We have curtains in our home for a reason (or make that Plantation shutters if you truly consider yourself a fully-fledged Instahun 😉). A means of shutting out the world, at our choosing, when we wish for privacy. I think we’d all agree that it’s good for the soul. Essential for sanity. Perfectly normal. Imagine, then, that you didn’t have curtains: would you live your life differently? Chances are should everyone in your street be able to see you ‘a la natural’ with your curtains flung open with wild abandon (not a euphemism) you would make some changes as to what you present to the world, no? I know everyone may not be as introverted as I am (one of the reasons why I blog fairly anonymously), but I would hazard most people would modify their presentation to some degree. So, how, then, does a ‘mummy blogger’ manage the fine balance of privacy versus public life when much of it entails making our private lives public?
The Mummy Blogger
Mummy bloggers (or mumfluencers, instamums…take your pick) are individual women who push their elbows out and stake their own little square of social media terrain upon which to create (and ‘curate’ if you’re looking to play insta wanker word bingo) their own digital, representation of motherhood. And social media, particularly Instagram, is ram-packed full of ‘mum accounts’ (myself included). I mainly do it for the shits and giggles as I genuinely enjoy writing, but also to occasionally get some things off my chest (brace yourself…it’s coming lol). Others do it to connect and relate to others and some do it to represent their own reflection of motherhood that may not fit squarely into the hole of the default Instamum (think white, western, middle class, educated, married…you know the drill). There’s as many reasons for doing it, I suppose, as there is accounts, including those who do it for the ‘coin’ (bingo word).
I follow accounts that make me laugh, that I can identify with or which teach me something. Some of these accounts are ‘warts and all’ accounts in which I enter into the terribly modern transaction of trading likes for a small slice of a complete stranger’s life. Slightly odd, but relatable, funny, and reassuring, at times. At other times, the old ‘thief of joy’ can creep up and give me a mean right hook when I’m feeling a bit crap and I find myself comparing my life to someone else’s despite them having a completely different context to mine. In those times, I will ignore the fact that I know very well that social media is a contrived ‘highlight reel’ and proceed to beat myself up for not being as slim/successful/rich/together etc. Again, slightly odd but I don’t think I’m alone in that kind of self-destructive behaviour. Modern day self-sabotage, if you will. All in all, I choose to follow a whole spectrum of mummy bloggers and respect their choices at how much they choose to share. We all have different standards and that’s totally ok. The rest is then down to us to manage as individuals.
That said, whilst I totally respect people’s choices about what they choose to share, I do feel people need to be accountable for what they respectively choose to put out in to a public domain. This means, if you are a ‘warts and all’ blogger then I think you need to expect people to have an opinion on your warts. However, in my experience to date, I find that the opposite happens and people have this unrealistic notion that they can to put whatever suits them out in to the public domain with strictly no come back (other than platitudes, of course). What now? Where else do we get away with that?! The status quo of Instagram, from what I can see, is that many bloggers choose to act as gatekeepers of their own engagement. It is not uncommon to see a bio that clearly states: ‘Negativity will be banned/blocked’. Fair dos, but more often than not, that just seems to be a catch-all statement that actually means: any dissenting opinion will be banned. Hmmm, that’s a loose interpretation of the word ‘negativity’ if ever there was!
There is also a significant block and delete culture going on, so much so that comment sections can often become nothing more than ‘fan girl’ zones: an endless succession of adulation, rallies of ‘you’ve got this mama’, and hashtags such as #womensupportingwomen which have just become so diluted they’ve lost their authenticity. Imagine standing in a room of women in real life – with all its politics, social issues and personal nuances – and having a pleasant chat only for that pleasant chat to never end. Imagine trying to raise a differing opinion, or pass comment on something or – heaven forbid – question something, only to be met with cult-like mantras, positive twitterings aplenty, or (if you took it ‘too far’) be ‘cancelled’ completely. My God, it would feel like someone had whacked me in a red robe and told me to Praise Be. And, quite frankly, as much as I enjoy watching the Handmaid’s Tale I’m not really down with female censorship.
Be Kind. Another hashtag that is banded around so much so that it now makes me want to punch myself in the face. Now, I accept I have previously posted about the need for kindness on social media but this is in the face of people being actually abused which, of course, does happen. Trolling is a real problem and it is despicable. I have seen accounts share their stories of being inboxed appalling messages of abuse and I shake my head at what prompts these keyboard warriors to inflict their own sadness and pain on to others (I’m guessing I’ve sort of answered the question really). I would be mortified if someone was to wage a campaign of hatred and abuse at me and I don’t deny that I censure my content at times to try and avoid this (possibly excessively so). Whilst I accept that we ‘cannot be liked by everyone’ I think most would agree that social media would be a better place without these sad little bastards. Thing is, the world is full of arse holes so I’m guessing that will never happen, sadly.
However, what I cannot curry favour with is the tendency for influencers to cry “TROLL” when there is no trolling, and, even worse, when bloggers court drama for drama’s sake (anyone would think it was good for engagement?!). I really do find it pathetic that someone could simply block you, or accuse you of trolling, for simply asking a question, offering a differing opinion or even for challenging somebody on something. Have we really become so vacuous that we wish to talk at people rather than to/with people? Is it not slightly reminiscent of being in primary school and sulking that you are not going to talk to someone EVER AGAIN because they said something you did not like?
At the close of 2019, Instagram – in the mummy blogging circles – became an absolute hot bed of drama over the behaviour of a ‘top tier’ mumfluencer. Now I’m not here to comment on the matter per se, as…well…who gives a shite*. Plus a shit tonne of air time has already been grabbed by every other mumfluencer worth her #gifted weight seeking to pass judgement and there is now officially no oxygen left on the matter. Thank god, really, as my eyes have rolled to the back of my head so many times recently at all the virtue signalling I’m surprised I’m not seeing out the crack of my arse. My thoughts are more to do with how Instagram seems to have become a self-serving, echo chamber of mutual platitudes, and how boring that is becoming.
It strikes me that the Instamum community has become rather one dimensional with a set of ‘rules’ that seem to equate to: applaud me, or else. This whole ‘be kind’ movement is being reduced to a smoke screen for some pretty privileged people to act however they feel fit with no reproach guaranteed because: “remember guuuuuuuys, we must be kind first and foremost, so best not call me out for being a dick because, well, that’s just not kind!” #bekind #womensupportingwomen #lovewins. Shoot me now. That’s not a relationship based on real engagement, that’s a bloody dictatorship lol. And don’t even get me started on when Instamums pull out the big guns and claim – out of the blue – they are being ‘trolled’. No, chances are you’re really not. You’re simply just not. Oh, has your follower count suddenly jumped up? Fake news. Next.
It’s no wonder sites like Tattle Life have gained popularity when you consider the absolute echo chamber that is the alternative (Tattle is a gossip site that has discussions on influencers). Now, I am not actually a member of Tattle but I have dipped into a fair few threads at times on a variety of Instahuns and I can honestly say my view of the site has reversed massively since I once referred to it in a post with a negative connotation. I was initially drawn to it out of macabre fascination to see how ‘evil’ it was as it’s lauded pretty much as Troll Town. Well blow me down, if I wasn’t shocked to see that it’s heavily made up of pretty normal folk having lots of balanced and respectful conversations. And blow me down again if some of the conversations were like real life chats with differences of opinion and all that other meaty stuff that stops most people from yawning in someone’s face. I even saw people apologise to each other if something got misconstrued. Mind-blown.
All too often on Instagram, if you say one thing slightly out of place you’re often swiftly hit by a tonne of ‘flying monkeys’ – as I’ve seen them referred to as on Tattle (genius) – with people having a pop before the account holder swiftly hits delete/block. It’s mob mentality and it’s an unbearable side effect of Instagram. I accept that some people do make bitchy comments on Tattle and some of it is way below the belt even (which is partly the reason why I’m not a member). But the site as a whole is not a “hate site”. Yes I guess hearing critical stuff about you is hard to hear, but then surely, why go looking for it? And let’s also remember that not all the comments made are bitchy. Some comments question the behaviour of others. That being the case, why not put your big girl pants on and see if there’s anything you could learn? Anything you could do better? So, no, I do not buy it a lot of the time when I hear an Instahun bleat on about being trolled (again, for clarity, I do not condone abusive behaviour anywhere on the internet; I just believe there is a huge distinction between that and criticism).
Instagram may not be real life but your audience are real people and they will respond to your content with real feelings and real world etiquette should apply. So if anything can be learnt by the recent debacles perhaps it is this: use Instagram with accountability. If you want everyone to love you then line your dolls up in your little girl bedroom and tell them to. Or – if you want to step like an adult – perhaps behave in a way that gives people less reason to be pissed at you if you’re in a public place because….get this, social media is public and people should be accountable for their actions. And if that still doesn’t convince you then think this: your little ones are watching, or will be one day, are you comfortable as a role model? Are you teaching your child to be a critical thinker? Or how to accept constructive criticism? Because if you’re not – my God – you’re doing your kid a disservice.
So, there we have it. I’ve genuinely become a bit disillusioned with the mumfluencer community. And no, I am not jealous, nor am I anti-ads (I totally get some people want to make money from Instagram and absolutely support that but – hey – all the more reason to be accountable and transparent, surely?). And no, I’m not likely to go skipping off to Tattle as that site also has its issues (anonymity can lend people a power trip that can have nasty consequences) but do I think Tattle is how it is frequently portrayed by the Instahuns? Hell no, Tattle is not full of vipers. It is a site, just like Instagram, in which people can share their opinions and communicate. Like Instagram, it’s not perfect. But its all become a bit Disney with Tattle framed as the wicked step-mother to Insta’s Cinderella (anyone would think the Instahuns felt threatened by a bit of challenge?!).
I really do think it’s time we stopped viewing sites and their contributors in the extreme. There is good and bad behaviour in us all; it is not limited to a forum. Most of us are kind, and most of us do altruistic things. Most of us don’t need to pop those things on social media whilst telling others to ‘be kind’. So instead of spouting ‘be kind’ whilst masking poor behaviour why don’t we simply try to just ‘be respectful’ instead? What is the harm in being able to question people’s motives? Why should people be told to simply ‘unfollow if you have nothing nice to say’ because you’ve raised concern about an Influencer giggling their way through donating to the homeless and filming it, for example. How about this for a novel idea instead: let’s have mature conversations in which we can really listen and learn and…who knows…maybe real kindness may evolve.
Peace out mofos and #berespectful
*Note: I am not in any way referring here to the comments that have been perceived as racist. Racism is abhorrent and that is a whole separate discussion to the one I am having here.