It’s not you. It’s me.
A couple months ago, a rally cry went into the Mom Instagram-sphere for Influencers and bloggers to be more “real.” To forgo posting about their neat-as-a-pin countertops, their well-behaved children in vintage bloomers, and their glowing skin and shiny hair, in an effort to decrease the comparison that happens so often when women consume social media. To make their social media channels a space for “positivity” and connection.
And so, in the endless scroll of perfectly curated squares, it seemed like some of our favorite Instagrammers were about to engage in a seismic shift. Would readers finally see the Mom Behind The Instagram Curtain, um, Filter? The answer was: of course not.
Going through the feeds of some of the popular Mom Instagrammers apparently “embracing” this trend, I saw some posts as honest and raw as a Hallmark card. One Mom Influencer posts herself as a young bride with her young groom, radiant and doe-eyed with a caption like: “marriage is hard, you guys. We’ve been married a long time, and it takes work.” Um. Yes. That is true. Thank you for your honest and real photo of yourself airbrushed on your wedding day, before it got hard.
Another Mom Influencer posts an Insta Story to point out (#realtalk) the pimple she woke up with. It will be live for a total of 24 hours and will never even make it into her curated squares.
I continue to dig. But Instagram Moms seem to be afraid to actually reveal, well, anything. “I had THAT kind of day today,” or “my kid had a bad tantrum,” they say, captioning a photo from a family photo shoot in a field of daisies. Then they ask their readers questions about their own vulnerability (way to pass the hot potato). Yawn.
The truth is, I’m relieved. And so is the general public. From what I can gather from the comments, engaged fans keep on engaging. Yup, prayer hands and hearts for days.
The truth is, we WANT them to look perfect. We follow their perfect feeds. We like their perfect posts. We comment, we emote, we share with our friends. It’s not them. It’s us.
It wasn’t always like that. In my early years of pregnancy and mom life, the Internet was filled with “motherhood from the frontlines” blogs that really got into the down and dirty sides of motherhood. It felt like there truly was a village out there, of other women fighting the good fight against cloth diapers that just didn’t cut it if your baby had a blowout. Being authentic on the social media channels available to us at the time was the norm. (I show my age.)
But, as Sarah Pulliam Baily describes in detail in her viral article for the Wall Street Journal, “How the Mom Internet Became A Spotless, Sponsored Void”, eventually those honest mom blogs mostly disappeared thanks to a number of factors, from financial (ads, sponsored content) to the way that audiences were consuming media (on smaller devices, shorter posts).
One could even say that the pendulum shifts in the opposite direction when it comes to the tone of how motherhood is portrayed on social media: There was a time, we demanded gritty content; and after a while, the pendulum swung towards spotless in response. Now that everything is whitewashed, we want to see the sticky couch stains again. Except we actually don’t.
Of course, there are Instagram Moms out there whose brands are all about being raw and honest, and who always have been – you know, the moms who have been (and keep on) posting pumping photos, writing about how they really feel about their postpartum bodies, showing their scars, and their messy living rooms. Some Instagram Moms do this really well. But Instagram would probably die if it was just used for posting relatable, if not sometimes depressing, pictures of real life.
Of course, who am I to censor anyone? If Perfect Instagram Mom wants to speak her truth, and say something real because it is coming from a good and human place, then goddamn she should go shout it from a mountain! But if she doesn’t want to do that? That’s OK. Because guess what? YOU still love her. I mean, you are still following her, right?
Here’s my Big Thought on the topic (keeping in mind The Sisterhood, and The Tribe, and all that good lady stuff): it is still not the job of a Instagram Mom, no matter how influential, to help us “other” moms feel more confident about ourselves. Why should she make her square less beautiful to make us feel better about our own mediocre squares?
Consumers of media have choices: We can look away, and put down the phone; we can teach ourselves to think differently, or we can delete social media altogether. When it comes to fixing the negativity and comparison that social media breeds, the onus is on the media consumer, not the influencer.
I’m happy for the super famous Instagram Moms with hundreds and thousands of followers to continue posting the squares that got them famous in the first place – all those pretty pictures of babies in bonnets or perfectly styled bump shots. And I promise not to ever feel bad about not posting a photoshoot-worthy kitchen, or a picture of me pushing a stroller while wearing five-inch heels while casually sipping a latte. Deal? Thanks.