You know that ill feeling that comes over you when you’re scrolling the perfect collection of Instagram photos from that creator with the flawless life? Sometimes I get it if I’m in a mall for too long… It’s kind of nauseous, very antsy, uncomfortable feeling. Like I’m being slowly tangled in a net of ineptitude. That’s the physical side effect of comparison culture. It’s the measuring of your life against a yardstick that is unattainable because it does not really exist. It’s like watching the Chronicles of Narnia and then hating your own closet because it is not a portal to Mr. Tumnus’s neighborhood. What I’m saying is that it is pointless and the only real part of the whole exercise is the awfulness you feel.
Social media allows us to filter our lives to show only the good things. Influencers have built their livelihood around showing only the best content-- what garners the best engagement and response. So they don’t even have the luxury of sharing a real, unpretty, unstaged moment now if they wanted to. But even the real friends we follow on social media do this to some extent.
One of the most common comparison opportunities is the whole #fitspo game. Fitness and wellness creators post motivational content to their channels in order to inspire their fans to live their best, healthiest lives. But the result is that we compare our bodies to the perfectly sculpted bodies of people whose full time jobs are perfecting their bodies.
Social media can foster all kinds of unhealthy relationships: thinking that you are “close” to someone whose content you consistently interact with even though you’ve never met them in real life, the failure to archive irrelevant relationships (you should probably lose track of that guy you haven’t seen since the second grade… that’s how life is supposed to work, but instead you know the name of all 4 of his kids), or just plain old comparing your life to other people’s. Here’s a list of just 10 possible ways that social media can make you feel awful.
My theory is that your comparison burden is proportional to the importance of your work. Since moms have arguably the most important jobs on earth, they get a proportionally massive helping of comparison pressure.
The thing is, though, there is no “one right way” to be a mom.
Being a parent is hard and almost nobody puts those parts of parenthood-- or life-- on social media. So it’s easy to trip in the “competitive parenting” race that you’ve been unwittingly thrust into. Not to mention that some moms suffer from postpartum depression, which leads quickly and violently to the postpartum guilt that all moms suffer from.
The Mommy Bloggers who kicked off the social influencer marketing phenomenon are often dressed to the organic-cotton nines, covered in tutorial-worthy makeup, and showing off an immaculate white home interior. That shit is intimidating.
As if there wasn’t enough pressure from the general masses, there are also the fit mommy accounts that show miraculous postpartum bodies. Here’s the deal: if you have the time, money, enthusiasm, and discipline to get your body in that kind shape after birth, then good on ya. But many, I would say most, women do not. And creating unrealistic expectations for what you will look and feel like after giving birth to a living thing is dangerous.
For lots of reasons. Here are two:
Hormones and priorities. There’s tons of these and they can be scary and irrational and adding any spark to the dry-ass tinder that is the brain and endocrine system of a woman who just gave birth is a bad idea. Moms have tons to think about; getting into bikini bod shape right away does not need to be one of those things.
Kids are always listening. Women are conditionally taught to hate, punish, strive against, and continually try to perfect their bodies. Women frequently trash talk their bodies. Children are listening to all of it. If you talk badly about your body in front of your daughter, you teach her to think that her own body is unworthy. If you talk badly about your body in front of your son, you teach him that there are correct and incorrect kinds of women’s bodies. One mom put it this way, “what I say about my own body has a significant effect on the way my children view the female body, as well as their self-worth.”
The #bodypositive movement has emerged to combat all of the body shaming pressures induced by #fitspo content. And sites like Scary Mommy collect real-life, sometimes contrarian, stories about motherhood. All kinds of independent writers are helping women deal with mom guilt. Glennon Doyle Melton asks that other moms stop pointing their avocados at her.
By all means, put your best foot forward. Show off the things you are proud of. But just remember that everyone else is doing the same. Social media shows you only the shiniest, most organic, non-GMO, ethically sourced, linen-toned, dripping in joy sliver of real life. Keep that in mind when you feel the net tightening around you.
Photo Cred: Unsplash
Creative Community Director at Snapfluence.
There is often a pen stuck in my hair.