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Blog - Michelle Baharier

A ‘dyslexic rant’ about the impact of Instagram


Does it work for you? This is a series of blogs/views about Instagram. To get a picture I need your heIp. As disabled artists, we will have different experiences about our ability to interact and use different mediums so please share your experiences at the end of these blogs.

Digital artwork of a woman with blue face and black hairSo how good is Instagram for a disabled Artist?

I am going to talk about my experience as a those of you who know me will know that I am dyslexic and have mental distress as well as a spinal injury.  When it comes to Instagram it is my Dyslexia and my mental health which can cause me to have access issues.

On Twitter I am @dyslxicRant on Instagram I am @bahariermichelle, both are a challenging due to my neurodiversity. For those of you who do not know, Dyslexia is defined by the NHS as: ‘a common learning difficulty that can cause problems with reading, writing and spelling.’ Whereas the British Dyslexia association say ‘Dyslexia is a learning difference and is about information processing.’ The Mayo clinic online say ‘Dyslexia is a learning disorder that involves difficulty reading due to problems identifying speech sounds and learning how they relate to letters and words (decoding).’

I was first diagnosed when I was nine years old when Dyslexia and it not recognised as a disability or in fact anything until 1989. Due to the lack of recognition, I was accused of being lazy, as well as stupid and thick. I went to mainstream school but my experience was horrendous as I was pulled out of English and French and sent to ‘special needs classes’. In a mainstream school children who go to ‘special needs’ classes are seen as the ‘thickest kids’ at school.

This is harmful as you are already a target for bullies and those who want to make me you feel like an outcast. Due to also being Jewish, there were plenty of bullies after me at school. I would not recommend this experience for any child. So at nine years of age I was already labelled intersectional, as a member of an ethnic minority being a Jewish girl, with dyslexia.

Definitions of Dyslexia are impositions by others, who have described my differences. You might well ask what are the day-to-day things I experience? It can be hard to explain as I do not know what is it like not to be Dyslexic. So, let’s start with sort term memory, I have to be really careful as my capacity with my memory can get very messed up. I cannot always sequence either, dates, times and years I get in the wrong order, unless I write them down and tick them off against actual diaries.

This can become complex and cause communication issues and I have to be aware that my need due to my memory means I may not do niceties well, because doing that will mean I will forget what I really need to say. I also have difficulty as my vocabulary is limited as I have not read as much as many other people. My vocabulary is also limited by the fact I can’t find how to spell words, because I cannot make the sounds needed to do so. Since I was diagnosed it was noted I had an 8 audio deficit and so I do not hear certain sounds. Today this could be helped with music and training a child to listen to certain ranges of music, unfortunately no such system was available to me.

Words on pages, computers or books can jump around and I need a ruler and or a pointer to be able to follow text and read, I need to sometimes have words read to me as I cannot work them out. I can’t spell and do not like toffee (joke). Many jokes go over my head and are made about me such as Dyslexia=sexdaily, this all has to be explained to me. I can’t do crosswords and hardly ever read comics, because as a child I could not read.

So Back to Instagram, the visual heaven of social media, meant to be the less aggressive side of social media. But are the images just saturating us in paid for adverts by the richest, or is it really a place where you can truly be discovered?

Believe me I am trying to be discovered, I have been an emerging artist forever, but I am Dyslexic and Instagram works on #, in order to add a # I have to understand how it works. I then have to know how to spell the words, you have to be online all most all the time and write copy that enables people to comment on your work!!

You also need an expensive phone with a good camera and a brain that can retain the words and the  #’s.

So as an older woman, I am having to learn all these new programs/mediums. As for Instagram, I only really got my head around it in March after a lesson with a friend, but I only know the basics and I am not sure how you progress.

So although it’s supposedly all about visuals and getting attention, it’s not really is it? … First you need to write up a blurb, second you need to understand #’s and then you need to be able to spell the hashtags. Speech programmes are often redundant, as they need a person who can spell to correct it. I get no personal assistance and the Dragon software I use isn’t available on my phone. Plus, Instagram is not usable on a laptop or Desktop computer. That leaves odd apps or Google speech to text. I have a London accent so 50% of the time the speech to text doesn’t understand me.

Are people really interested in your work, or are they just looking for a follower? There are websites that give you the most popular hashtags for free but does that get you followers? Here are the top #’s #love, #instagood, #photooftheday, #fashion, #beautiful, #happy, #cute, #tbt.

I want to leave you some images I put on Instagram to demonstrates why it so hard when you are me.

Duck floating in a canal

This was an image I put on Instagram on 1 November 2019, it had 19 likes. I do not pay to have my work promoted. I added 21 #’s across a number of themes such as #Duck, #Londonbyartist, #walking #wellbeing #reflectionsdevida #grandunioncanale

I thought the image spoke for itself, how old fashioned is that?

Another image I put up:

Marble statues

How would you hashtag this image?

I am asking that you please tell me what #’s you would give this image and how would you talk about it?

Many thanks

Instagram: @bahariermichelle

Twitter: @dyslxicrant

Facebook (you need to request to follow me)

Groups run by Michelle Baharier 

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