Being Instagram Ready: Social Media & Self Care

Being Instagram Ready: Social Media & Self Care

I’m sure that every generation thinks that they live in complex times: the world does keep getting ever more complicated as our knowledge and technology expands, after all. We make so many connections with people from around the world that our knowledge of humans and their drives extends way beyond those of our clan, our village or our own nation’s borders. You may be reading this from just down the road, or across the other side of the globe. And you may know intimate details about me, or this be our first interaction (hello!)

The more we are connected with people, the more we are often connected with their joys and, sometimes their sorrows. Whether these are political, economic, personal, we sometimes read and understand that our fellow humans are going through difficult and worrying times. From the devastation of war, to a personal loss of a loved one, or money troubles, or period of mental illness. An endless list of things can interrupt or bring to a sudden halt our happiness, and we have to make a conscious choice whether to speak about those things.

Being Instagram Ready

I love Instagram, but I don’t know if it loves me.  I see an increased use of the term ‘Instagram Ready’. Places now advertise their hotel/food/happening as being Instagram Ready: a picture-perfect, flawless, aspirational setting for you to take the same shot as all the other people wanting to promote themselves under that same experience. I’m not that person. My life has worn off edges. The end pieces of my once-pristine white cot have been chewed off, there are smudgy handprints on my windows that, no matter how many times I clean them off, magically reappear the very next day. I have a lot of baby weight that has decided to follow me into life long beyond the birth of my baby. And my skin is sore and blotchy.

Yesterday I was in a pharmacy store, where I saw products such as ‘photo-ready’ foundation, and ‘Picture Loving Primer’, or similar. Since My little boy was born my skin has gone haywire. It’s covered all over in red patches that I can neither ease nor hide. There have been times when my skin is so sore that it hurts to smile. I’ve been to the doctor, and sometimes it feels like the pressure is real and that the only decent thing to do is hide in a world where shops sell so many products to make your face perfect for Instagram.

It’s OK, because I don’t feel like my face or my life needs to be Instagram-ready. My IG feed is a mis-mash jumble of baby pictures, things I’m making, things I’m doing, places I’ve been and things I’ve seen. It isn’t curated, because my life isn’t curated. It isn’t an endless stream of selfies because I know that neither I nor anyone else would find a consistent stream of identical pictures of me interesting. There is no colour theme, no set style… It’s not a magazine spread, or a virtual show home. It’s just the same kind of jumble of ups and downs as my life is, and I feel safe and happy in that.

Instagram & Social Media

I have escaped many areas of social media for spans of time for reasons of self care. I feel too deeply worried by some of the things that happen in the world at times to be able to just blank out everything that isn’t a video of a cat playing a piano. World political problems now are relentless. You can maybe walk away from it for a short time, but being connected to social media all the time, and hearing news not just from media outlets such as TV, radio and papers, but also re-told a thousand times with genuine shock, disgust, and then blended into jokes and memes can feel relentless.

I’ve usually deal with this by limiting my exposure. I mute certain keywords on Twitter, block the accounts of obvious trolls and people I do not want re-tweeted into my timeline, and click the option to see less of certain types of content on Facebook (not that this is particularly effective – Facebook has a very short memory… Instagram, too, which no matter how many times I tell it I have no interest in the suggested content of young women putting on thick layers of make up in fast-forward still insists on showing me more, because it knows that my face is not Insta-perfect).

I also keep my notifications off. I have always done this, and I can’t see me ever changing this. I used to always leave my phone at home when I went out, because I don’t like being tied to a device that too many people assume means that I should always be at their beck and call, leaving them get annoyed when I’m not. My husband usually has his phone so we always have his in an emergency, but otherwise I like to keep it away for when I want it, rather than when it wants me. I’ve changed this a little bit since my little one was born as I’ve had a few scrapes whilst out and alone with him where it has been useful, but my notifications being off means that social media only gets my attention when I want it to. My phone is always, always on silent. I bought it to serve a purpose for me, not so that I could tend to it.

When things have got too much, either through some personal difficulty, a wider world issue or period of anxiety or depression (because I am not ashamed to admit that I have suffered both) then I have had a break from Twitter and Facebook altogether. Instagram has always felt a little more protected, and on the whole a bit easier to deal with. It will be forever true that there are unpleasant people in every corner of the internet, and even Instagram has seen a degree of trolling and nastiness on a few occasions, as well as spam accounts and people trying to ‘game’ the algorithm, but on the whole it is a little escape to share in people’s joys and triumphs, their creations and things that they find interesting. And baby toes. Always more baby toes.

I use social media the way that I do for reasons of self-care. It’s so important, I think now more than ever, for me to take charge in distancing myself from trolls and people so careless in their words and deeds that they either seek to cause disharmony or are so lacking in empathy that they ride roughshod over the lives, choices and beliefs of others. It’s an important part of self care that I’ve practiced a long while, and I’ve chopped people from my life when I’ve needed to with good effects for my mental health.

Self Care For Two

Recently I’ve been looking for further areas in which I can practice greater self-care. Various health and social pressures I have experienced recently have been heightened by the snap election and political happenings from further afield, and so I have been putting my efforts in maintaining the care within my little family unit of three. One of the areas that I have been trying to better improve self-care is during the day when I am alone with my little boy of 19 months.

I had a good search around the internet last week, looking for information and ideas on how to better practice self care with a toddler, but every single article I read seemed to focus on self-care as a way of dealing with being around a toddler, and self-care was given in the form of asking a grandparent or family friend to take the toddler for a few hours so that the parent(s) could have child-free time. I completely understand how important this is to some people, but it just does not factor in my life. I have no nearby relative who is able to take my child for a few hours each week, and even if I did, the thing I am trying to self-care against is not an over-exposure to my child. I am looking for ways that my toddler and I can self-care together in our days. We are a little team and we work together – I’m just in charge of the logistics.

So far, my learnings have been this:

  1. Text messages, Tweets and other notifications can continue to wait.
  2. I will continue to remove unkind and hateful people, trolls and similar from my sphere of contact and influence.
  3. I will start carrying a drink and healthy snacks not just for my toddler but also for myself.
  4. We will put on music each day for at least ten minutes and have a boogie.

It’s an ongoing list that I really need to expand on, and any ideas that anybody else can suggest will be received with much gratitude. Seriously, any tips, please do pop them in the comments. Any help with helping look after myself and those I love will always be appreciated.



12 thoughts on “Being Instagram Ready: Social Media & Self Care”

  • This is such a thought-provoking post Mimi… I am ashamed to admit that I really struggle to unhook myself from my phone. And it is really detrimental to my mental health. I need to keep trying to be more disciplined about it. It needs to be put away in the evenings particularly, to help me to unwind before bed. I also find that much of the chat around self-care is about spending money on “pampering” which isn’t the sort of self-care that I am interested in. Mason-Dixon have had some interesting articles by Max Daniels recently on the topic of self-care, and she’s very interesting. While much of it is aimed at a slightly older demographic than you or I, I’ve found her point of view interesting, and I think you might too. Sending much love.

    • I’ve just read through two of the articles given there, and they are wonderful and something I will read more in-depth at a quitter moment later today. The pieces on taking charge of your emotions and importance of rest were the two that immediately called me, so I will re-read those and have a leisurely read of the others when I’ve a few moments later. Thank you for pointing me in the direction of the posts xxx

  • Such a beautiful post and it so eloquently explains the pressure that so many feel.

    My boys are a bit older now but the one thing I always tried to do was to make sure I ate some fruit or veggies every time I served them to the kids. I was always so good about taking care of their diet that I neglected my own and chewed on the leftover toast 😀

    • Your mention of toast puts me in mind of something I read when I was much younger: a phenomena named Burnt Toast Syndrome. A primary carer, making toast for themselves, partner and two children grills eight pieces of bread. Burnt Toast Syndrome is when the primary carer habitually serves themselves the two burnt slices, because they are so programmed to care primarily for others and put themselves last. I think the concept is similar. We need to take as much time and make as much effort caring for ourselves as we do our loved ones.

  • A lovely and very thought provoking article. I have personally found with my little bear that I make sure I make time each day to sit and play and enjoy being together. I often find during the day with play groups, swimming lessons and now with weaning etc I often get bogged down in what I have to do next that ashamedly I can be playing with him but my mind is elsewhere. This is something I have always struggled with due to my anxiety I can always be thinking and worrying about what’s to come rather than enjoy the moment. Washing and cleaning can wait!

    • I sometimes find my mind wandering in play, too. If I have some worry that is shadowing me, it can cast some light from even a game of Rolly Ball, and my body acts and smiles automatically, though my mind is computing possible outcomes in minute detail. I often snap to, and then I always indulge in a little chase or jump around with the Bean. It’s OK that my mind wanders occasionally; we all have a lot to take in and deal with, but as long as we can sit down often with our little guys and think ‘right, this time is dedicated to you and I’ then we are doing OK. The nagging anxiety, worry and pressure that sits at the back of the head is just like a phone with notifications turned on, calling to us, demanding our attention. I’m going to be more mindful to make time to try and turn this off at times when I am able, and to realise that there is precious time that other people and situations should not intrude on if I can find a way to stop it. Love to you all from us all x x x

  • Thank you for a thought provoking post. I don’t have children, but I can relate to a lot of what you wrote. I’ve had to take mental health breaks from the news. After the Brexit result I was so angry and miserable that it impacted my wellbeing. I will vote and I do what I can in my own small way, but I can’t allow myself to feel that awful again. Unfortunately I have to keep my phone close at hand always. My mum has been rushed into hospital on many occasions, so I can’t switch my phone off, to silent or leave it anywhere because I don’t want to miss a phone call telling me she’s been taken in again. I have sole responsibility for her welfare, and over the last few years I’ve put her wellbeing ahead of mine to the point I’ve been physically and mentally exhausted. For social media, I limit my time on Twitter and Facebook. My Instagram feed is full of knitting, sewing, gardens and squirrels (all the important things). There’s no easy answer, but as a wise person once told me, you have to be gentle with yourself x

  • Self-care with a young child is no easy task! I remember just pushing myself to get out of the house regularly – which it seems as if you’re already doing. Singing and dancing are great ideas too! I also find cooking to be very calming and happy-making – I began including my daughter in cooking from a very young age, so perhaps that is something to look forward to in the months/years to come!

    I have to say I found this post somewhat ironic (only to me) as I have always admired what I would describe as your “perfect” photos! I do not mean that in a snarky way – just that I have always found the images on your blog to be very, very well composed and very clean-looking. But I take your point nonetheless; that there is something dispiriting about being told our images (or our selvse!) must look a certain way to be “instagram-ready.” Anyway, thank you for sharing this!

  • I can relate to this – both in engaging or disengaging with twitter and facebook as my mental health allows, avoiding or blocking certain accounts and also feeling like instagram is a little ‘safer’ even if there is this push to be “instagram ready”. I also feel you on the feed thing – mine is a hotchpotch of badly lit selfies, food (love the food), kids, places, Gaz… basically things that make me happy, things that improve my day, moments of note, random stuff!

    I have a lot of respect for people who do the flat-lays and themed insta stuff because it obviously takes work and dedication to curate your content and followers but it’s SO MUCH EFFORT (and I have enough things in my life that need effort!)

    With the self care… I have to admit that I didn’t really manage to get much of that in when mine were little – combination of circumstance and not realising how important it was to my MH. I guess the closest thing was putting them on the floor where they were safe with a couple of saucepans and a wooden spoon (so that they could make “music”) and going in the kitchen for a hot coffee. It’s easier now – in so many ways.

  • I think your life shines through your Instagram feed, Jem. Your triumphs and happinesses, as well as things that are just part of your life.

    I have no negative notion of the flat lay as a photography style. I love creativity, beauty, art. I can appreciate a good aesthetic because that is where one of my key interest areas lies, and before my camera broke photography was one of my main joys. A lot of people I know use flat lays because it works for their businesses. A lot of knitting designers, independent yarn dyers, spinners, etc, promoting and displaying their work, and there’s so much joy in that.

    I’m not quite sure I understand people who flat-lay their entire lives, though. The flat lay, to me, looks like straight magazine curation, and magazines are a commercial enterprise. I guess I don’t quite understand the homogenisation of people’s homes and lifestyles. Mint and white chevrons with rose gold modern calligraphy and some throwaway quote, greys and pastels and dipped metallics. It’s like there’s some strange pressure to buy and own the same collection of things as everyone else and to prove that via Instagram, whilst those that decide on this season’s must have ‘things’ pull the puppet strings and use (usually young and beautiful) people, with popular Instagram feeds, as their advertising ponies. So, to be popular, you have to fit in with that homogeny. I’m not sure if you’ll remember in your tender years, but a few years back Pinterest would have had you believe that the only good anyone are for about 18 months was pastel hued macarons.

    The need to be popular seems now wrapped up in the need to be instagram worthy. From people’s holidays, food, homewares and, of course, faces. It’s the ‘instaperfect’ make-up that’s bothered me most, if I’m honest. That make up is no longer for making yourself feel good but to make you ‘worthy’ of putting your face on social media, where flaws are not part of the brand.

    Our feeds may not reflect this, but with media pressure on people (especially young women) to *look* a certain way, it seems that the belief is becoming ever more real that social media is also creating a pressure to live a certain way, too.

    Much love and respect as always for your amazing strength and finding happiness xxx

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