Among the picture-perfect posts on social media now are ones that are getting praised for showing a bit of the ugly in motherhood. We post pictures of our messy kitchen, our tired, makeup-free faces and our postpartum belly. We call them proof of struggle. "See, my life is hard, too!" we say.
But these posts barely scratch the surface.
Honestly, it's frustrating. It's hard to know who's being genuine online and who's putting up a front. The internet, specifically Instagram, has perpetuated this issue. Instead, we've created this world of fake vulnerability online.
When I look at my life and then I look at these pictures, I’m skeptical of just how vulnerable these posts are or if they really benefit moms in any way. The hardest things in my life are markedly different than a little extra weight or not getting enough sleep. But when I scroll through my Instagram feed, it kind of looks like I'm alone in these things.
The problem is that even attempts at being vulnerable online often aren't real. It's easy for me to say I had a lot of trouble breastfeeding or that I've come away from motherhood with some stretch marks. It's harder to talk about the other stuff. The conflict in my marriage. The money struggles. The abiding postpartum depression that turned into regular depression. The loss of a sibling last year.
This is where I hit a wall.
Motherhood is already so full of questions and insecurity, and Instagram culture has ramped that up.
I'm not necessarily advocating that we all start airing our dirty laundry online or gush our darkest moments to thousands of strangers. The internet isn't always the place for extreme vulnerability. What I do wonder is if we're doing more harm than good sharing little slices of our struggles and letting others believe this is the worst we've got.
To add insult to injury, I think the internet might be the only place we're talking about these struggles, even if they're curated and filtered versions of themselves. We post our lives online and tell ourselves that we have intimacy with the people on the other side of our screens. And then we obsessively follow and compare what we've got going on with the highlight reel of the moms we follow. They’re so cute together. Do they ever yell? Her kids are so well-dressed. They probably don’t have credit card debt. She’s so happy. She must love every minute of being mom.
So, this is where all of this has left me: I don't feel safe being honest about what it's like being a mom. I don't know how to gauge if what I'm experiencing is normal, if my hard days are really harder than everyone else's, if I really am doing something wrong. Motherhood is already so full of questions and insecurity, and Instagram culture has ramped that up. It has changed who we are with each other, how we talk to others in real life.
What's the solution? I’m not 100 percent certain, but I think it has to be less friendship online. I'm saying this as someone whose life has been changed by the friendships and opportunities the internet has provided me. I think the only choice to ending a culture of false fronts and endless comparisons is reaching out and looking in the eyes of other mothers—face to face.