Opinion | 2020 Achievement Posts do more harm than good


By Maddy Raven, Film & TV Editor

The intention of a “2020 achievement” post on social media is well-meaning, but its negative effects are manifold, however that’s not to say you shouldn’t be making these posts: there’s a lot to be said for congratulating yourself when congratulations are in order.

Many social media posts at the start of our first lockdown gently reminded us that everyone was struggling and that if all you did that day was get up, eat and remember to drink water, that was more than good enough.

Surviving, let alone thriving, in a national lockdown, is an amazing feat. Making a post to congratulate yourself for a personal achievement seems innocent enough, until we consider who may see that post.

We seem to have taken once again to social media to show the world what we’ve done well this year

But we seem to have lost the gift of hindsight. Rather than continuing to take care of our mental health and trying to ignore our constant need for productivity, we seem to have taken once again to social media to show the world what we’ve done well this year.

It’s difficult to look back on how long this year has felt and to see how little progress you may have made with your goals.

Two days before lockdown, I applied to my dream work placement: now I’m sat in my bedroom every day, enduring endless Zoom calls and somehow still falling behind. I’m going to have to take a gap year to wait for my chosen industry to recover from the devastating effects of the pandemic. I am no stranger to the disappointment this year has brought down on our heads.

The fact that we’re still here, completing our degrees, is a miracle

While I have no issue with an individual’s post about how 2020 was the year in which they learned BSL, or to knit, or they began to post pictures of their body after years of insecurity, I do have an issue with the boastful nature of many of these posts - especially when it comes from those who are more well off than the rest of us.

If you harken back to the start of the year, and this whole COVID-19 mess, you may remember the incredible tone-deaf montage of celebrities singing ‘Imagine’ by John Lennon to us via their phone cameras. That’s how these kinds of 2020 Achievement posts make me feel.

I’m not suggesting censorship, or that you shouldn’t post on Instagram at all. Seeing people’s achievements in the face of adversity is an important experience for us all. But if you were still able to travel the world, continue running a business or make another huge life change despite the pandemic, in many cases, it’s important to acknowledge your privilege.

In a society that so relentlessly encourages productivity, it’s very difficult to go on social media every day and see how people, who, on the surface, are like me do incredibly well this year.

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I don’t wish that everyone be as miserable as some of us have been during the pandemic. But as someone who already struggled to stay on task, and with productivity in general, even before a huge number of stressors were introduced, the joy of seeing other people succeed has become inextricably combined with self-loathing.

I’d like to encourage us all to congratulate ourselves every day for living through a pandemic - in February, it was found that 45% of Bristol students screened positive for depression. The fact that we’re still here, completing our degrees, is a miracle.

Congratulate yourself for getting out of bed. Congratulate yourself for remembering to eat. A culture which encourages relentless productivity and wants you to compare your productivity to that of celebrities and rich people whose lives barely changed because of their access to resources and support is simply toxic and we should not be embracing it so unquestioningly.

Featured Image: Epigram / Jack Crockford

Do you agree that achievement posts do more harm than good?