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:
- Text messages, Tweets and other notifications can continue to wait.
- I will continue to remove unkind and hateful people, trolls and similar from my sphere of contact and influence.
- I will start carrying a drink and healthy snacks not just for my toddler but also for myself.
- 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.