If you're on Instagram and you're a mom, then you probably know exactly what an "Instagram mom" is (think hashtags like #motherhoodunplugged and #liveauthentic). They post beautiful photos of all their babies and toddlers wearing white linen, and the linen is somehow still white. They use those hashtags on family photos where all the kids and parents are miraculously snapped midlaugh amid some sort of tropical backdrop. They manage to put their perfectly calm and sleeping infant in a basket in a gorgeous Fall foliage setting during that blissful postpartum period when you're still bleeding out of your crotch and your stomach looked like it went through a meat grinder. But, you know, #livebeautifully I guess.
I'd be lying if I told you I didn't want some of their Instagram lives. Everything is clean, they wear stylish clothes despite having a baby that probably spits up every few hours, and they somehow travel and always look happy. But I'm getting tired of them and I'm getting tired of "it." Not only because I find myself falling prey to the Instagram vortex of comparison and shame, but also because I actually think these women are doing real damage.
Now, I am admittedly an avid Instagram poster who puts her life out there on social media. If you follow me and are reading this, you're probably thinking, "Um, hello, aren't YOU sort of an Insta mommy?" I don't think I am, but I was a wannabe at some point. I've definitely added "popular" hashtags (#honestmotherhood, #darlingescapes, #WHO EVEN TALKS LIKE THIS IRL) to try and increase my photo engagement. I've deliberated sometimes an hour over a caption or a particular set of filters and analyzed in great detail if that really is my fat roll or if it's just the angle of my shirt before I publish. I've read up on best times to post and am guilty of making trite comments on accounts with bigger followership to see if I could get a coveted follow back. Surely, these can't be healthy habits, and I'm making a conscious effort to stop. But let me share with you a few reasons why these perfectly curated, not-real-life Instagram feeds are especially damaging to mothers.
1. The photos can be heavily edited, and new moms (especially) are extra vulnerable.
I know many of these photos aren't real life, and yet I still find myself scrolling through some mom influencer feeds and feeling a wee bit envious (how are all of your kids smiling against that colorful graffiti wall at the same time?!). And when I say many photos are edited, I'm not just talking about adding a filter from the Instagram app. Most mom influencers at a certain follower level are either well-versed in Photoshop, outsource photo editing to a paid social media person, or they even pay companies whose sole job it is to edit their photos, make their feeds look cohesive and beautiful, and remove any white linen stain or extra wrinkle around the eye. So good luck with taking that #instaworthy photo of your newborn in leaves.
2. The photos are often not in real time, which can mess you up when you're subconsciously comparing.
I remember learning this recently and felt duped. At one point I thought that every photo I saw was a real and authentic representation of what was happening at that exact moment, or at the very least, day (#TBT excluded). But, no. So when you're scrolling through your feed in the morning while crying your way through breastfeeding because you're engorged, that other mom you see on Instagram who is looking sweetly down at her suckling newborn and cooing about the beauty of boob bonding probably took that shots weeks — maybe months — ago.
3. Hardcore Insta Mommies Hire Professional Photographers.
That's supercute that you like to whip out your smartphone, but to be a true Insta Mommy, you'll need to hire a professional photographer. They'll take amazing shots of your family, and you'll even have outfit changes. Then you'll sprinkle out those photos over the course of the next few months (see point number two again). So the next time you want to set the house on fire because your family will not smile (or even stand next to you) for a photo, know that many of the shots you see on Instagram are because that mom paid a professional. And you are not seeing the outtakes.
4. Brands often pay these women, so maintaining a specific image is literally their job.
The social media influencer space is only growing. And there's value in having a real person represent a brand that's a great fit for both parties involved. But if you're a regular mom and you see your favorite Insta mommies wearing amazing clothes or their kids look like they stepped off a fashion runway, it's because, yeah, brands most likely sent them clothes in the hopes they'd wear it on their feeds. Sometimes it's authentic wearing, but sometimes it's paid. When you're blurry-eyed and scrolling while rocking your baby to sleep at 4 a.m., it can be really easy to not see the #ad next to the photo.
5. Influencer moms know the content that does the best on their feeds.
At a certain point, you know what type of photos get the most likes, comments, and tags. For a regular Instagram user, you're not thinking about your photos in this context, but a lot of Insta mommies are. Meaning, if the loving and laughing family pic is what tends to do best, then that's the content they'll stick too . . . which isn't really authentic, is it? Many moms I follow manically post amazing group family shots. I mean, COME ON. Who even likes taking that many family photos? And who are their partners?! I have the best husband ever (remember, I am an AVID Instagram poster and story user), but if I do more than three takes of a family pic, he taps out. But Instagram is a game, and Insta mommies have identified their strategy.
So there you have it. Your favorite Insta mommy that you think has the best life probably doesn't. But not all moms are Insta mommies, and I consider myself in that category. Yes, I post family and travel photos, but I'm adamant about captioning appropriately and authentically. Those who follow my family know getting my kids dressed in the morning often requires a therapy session. We travel a lot as a family and take fabulous trips around the world, but I also don't own a car or a big apartment or nice furniture. I wear the same grey sweatshirt about four times a week. When I try for those "cool" photos in front of amazing backdrops, they're usually always a fail, and I post that fail.