The world of mommy blogging has always been glossed and gussied up in order to promote an ideal image of motherhood. However, Instagram’s focus on images might be making this even more pronounced, urging every mompreneur to frantically clear a corner of her house in order to make it look like she obsessively scrubs and waxes every morning while the perfectly-behaved children play nicely together in a crib.
As moms, we know that that’s not the reality… not for ourselves, anyway. Our dinners and snacks don’t consist of perfectly arranged food, but rather sliced-up hot dogs that have been mashed and picked over by persnickety eaters. Beautiful new baby clothes last a day for the photos. Then they’re subjected to the humiliation of spit-up, spilled food, and a mysterious stain that you can’t figure out the source of.
Motherhood is messy. But we love the beautiful pictures that ignore that fact. How is this disconnect affecting us as a culture?
Social Media and Mental Health
Numerous studies in recent years have shown an alarming correlation between social media use and anxiety orders like depression. As this article explains, this correlation is especially clear in young people, and in women. I believe that one of the reasons that social media has such a big effect on these demographics is because… well, none of us know what we’re doing. Not as teens, and certainly not as moms. A job as monumental as motherhood doesn’t come with training. Children don’t come with manuals. And we’re all strangely isolated as we struggle through it. If the only indicators and models we have for motherhood are airbrushed and edited, how can we hope to measure up?
This can create a cycle of negative thinking. We believe that we’ll never be enough, that our children are getting sub-par experiences and opportunities. That kind of thought pattern can be terribly destructive. This article provides some great guidance for countering that kind of mentality. But as much as you work to counter it, a single glance at social media can send us plummeting again.
Building a Brand
But enough about the mental effects on fans and followers. What about what’s going on in the heads of those who are on the other side of the curtain; the bloggers, photographers, and mothers who are sharing their lives, their clever solutions, and their homes with us? It can be easy to paint bloggers with a broad brush and assume that we’re the ones diabolically undermining our followers’ confidence. However, it’s (of course) not that simple!
The most successful mommy blogger accounts on Instagram are made by women who are savvy and smart. They might be women who worked as marketers in the professional world before devoting themselves to being stay-at-home moms. However, it’s important to consider that any mother who has a successful following is not only a stay-at-home mom, but a businesswoman. It takes a lot of time, talent, and stress in order to build a brand. Many of these women treat this as a full-time job, devoting hours each day to photo shoots, recipe formulation, crafting, and writing. And since they know that branding is about presentation, they work to put their best foot forward. After all, isn’t that the same thing that we expect from every brand and business that we patronize?
I think much of the difficulty comes when we don’t realize the distinction between business and personal lives. It’s easy for us to feel like we’re close friends with our favorite bloggers, since we get to be privy to personal moments, and we spend time investing in each other. Many bloggers are actually making a business out of their personal lives, so it can be hard to draw the distinctions between each.
It can be a gasp of fresh air when we see our favorite bloggers sharing the “real” moments too… those times when we haven’t showered in a week because there hasn’t been a spare moment, times when the kids (and their mother) have been living off pizza and goldfish crackers for the last month, times when we’re so exhausted that it feels impossible to get up out of a chair… but we do it, because our children need us to. However, it’s hard to decide whether sharing those moments will be good for our brand, and therefore, good for the success and supplemental income that makes us persist in putting in those long hours at the computer.
As with Anything, Moderation is Key
In the end, I think that it’s important for us to be aware of the effects of social media in our lives and in our mental health. You might be the one scrolling through picture-perfect versions of motherhood on your feed, wondering how you can measure up. Or you might be the one hoping for more likes, comments, fans, placing your own self-image on the line and weathering the criticism of anonymous figures in the comments section. But in the end, we all need to support each other as mothers, not demean and undermine.
Sharing our lives and connecting with others online can be incredibly rewarding, but it can’t replace the real personal connections in our lives, because those are the moments when we can really see each other and actually do something to help each other. If you find that social media is hurting more than helping, it’s time to take stock and determine whether you should be spending your time in other ways. My grandfather used to say that if looking over your fence at your neighbors is making you jealous… then it’s time to stop looking.It’s characteristically blunt of him, but I think it’s also good advice.
I’d love to hear from all of you. If you blog, how do you decide what to share and what not to? As a fan and follower, have you ever struggled to understand what the truth is, and has it ever been hard to keep your peace of mind and feel like you’re good enough as a mother?
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