Ah, Instagram. We love to hate it. My teenager tells me that it’s only for old people and that TikTok is where it’s at now, but I can’t get to grips with sharing videos and coming up with funny content so I can’t be bothered with that.
I joined years ago and got sucked into sharing photos of my food, my kids, the cats and random pretentious scenic photos, like everyone else. Instagram, owned by Facebook has grown into a place where you spend most of your time trying to beat its algorithm, get your pictures seen, liked and commented on and it is now a place where people make money or try to. The blogging community has moved there and my feed is a flood with adverts, sponsored posts all trying to convince me that somehow I need to emulate the bigger accounts and what I need in my life. It’s all about information and making money. We can’t change that, but we can make it a place we want it to be.
I fell for the follow to get followers to trap. I let Instagram be a place where I looked for validation. I spent a lot of time there, and because I am NOT a yummy mummy, and because I don’t curate or filter my photos and I keep life real, my account remains small and that bothered me.
Then a few things happened. A Mummy blogger with a big account was caught out using a gossip site. I happen to follow people who interact with her. I went there, I admit. I visited the site. It’s pretty awful. I am not going to link there or to the Mummy Blogger in question, if you really want to it’s not hard to Google.
But my eyes were opened. Instagram and how we use it is not good for our mental health, and there is more fake, selling and pushing an unachivavle lifestyle, making money and putting your whole life out there that it’s not healthy.
Before I go on, I am NOT anti someone making money, I am not anti hustle, I am not anti someone making an honest living. There are some excellent and up front accounts on social media who make no bones about the fact that they make money from Instagram. They are honest, they disclose properly (and if you are a UK blogger and somehow the ASA rules have slipped by you and you think hiding the #ad in a mass of words at the bottom of your post is ok then you need to read and correct yourself )
BUT, a lot of what you see on Instagram (and social media) is fake. And they want you to make them money. I get why we let it happen, I get why we like and follow. I do it myself. We see a glam looking woman or man our own age, with beautiful kids, a lovely house, great clothes, glamorous holidays, nice things and we want that. We admire what we don’t have or would like. That’s human nature. But the reality is, that big account with half a million followers who are trying to sell you their bathroom renovation that cost over £25,000? That’s not achievable for the rest of us. It’s not real life. The £10,000 holiday? That’s a lot of mortgage or rent for some people and a pipe dream. It’s not real but we are being led to believe it is. When we realize those accounts are selling us a false narrative it’s devastating. The issues around honesty, trolling, the cliques, the brands and PR companies who encourage a lot of the behavior? It’s all not real.
Also, I happen to know, that living a life where everything you do, is “for the gram” curating photos, constantly trying to make your kids pose for a photo for a brand, having to spend your whole “gifted holiday” taking perfect photos and video content, etc is not a life I want to lead, and I don’t envy or aspire to that, anymore.
I don’t want to be sold stuff constantly. I also don’t want to see the gruesome and nitty-gritty of people’s lives. I don’t want to see your kid on the toilet, taking a crap. (why is that ok? Why do we think it’s ok to post a photo of your kids doing that when we would loudly and reasonably object if someone did that to us as adults?)
I also don’t want to follow the accounts that have grown to the point where they only follow to boost their numbers. When I did a little cleanout, it was blatantly obvious that the accounts that followed me, who unfollowed me, as soon as I hit unfollow, are there for the number I add and not because they like to see photos of my cats and the cake I eat.
People using Instagram to validate their parenting, their marriage, and their self-worth. It’s not healthy, and I am j
Also, the trolling. Trolling is defined as “creating discord on the Internet by starting quarrels or upsetting people by posting inflammatory or off-topic messages in an online community. Basically, a social media troll is someone who purposely says something controversial in order to get a rise out of other users.” Or basically people who go onto accounts, who say horrible things for no reason other than they just can.
However, I do also feel that if you put your life out on social media you are open to people not agreeing with you and that’s ok. But it’s finding the balance. I post something about liking a particular cheesecake and someone comments and says they didn’t like it. That’s ok, people are allowed to have different views from me. That is NOT trolling. Asking someone to clarify something they have said when it might not be totally honest, is NOT trolling. But following accounts to pounce on everything they say and be rude/critical is. I am of the view that if you don’t like someone or something they say, don’t follow them. Can’t think of something nice to say, move on, leave their space and go find something else to do. But we are quick to cry “troll” and “bullying” when it isn’t. Asking someone if they think it’s ok to share a photo of someone else’s kids without consent is not trolling. Telling someone they should kill themselves or die however is. It should be obvious, but social media has blurred lines and being behind a screen seems to make people think they can say stuff that would get them punched or even arrested in real life.
I realized a few weeks ago that I have been sucked into something that I don’t want to carry on with. I don’t want to compare myself to others, and I don’t want to spend my time worrying about carefully curating stuff for Instagram.
So I have stopped.
I unfollowed over 1000 people. That lost me followers and that was a bit bitter to swallow because it’s all about the numbers. I unfollowed all the big accounts who don’t ever interact, I unfollowed all the accounts whose feed is a constant hard sell of an unattainable life full of expensive “gifted” items. I unfollowed the accounts who one week are claiming that they only ever shop at Tesco but the next week is swearing undying loyalty to Morrisons because they are being paid to say that. The accounts that will promote fertility apps when they have made it clear that getting pregnant was never a problem for them. The accounts promoting products and brands that are shady at best and downright dubious at worst. People who I followed to be polite because they followed me for the numbers but who don’t post stuff that interests me, and I am fairly sure my content doesn’t float their boat either.
I want to see real life. Real parenting, real food, real moments, fun, honest, and relatable. So that’s what I now have. It feels, oddly “clean” and it’s actually a pleasure. I found accounts that I haven’t interacted with for a long time and started to like their photos. I have had some lovely private conversations with people who make me smile or who pop a message that props me up when I need it. I don’t need to see endless rounds of Primark shopping hauls or yet another visit to Aldi for groceries or how many fast fashion items someone has bought this week. But if you want to share a great homeschool curriculum idea or a meal in a restaurant that is allergy-friendly, I am there for that!!
It feels safe and for the first time in the longest time, a nice place to be.
I am not jealous, nor do I hate the big accounts or the people living life on the gram to make a living. I just don’t want to be part of it.
So, bring on the pictures of your cute puppy, the honest dinners you make your kids, the real mum moments, the cool place you visited that you paid for to go to yourself? That’s what I am here for.
I don’t need Instagram to give me validation. If you like my catspam and real motherhood, then that’s good with me. It’s freeing. Long may it last.
*I no longer accept paid work on Instagram, and for the past two years, my children have been asked their consent to share anything I post there. If they say no, then I don’t post. I also allowed both children to look at my account and remove any content they don’t like about themselves and was able to assure them that I have never shared any naked or embarrassing photos of them there. They have a say in what I share and that works for us. I don’t share if they don’t agree*