CULTURE & ARTS
05/11/2016 11:30 am ET

These Blank Instagrams Are Really Stories Hidden In Plain Sight

Just tap. 👆

How can a story appear in a seemingly empty Instagram post? Easy: Tap these posts from writing nonprofit 826 Valencia, and the words spring up like magic.

The secret? Each word or phrase is a username that's been tagged to the image. When the Instagram post is tapped, the tags appear -- but while usually this just reveals the Instagram handles of your cousin's fishing buddies, or whoever appears in the photo, in these ingenious posts the words in the handles piece together a short and sweet story.

The stories themselves, simple but poignant flash fiction with titles like "Thin Man" and "String Theory," were written by students at 826 Valencia. The San Francisco-based nonprofit, founded by author Dave Eggers, offers disadvantaged young people an enriched setting to build their writing skills and creativity with the help of volunteers. The series was created in collaboration with advertising firm BBDOSF as a volunteer recruitment campaign. (The ad company donated its time for the project.)

Molly Parent, 826 Valencia's Programs & Communications manager, told The Huffington Post in an email that the series "was designed to demonstrate how supporting 826 Valencia helps bring writing to life and amplifies our students' brilliant voices." The clever campaign puts the power with the viewer to make the students' writing visible, a gratifying little analogy for the good one could do by working with talented but under-resourced children. 

In addition to recruiting new volunteers, Parent told HuffPost, the series promoted the nonprofit's Indiegogo campaign for their new writing center in the traditionally underprivileged Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco. 

For many, the fun Instagram series caught attention simply with its unconventional approach to storytelling. But what about the users whose handles were tagged, unexpectedly, in a story by a student they'd never met?

"We got messages back from a handful of the users, from all over the world," Parent told HuffPost. "All expressed support for our work and were excited about the use of their username. We're still waiting to see if any show up at our volunteer orientations. Maybe we'll have to add a new option to the 'how have you heard about us?' question on the application!"

HuffPost

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