Aspire to inspire: interview with the creator of “Inspire Me”

Filipa Pontinha is only 21 and already a trend-setter. When I asked her to introduce herself in a few words, she said: “I live in the moment. I have feelings and emotions, and I take care of them – they’re all I am and all I’ve got.” As you do.

A Marketing student in Lisbon, Filipa inspires people on a daily basis with her increasingly well-known Facebook page Inspire Me. Many of you may not have heard of it (yet), but it has become a true cultural phenomenon in Portugal.

Profile picture of the “Inspire Me” Facebook page

Like every success story, it started out quite innocently, when Filipa discovered the social networking website Tumblr and began re-blogging pictures she found online. “Many [of those pictures] expressed something… I started storing them in my computer and later decided to create a Facebook page to share them with my friends.”

“What’s so special about these pictures?”, a lot of you may wonder. This brings me to my next point: the reason the page attracted that many followers in the first place are the pictures it shares. Their distinctive style has made them instantly recognizable as an arty-slash-vintage type of photography. Not only are these pictures beautiful and unique, they are a striking example of the famous saying “A picture is worth more than a thousand words”.

“A photo, a movie, sometimes even just a sentence can help us feel, open up, share, find ourselves…”, Filipa says. The Facebook page she created and the things she shares on it aim to do the same thing, which she sums up in one simple and key word: “inspire”.

Filipa never advertised her page online and yet, slowly but surely, this collection of inspiring things (which are not just photos but videos, music and texts as well) has managed to reach almost 110,000 followers in little over a year. Filipa explains: “It’s an open space at anybody’s reach. People enter my own little world with a simple click and, of course, they can relate.” It has become so popular, that an Inspire Me blog was launched a few weeks ago.

An example of a picture re-blogged by Filipa in “Inspire Me”

An article in the made-in-Portugal website Stand’Art Wall describes the “Inspire Me effect” perfectly: it gathers thousands of people, from “the less communicative that get the help they need in expressing their emotions with pictures that illustrate how they feel, to insecure girls with dreams who get to discover role models, people to look up to who motivate them.”

The creator of Inspire Me puts it in other words: “We all see the world in a different way, each and every one of us is unique. But I think my page works as a therapy for many people out there, without them having to explain why they feel how they feel. That’s how it works for me anyway.”

The number of fans keeps growing and Filipa rejoices at the thought of being able to inspire so many people. “I’m very happy about this and I’m very thankful for my fans, they’re all so nice! I can’t believe how many other pages have been created with the same concept, but it makes me very proud. It means I started a trend and encouraged people to create things like this on Facebook.”

Inspire Me opens up a new world right before our eager eyes and an addictive urge to go through all the albums and every single picture they contain suddenly emerges. My question is, is this even healthy?

“I think it’s important to be alone sometimes,” Filipa says. “And why not use the Internet to develop our own little world? It helps us escape society for a bit and we should acknowledge its influence on our personal development.

Here’s the recipe for success: a pinch of Internet once in a while, with a dash of Inspire Me if possible!” (laughs)

The effect “Inspire Me” hopes to have on its followers

We also talked about how people relate to the pictures Filipa shares, and I point out the fact that the wonders of Internet often hide a great paradox: though it aims to bring people closer, it can end up isolating them. Filipa agrees: “That is very true! I think it ‘brings closer those who are distant and distances those who are close’.

“Though technology isn’t there to bring us apart, it can reduce social contact, which to me is one of the most important things in life. It’s what makes us live, what makes us who we are.”

With pages like Inspire Me,  what is virtual and what is real gets easily blurred as followers express their deepest thoughts and inner feelings – behind a screen. “It really bothers me, this side effect Internet has on our society. I don’t like the idea of diminishing social interaction.

“Isn’t it better to hang out with friends? Isn’t it better to go to the movies, or read a book? To take a walk, to take pictures, to exercise? To see, touch, smell, feel? Isn’t it better to live?”

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