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The Hilltop


The Art Of The Selfie: How One Howard Student Uses Social Media To Build Fellowship

Kelby Hughes takes a selfie with a group of students on The Yard (Photo courtesy of Chase Lincoln)

Howard University is home to diverse student creatives, and the community can be found just about anywhere, on and off-campus – from open mics to art exhibitions, fashion showcases, and documentary premieres.

While many students join and build community within existing collectives and organizations to help further this sense of community, some students take it upon themselves to foster new ones uniquely.

Kelby Hughes, a sophomore chemical engineering major, is one of these students. 

Since arriving on campus last fall, Hughes has used Instagram to document his daily life, events and other students at Howard. His distinct use of selfies to connect students on and beyond social media has helped further a connection to other students on campus.

In addition to academic learning and professional development, community engagement at higher education institutions promotes college students’ well-being, according to a case study conducted by the National Institutes of Health. The connections built can create a socially enriching experience and strengthen school pride.

The inclusive nature of Hughes’ Instagram, @k_sauce2004, is what he says separates him from most other users on the platform. But this unique social media style isn’t new to the Oakland, California, native. He says the COVID-19 pandemic is what inspired him to start using Instagram in such a creative way.

“When COVID occurred, it changed a lot. Being a social person has been a thing of mine since I was much younger…you’d go from meeting and seeing so many people daily to being alone in your house,” Hughes said.

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After the COVID lockdowns were over and months went by without posting, Hughes returned to Instagram. 

Selfies Kelby Hughes has taken with Howard University students on his Instagram profile (Photo courtesy of @k_sauce2004 on Instagram)

“Senior year of high school is when my posting really started picking up,” he said. “I ended up posting just about anything: study sessions, class, boring days, fun days, etc.”

After graduating from Bishop O’Dowd High School in Oakland, California, in 2022, Hughes continued his social media presence as he transitioned to Howard. 

“I knew that, while I was done with O’Dowd, what I was doing was a good thing, and I wanted to bring it to Howard … I purposely chose to branch out and meet a lot of new people,” Hughes said. “So I went to parties, game nights at College Hall South, and other activities on campus. And once I got to know a lot of them, I would ask if they wanted to take a picture.”

Hughes has acknowledged the importance of what he does and how it distinguishes him from the typical way users on social media, Instagram in particular, are used.

“I recognize what I’m doing on campus is a good thing. It’s not just being an influencer or a guy that’s always attached to social media or lives through social media. I understand that what I do brings the campus together. People that might not have known each other, know each other now because of what I do,” he said.

He has also touched upon the positive support and feedback from other students. 

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“I’ve been told plenty of times by plenty of different people, ‘I appreciate what you’re doing,’ ‘It’s different and refreshing.’It brings a lot of people together, especially during hard times,” he said.

Joshua Hughes, a senior Mathematics major at Howard, also emphasized the traditional HBCU values of community and openness that Kelby has helped espouse.

“Whenever I open up Instagram and see a picture of Kelby smiling, you know, it could be an underclassman, it could be an upperclassman, it could be somebody on the faculty and staff,” Hughes said, “He always has a great way of connecting with people, making people feel welcome, and promoting the sense of unity that HBCUs are really meant for.”

Noraa Maxey, an honors Biology major, shared similar views on Hughes’ Instagram. 

“I think Kelby has helped promote a sense of community at Howard by interacting with everyone on campus, no matter their class or major. I feel like everyone can connect through his Instagram to find new people to hang out with and interact with,” Maxey said.

Hughes didn’t initially think his posts would have the impact they did, but after careful reflection, he realized the importance of it. 

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“I never really knew a way to describe what I was doing, but plenty of people have called it a social media scrapbook, others have called it art, or both. I think that’s the best way I look at it,” he said. “These pictures are memories, in a way, and if you’re able to preserve them or capture them, you’re able to have them for a long time and remember and look back on some of the good things that life has to offer.”

Copy edited by Jasper Smith


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