ’s in the middle of the day. That’s not a thing here.”
[Featured image via.]