How Instagram inspired self-improvement

How Instagram inspired self-improvement

Two South Island School graduates reveal how they moved past selfies and food pics to carve a niche for themselves in the world of Instagram


(L-R) Vivian Wong and Justin C Y Wong both feel social media helped them learn and grow.
(L-R) Vivian Wong and Justin C Y Wong both feel social media helped them learn and grow.
Photo: David Wong/SCMP


Pieces from the innovation line, which Justin designed and produced for SIS's The Innovation 2015 fashion show.
Pieces from the innovation line, which Justin designed and produced for SIS's The Innovation 2015 fashion show.
Photo: Justin Wong

Vivian Wong (@vivianhitsugaya) wooed the Instagram world with her detailed, imaginative and illustrative drawings. Her classmate, Justin Wong (@justincywong – no relation) has a broad interest in arts, but for now, he specialise in flat-lay photos on Instagram.

They just graduated from South IslandSchool this year, but Vivian and Justin have already gained insta-fame with 110k and 17.9k followers respectively.

Vivian has been drawing since she was five years old, and got involved in Instagram because of peer pressure. “Everyone had it … and I didn’t even know how to use Instagram at first,” she says.

When strangers from across the world started to comment and like her drawings, Vivian turned her account into an art one.



Justin started on Instagram a while after Vivian did. At first, he posted typical things – food and landscape photos – before he realised his flat-lays received unexpectedly good responses. “So I decided to carry on with it. It’s become a theme,” he says.

For these two, it’s not just snap, filter, hashtag and post. It takes Vivian a few hours to do a drawing, and when it comes to bigger pieces with loads of details, it can take up to 10 hours. It doesn’t take as long for Justin, but it still takes him 10-15 minutes to set up, and 20-30 minutes to edit.

But their popularity takes more than just effort or quantity of posts, right? The two IGers offer their tips on gaining fame on the social media app.

To start with, there are definitely prime times to post. Around 9pm Hong Kong time is the best time for all over the world, Vivian has noticed. “I didn’t research, it just happened,’ she giggled.

They are both embarrassed to recall using a lot of hashtags in their early days, but soon realised that it’s better to comment on other people’s feeds to get more followers. “Comment on people you genuinely like and hopefully they’ll notice you and the word will spread of who you are,” says Justin.



They didn’t realise they’d become famous on the platform until people started asking questions.

For Vivian, questions like “how do you draw this?” and “what materials do you use?” sparked her curiosity. “It made me want to teach them and inspire them,” she says, explaining her newfound interest in making speed-drawing videos. She enjoys all the positive responses. “It’s actually quite cool to see the way you draw. You don’t normally notice what you’re doing, you only notice the outcome.”

Unlike Vivian, who tries to post only weekly to avoid running out of drawings to post, Justin has forced himself into the habit of posting daily. “My mum buys a lot of food for me after school so there’s something different for me to post all the time,” he says.

Justin has a huge, white, fixed desk in his room which he uses as his flat-lay photography backdrop. “That’s why I started posting only white background photos,” he says. Now he uses black fabrics and sheets of papers, as well as a bit of help from Photoshop, to create diverse and colourful backgrounds.

He admits that daily flat-lays are getting a little tiring, so he’s hoping to do some behind-the-scenes videos during summer.

He also knows he might have to adapt his style once he starts university in Chicago. “I might not have as big a desk, so I might switch to portrait and landscape, which I’ve always been interested in; more conceptual photography,” he says.

Justin also hopes to incorporate his blog, Other Fabrications, more. There, he shares not only his fashion designs and photography, but also interviews with fellow Instagrammers.

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“I wanted to learn from these IGers I really like and share that with my followers. It’s something fun to do,” he says. “One memorable quote [from the interviews] was: ‘You shouldn’t post because others like to post, post from your heart.’ That really struck me as something I should follow.”

But that’s easier said than done. Hunger for fame and followers is a negative side of social media and has inevitably affected the two students.

“Once you’ve reached the stage where you realise people do like your work, it makes me feel like I should constantly post more to gain followers,” says Justin.

Vivian adds: “It’s not meant to be something important, but it’s in the back of your head, you can’t help but think that way.”

Despite this, social media also been a big influence for them, especially as they are so absorbed by their phones and the internet, as Vivian puts it.

“We get creative inspiration from other artists, other creative people that we generally admire,” adds Justin.

Vivian finds it interesting and motivating to see what people from different parts of the world post on Instagram. “It’s also so accessible,” says Justin who makes a lot of friends through IG.

Throughout the two years on the platform, the two of them have improved a lot.

“If I didn’t post on Instagram, I don’t think my photography capability would have reached this level,” says Justin.

“Same here,” says Vivian. “I don’t think my artworks would have improved at all.” says Vivian, who appreciates her follower’s encouragement and constructive criticism.

Instagram has pushed Vivian to draw more, to look at her own flaws which she could have ignored, and also provided good photography lessons.

“The first time I posted on Instagram, the way I photographed my work was terrible,” she says. “But now I know about natural lighting, good composition … I think (Instagram has) taught me a lot.”

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Icons of Instagram


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