How has Instagram shaped our culture and expectations around motherhood? As moms, we often turn to our phones for a sense of community. Being online can be a great way to keep in touch with old friends, make new connections, or get inspiration for your life. But not every online experience can be positive, and sometimes we find ourselves scrolling through our phones, feeling overwhelmed about our own motherhood. In my experience as a counsellor, working with moms, I see first-hand that the online culture we create has a strong impact on how we FEEL about our own motherhood.
In this episode:
- The role of social platforms in creating a community for moms
- The difference between in-person friendships and online friendships
- How we relate differently to real-life moms vs moms online
- The ways our culture shapes us
- The impact our culture has on our roles as mom, wife, woman
- The responsibility we have to choose a culture that uplifts us
All the fun links you might enjoy
- Moms30for30 wardrobe challenge
- When I instagrammed my own life, and not my kids
- #instamomclub (an OG blog post on being a mom on instagram)
- Emotional needs in motherhood\ (on looking for sense of connection)
- Why you should date your friends’ (investing in friendship)
- Think the best of me (on being hard and awesome)
- Phone habit, episodes and worksheets
Sign up for the the Simple Saturdays email (a fun email, twice a month)
Share your thoughts with me:
FULL TRANSCRIPT (unedited)
Hey friends it’s Shawna, your nerdy girlfriend and counsellor from simple on purpose .ca
If you are new here, I’ll let you know I am Shawna I’m a mom of three kids. I live in small town BC. And my simple on purpose journey really started with me many years ago decluttering my basement, and in decluttering, these boxes of stuff, I was really face to face with the notion that I was living complacent, complacently, that I was not living the life that I wanted, I was not in the driver’s seat of my own life. And it launched me into this approach called intentional living, living life on purpose, which eventually led me to training in coaching and counseling.
And over the years, I’ve been working with women all over the world on the issues that they feel stuck in, to help them simplify declutter all of that, and live their own lives on purpose, with their own purpose, their own values, their own vision for their life.
I want to talk about our culture today, and specifically our online culture. And I’m thinking about how I started out with my own experience about 10 years ago being at home with a toddler and a newborn. And I was fortunate enough to have a best friend who I would walk with most every day. And sidenote, I look back on that now. And I see that that was one of the things that truly kept my sanity in those early years.
But other than my best friend, I didn’t really have a support network, I didn’t have family around, my husband would work long hours and shift work. She was my village. And that’s a lot for one person, right. And so she wasn’t my entire village.
So I did what many moms do and have done, and I formed an online village specifically on Instagram, I like tothink I’m an OG Instagrammer, which probably explains my personal aversion to ever making a real, I made a real by accident this week, though, I thought I was making a video. But then it got posted as a real I don’t even know what I’m doing. But please don’t ever expect reels from me. I will be in your stories. But please don’t expect reels.
Anyways, so the original Instagram, we were just sharing photos and updates of our day. And at that time was finding a lot of other moms in the same boat. And I really grew to love that community that I had online. And this was back when Instagram was chronological. So you could scroll Instagram and see all of the accounts that you had followed, in the order of what they were posting that day, I could literally reach the end of my Instagram, it wasn’t that big, it was totally doable. And I could catch up with all of these moms. And I was learning from these moms. They were sharing what they were cooking or wearing or what activities they were doing with their kids. They were sharing snippets of their day. And it was really just helpful to get ideas. And to see I wasn’t alone. And I would touch base with the same people every few days, we will comment on each other’s posts, we started challenges like the moms 30 for 30. We shared each other’s blogs, it was a village.
To me, it was a place where I felt connected. And when you are lonely in motherhood at home with your kids, and you do feel lonely. Finding connection is really, really something that you’re drawn to and I was finding it online. I think a decade ahead into the future. Now, many moms are still turning to social media to find their village. And in some ways, it’s easiest to make a village online than in real life. After all, you can go online when your kids are watching TV. In the dark hours of night nursing well, they nap a little bit different than in real life where you’re working around all of those things. And online, how you interact and who you present yourself to be. You can curate all of that you curate your comments and your images and your words. You don’t have to try to make small talk with a new mom while your toddler is doing like toddler cave person things and throwing their snacks at everyone or at you or whatever. It is just easier to make connections online for some of us.
But I also think it’s worth saying that in my years of being online, I have learned that in real life community is always better. It is so worth making the effort to establish connections and relationships in your real actual life. I think this could be a whole other episode, but I think it’s worth pointing out.
The other thing I’ve learned from being online and from working with mums who are in these earlier stages of motherhood is that the online community has a great influence on your motherhood experience on how you feel as a mum and how you go about your own personal motherhood. So years ago on Instagram, we’re sharing photos. It’s in the moment there’s like one good filter called Valencia. And then you put in a caption and some quippy hashtags. And for me I was choosing to follow women who seemed to be in a sim life stage. And since brands weren’t big on Instagram just yet, the vibe of Instagram was laid back it let’s let’s polished generally non monetized. Nobody was scheduling posts, nobody was getting photoshoots to fill their feed. Nobody was linking products or using all 30 hashtags. But as that changed, the landscape of Instagram shifted into something more polished, people became brands, and everyone had to follow the unwritten standards of aesthetics, and algorithms.
And over the years, as we’re using this platform still, every time we click follow to another account, we are slowly building up our own online community in this isn’t just Instagram, right? It can be any app where you’re choosing who you follow online. This could be podcast, this could be Pinterest, this could be Tik Tok.I don’t know I’m not on Tik Tok. How does it work?
But why does this even matter? Why does it matter who you follow, because who you follow becomes your community. This is the culture you put yourself into the people you surround yourself with online and offline or your community. And that matters. And it matters for these two big reasons.
The first one is that we look to the culture to inform or support our practices and values. You are influenced by your culture? Why do you think they call them influencers, you are influenced by your culture, our culture shapes us online, and offline. The culture we grew up in, offline and online, it teaches us implicitly and explicitly about how we should act and think and be and talk the culture. It can be our family around us, it can be our school, it can be our community. The culture is our community.
And our culture teaches us the meaning of things, the meaning of everything from the word for water to the roles we play in our families. And you can probably think right now of the things that your culture has taught you, it’s taught you about gender roles. It’s taught you about what foods to eat, or not to eat, about what things to value, what’s acceptable, what’s not acceptable, what to celebrate what to hide.
And consider some of the things you learned some of the expectations that you now are seeing you have on yourself as a mom or a wife or a woman in the world. You’ve picked this up from your culture, either from your upbringing, or from the culture you followed online. And even though we’re adults, we’re still shaped by our culture. And now we have an entire self curated culture community in our hands, we are choosing who to be and how to live based on this online culture that we immerse ourselves in on a daily basis.
We look to this online culture to fill in the gaps, to answer questions about who we should be, and what we should value. And this can be especially true if the culture you grew up in it left you with pain, or questions or insecurity about how to be a woman, wife, mom, whatever, we’re going to turn to this online culture to fill in those gaps to inform us.
The other reason why this matters, is because we expect ourselves to meet or leave the culture. The people in your culture are who you have to compare yourself to. You’re looking to your community to keep you informed on how to act fit in and what to expect of yourself.
But there’s something different about it being online versus in person, right? Think about the people in your real actual life. Think about your mom, friends, your girlfriends, you can have coffee together, you chat, you share troubles, you share stories, you’re around them, you’re around their kids, you hear them parent, their kids, you know, their kids, you know, generally what a day in their life look looks like. You’ve sat beside their baskets of laundry on their coach, you know what they struggle with, you know what they shine, and you get the entire person, hopefully, hopefully you get these friendships that are authentic, that you can be authentic in.
But what I’m trying to distinguish here, is that how we look at our real life people, we get the whole picture. We know they are hard and awesome. We know they have flaws, but they are so totally rad. I’m also going to link to an episode on that about being hard and awesome. But when we look to our online culture, the people we’ve chosen to follow online, we don’t get this, we get the highlights the photoshoots.
And we forget that for some of them, it is their literal actual job to make their house their outfits, their life look like a magazine to the camera. We get their online personas, we get snapshots and scheduled posts and filtered images. But we cannot help but look at this online culture we are in and subconsciously measure ourselves and feel the expectation an instinct to follow along.
After all, we have a survival instinct to fit in with the group and if not fit in then to lead the group. And this instinct is important. It’s helped us keep us alive by being Part of a social network traditionally is going to be called a tribe. It’s the band of people who protect you and support you and you can turn to their safety in numbers or safety in the group. Being in a group means surviving.
And even now, in our modern times, if you’ve ever felt your position or place in your culture being threatened with exile, you will know that this is still a dangerous or threatening experience to be outcast from your culture or community. So we have a very deep and primal instinct to maintain status in our group. In order to remain in the group, we need to be in compliance with the norms of the group.
So if we know that our culture matters, and that it is one that we are looking to as a way to measure ourselves, and to make sure we’re following suit, because that’s safe, we need to consider the culture that we have built up for ourselves online. And I bet you’re thinking of accounts or online people that bring you life that grow you that nourish you. And maybe you’re also thinking of ones that, okay, they felt aspirational at the time, but now they just feel like another checkbox on this endless list of all the things I need to do to be a better mum, woman, wife, whatever.
Think of these things. How has been online, in the online culture, people that you follow influenced you? What messages are you getting on what it means to be you who you are as the roles in your life, a mom, woman, wife, employee, sister, daughter, friend in your culture? How should you talk? How should you eat? How should you dress? How should you treat your kids? What should you own? What should your house look like? What are your priorities? What books do you read what activities like we could go on? Right?
On one hand, it’s fun to follow brands to follow people who are doing things that you aspire to, they seem to be creative, they’re inspiring to have in your feed. On the other hand, if you open up Instagram or whatever app, and you just feel the weight of the contrast between your life and the lives of quote others doing it better. It leaves you with this kind of gross feeling or a heavy feeling, then we need to reconsider this online culture that we’re in.
The reason I wanted to talk about this topic is from my experience with coaching and counseling buttons, and more specifically, moms of young kids who are in a similar boat that I was 10 years ago at home, looking for connection looking for community looking for kind of a distraction or something to do to feel the time when you’re just restless and you’re at home. And we’re finding it online. And yes, it’s a beautiful convenience to have all of this right in your hand. But it can become a burden to a mum.
A burden in the sense that it piles a lot of unspoken expectations on a mum, and the phenomenon of us, opening up our phones scrolling through these curated squares of the lives of multiple women in a matter of minutes. It fills her head with a compilation of everything that we’re seeing, we see the collective highlights. We see the homemade dinners, the adorable packed lunches, that gentle parenting tips, that one exercise that’s going to make our life better the shoes we need this season. How about the makeup product that we haven’t bought yet that we should buy and the date night we need to go on? Did we mention the parenting tips and don’t forget to also work through your personal trauma and read these life changing books. And then make sure to go play with your kids and enjoy them. And you’ll get all of this just by looking at a dozen posts in the span of three minutes.
And this is what our culture is doing. So this is relevant information. We need to internalize it our brain sees us and it files it all. under the category of important things we need to do in order to stay in our culture.
I think we can maybe also call out the opposite culture the hot mess mom culture, the one that only focuses on the hardships and the nonsense of motherhood. The one that seems to polarize motherhood into two categories. You’re either a mum was put together and totally out of touch or you’re a hot mess. Real mom who probably forgot what day it is kind of mom the hot mess mom, the one who’s only talking about how your kids never listen, your identity is turned to a dirty pair of sweatpants and you live off wine and kids leftovers.
Sure that is part of motherhood. I am both of those moms. The hot mess mom is not the whole picture. And the highlight reel mom is not the whole picture. They’re both the picture motherhood balance matters, variety matters. And the whole picture is what we’re getting from those real actual women in our lives.
So back to this online culture that we follow as moms because I have had so many conversations with other moms who feel the burden of the scroll. The burden of every time they scroll, scroll through Instagram, they are having more and more added to that mental checklist of what it means to be a good mom or whatever.
It’s happening so deep you might not even be aware of it. You can just sense it in your body. That part In. Sidenote, can we also call ourselves out for how we think scrolling on the screen is going to give us a break or a rest. But is it? Is it working? Are you feeling rested? Or do you lose track of time and then put down your phone finally feeling guilty and like gross that you could have spent your time in so many other more restful or nourishing ways? Like we’ve all been there, guys.
With the topic of online culture, though, I wanted to briefly mention that we can also be conscious of the culture of women, we are building up in our real lives too. Do you share similar values? Do you encourage one another? Do you spend your time together doing things that you find genuinely nourishing? do you how do you feel after hanging out with them? That’s a nice question to ask yourself.
So I encourage you to be mindful of how your culture is impacted impacting you. If it’s online, it’s a pretty easy thing to adjust. Either don’t go online, be aware of your mental state when you do. And always give yourself permission to unfollow an account that just doesn’t feel like giving to you anymore. And those emails to you can unsubscribe. And if it’s offline culture that you’re considering, consider how you can create a friend culture of life giving friendships.
If this episode is brought up the topic of phone usage for you, which is a struggle that many of us moms have. Then I’m going to also link in the show notes two episodes on the topic of phone, phone habits on autopilot and setting intentional phone habits. There’s episodes and worksheets for both of those.
I would love to hear your thoughts on the online culture that you have put yourself in as a mom and how it’s impacted you. I would love it. If you would come on to Instagram, share a DM with me, tag me in your story. And let me know what you’re thinking about this episode.
And a reminder that I do have the monthly group coaching sessions open. The September call was so great, it was really great. It was intimate and warm. And I felt like it was informative. We covered some interesting topics such as doing it all as a mom spiraling with negative thoughts, managing the daily routine with kids and the emotions that come with that and how we’re measuring success as a mom and strategies for being a work at home mom. So if you have a topic that you feel stuck on and you want to get support on or if you just want to listen in to the community conversation, then check out the group coaching sessions. I’ll make sure to link those in the shownotes.
As always, friends, I love to hear back from you. You know where to find me on Instagram at simple on purpose.ca. And if you’re part of the Facebook group, come and share a post there anytime that an episode brings something up for you. I want that Facebook group to be for you to have these online conversations where we’re continuing the conversations from our podcast podcast into that community. All right friends have a great week