Every week, Preen tackles motherhood sans the rose-tinted glasses. Our columnists L. Juliano, Marla Darwin, Monica Eleazar-Manzano, Rossana Unson, and Ronna Capili-Bonifacio tell their personal experiences like it is—at times frustrating, oftentimes confusing, but always enlightening.
I can’t even remember when I got so worked up about algorithmic feeds. It was a non-descript day and I decided to look at the time stamps on the posts appearing on my Instagram feed.
I noticed a bunch of flat lays and women in ruffled clothing dating from four days ago being prioritized over everything else. I got pissed. My feed started feeling like a catalog and I was getting resentful.
I didn’t sign up for retail extravaganza on my feed. I decided to be proactive about the matter and tried to work with the algorithm by pruning the accounts I follow and being more mindful of my interactions. I needed my feed to feel human again. I wanted more life moments from my friends, I was starting to miss pictures of their dinners. I wanted more jokes. I wanted to see travel posts that didn’t look like fashion editorials.
I don’t follow a lot of superstar influencers so there wasn’t a lot to cull from there, but in order to get the feed I want, I found myself unfollowing a ton of parenting and motherhood accounts.
Two years ago, in the days leading up to my becoming a parent, I started following such accounts to take a peek at how other people were going about childrearing. I don’t have the same “village” as other moms (neighborly acquaintances, relatives living close by, a smattering of friends who also have children, etc.) so I tried to compensate by putting together a virtual one.
After cleaning out the accounts I follow, it shouldn’t have been a surprise to find that parenting, specifically mothering, is a big proponent of “BEST LIFE EVER,” yet it still bothered me. I spoke to my husband about this and he commented that he doesn’t see the same picture perfect aspirations in the fathering accounts he follows. The content he follows covers the usual parenting topics (with a smattering of fun ones like architects designing tree houses, a wife throwing her husband a vasectomy party, etc.) but dadfluencers with polished smiles are not a thing in his side of the universe.
It makes me so incensed. With the Instagram algorithm swaying in favor of manufactured and styled content, I’m losing the freedom to opt out of “BEST LIFE EVER.” I see it on my own feed. Posts that don’t adhere to what’s trending (read: commoditized) have to fight to be seen. The bias is in favor of the accounts with the nice cameras, the perfect outfits, and the exotic destinations.
I am banging on an old drum but it’s disconcerting to see how algorithmic feeds reinforce this, especially since the influencer machinery will always find new ways to exploit and cheapen human moments to push products or this monotone, privileged vision of what a good life looks like—or in my case, what parenting, marriages, and families look like.
To have the “BEST LIFE EVER” dictate the conversation online reveals so much about what mothers allow themselves to feel or say. Mothering has to look effortless. Moms reach an Instagram milestone when they manage to photograph well in a bathing suit again after giving birth. Moms have to be stylish at all times. Moms aren’t allowed to have meltdowns unless it’s cute and palatable. Moms aren’t allowed to have insecurities unless it’s to advocate some beauty treatment. Moms are supposed to be likeable. Moms aren’t supposed to be tired. Moms aren’t obliged to involve their partners in their parenting narratives. Moms aren’t supposed to have difficult opinions. Moms aren’t supposed to talk about the specific details that concern their bodies, no matter how life-changing. Moms aren’t expected to have other identities other than “mother.”
The influencer industry holds huge incentives to maintain these images. This may have been the default for as long as we can remember but the advent of technology must always look to the future, to progress, and to diversity.
Replace the word “mom” with “women” and it still applies. The world does a good enough job holding this unfair portrayal and with the algorithms following suit, it’s another reminder that we have to keep reclaiming our spaces because we are so much more than this. We have a right to exist. We have a right to be here.
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Preen.ph, or any other entity of the Inquirer Group of Companies.