‘I am divine liberal arts energy’: 5C affirmations accounts foster connections

(Zoey Lofgren • The Student Life)

You’re walking to your first in-person class since March of 2020. Suddenly struck with anxiety, you think: Have I forgotten how to do school? Have I forgotten how to socialize? Does my mask match my outfit? An affirmation, or a positive statement repeated to oneself to overcome negative thoughts, might be reassuring in this moment. 

Thankfully, there is no shortage of 5C-specific affirmation content to choose from.

Since the semester began, at least five 5C affirmations accounts have popped up on Instagram. Some are school-specific, like @scrippsaffirmations and @pzaffirmations. Others focus on specific groups of students, such as @claremontmanffirmations

These accounts all use the format and style popularized by the original affirmations account, @afffirmations, which rose to fame on Instagram over the past year and now boasts over 759k followers. A background image, often blurred or out of focus, is overlaid with glowing text affirming something. Usually, the background image does not relate to the affirmation at all. 

“It’s kind of like a 5C-wide inside joke. It feels like someone understands some, like random, trivial thing that occurs.” —Helen Landau SC ’24

The affirmations themselves range in subject material. Many have to do with mental health, and some are just plain nonsensical. Some recent examples from @afffirmations include a picture of Spider-Man that proclaims “I will take a dip in pure serotonin today” and a picture of a leprechaun hat that reads “I always have a certain edge.” 

“I’ve been following that account for months,” Nicholas Black PO ’24 said. “I just love them so much. They’re funny, and they can also [be] comforting, like, they can actually help me.” 

Black runs the most-followed affirmations account, @5caffirmations. Memes posted by Black’s account and others are frequently reshared by students, either by posting them to their own Instagram stories or sending them to friends to build community and a sense of shared identity. 

“It’s kind of like a 5C-wide inside joke. It feels like someone understands some, like random, trivial thing that occurs,” Helen Landau SC ’24 said.

Liz Murray PO ’21 thinks the memes help facilitate cross-campus connections. 

“I follow @scrippsaffirmations, and I’m simultaneously laughing and learning a little bit about Scripps,” she said. “You can also send them to your friends at other schools, and it just encourages some connections between your peers.”

According to Black, these sentiments were part of his intention behind creating the account. 

“I think that when you see something, and you’re like ‘Oh, my God, I’ve thought that,’ it just immediately builds a sense of identity between the schools,” he said. “And yeah, that was kind of the point. I think it’s just to make people feel connected and like they’re part of something.” 

Many of the affirmations relate to COVID-19 protocols and procedures across the campuses. 

“I excel at COVID-19 spit tests,” Black posted to @5caffirmations on Sept. 11. 

“The line at the mailroom will not send me into an intrusive thought spiral,” wrote @scrippsaffirmations on Sept. 14, referencing the new limited hours of the Scripps mailroom and the long lines that have resulted. 

The memes provide an avenue to process small frustrations created by these new rules and procedures. They also acknowledge the larger themes of uncertainty and chaos surrounding the return to campus during an ongoing pandemic.

“Especially as a first year, when everything’s so new…I think they really unite us through our shared struggles,” Angela Trinh PZ ’25 said. “Our daily struggles of being a 5C student during COVID and all these tiny little obstacles.”

Affirmations have ties to spirituality, similar to manifestation and meditation. This ironic take on them is especially relatable to a generation whose humor skews cynical rather than optimistic. 

“I just think they’re relatable in the sense that they’re kind of sarcastic,” Sydney Jackson SC ’23 said. “The whole point of them is to say something that’s not necessarily true [in order] to try to make it true. So I think that in itself is funny.”

According to Scripps College professor Adam Novy, who teaches a Core II class on memes, the wording of the affirmation allows it to convey multiple meanings at once. 

Referencing a specific @5caffirmations meme that reads “My laundry will not end up on the floor this time,” he said, “When you look at this, you think a couple different things. One thing you think is ‘My laundry is going to end up on the floor this time’. And then you also think ‘My laundry is not going to end up on the floor this time’. And then you also occupy some sort of position in the middle of those two poles, which is that if it ends up on the floor this time, maybe I will take it a little better.”

The surface-level sarcasm and nonsensical quality of affirmations memes disguise real sincerity and a genuine hope that our collective college experience will become better than it currently is. 

“They contain an ironic position, but also a sincere position,” Novy said. “The irony really makes space for that sincerity.”

Black hopes students continue to engage with these accounts to foster a sense of community on campus and bond through humor and positivity. 

“I’ve already met people just running the account that I never would have met,” he said. “I think after being on Zoom and being so disconnected, it’s been nice to bring people together in a way that’s positive and can be funny.”

Editor’s note: Nicholas Black PO ’24 is an opinions writer for TSL.

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