Why I Took My Kids Off Instagram
Creator and host of the Under the Influence podcast and author of the new novel, “We Are Not Like Them,” Jo Piazza reflects on the unique pressures of parenting in the age of social media and reconsiders posting her own children’s faces on Instagram.
- courtesy of the author
- Written By
- Jo Piazza
Keeping my kids’ faces off my Instagram account was pretty easy for the first month. And then along came National Daughter Day. Rationally, I was well aware that this was not a real holiday.
It was the kind of thing that Instagram and social media dreamed up in order to boost engagement, to get more women to post more adorable photos of their children to social media. I KNEW this. And I also knew that I had made a very conscious decision about no longer posting my children’s faces.
But as I scrolled and scrolled and looked at all the other smiling women clutching their cuddly baby girls, braiding their hair, kissing their chubby feet or running into the ocean hand in hand I doubted that decision for a moment. And strangely enough I started to feel a twinge of guilt. Was I failing my daughter by not celebrating her on my social media? Was I somehow less of a mother if I didn’t hashtag #NationalDaughtersDay and declare my undying love and devotion for her? And if I did post a picture of the two of us what would I be getting out of it? The affirmation that I was a good “girl mom?”
I put the damn phone away.
Never in the history of motherhood have we had to navigate these strange and constantly shifting norms and rules about how we share our children’s images and our lives as parents.
Now, I want to say right from the start that I don’t judge anyone for how they choose to share their lives on social media. Every mother and every parent is treading their own path and we all deserve the grace to make our own decisions. Being a mother is the hardest thing I have ever done and we are all just trying to get through the day.
For me, I chose to take my kids’ faces off Instagram for a couple of reasons. One, I began making a podcast about female influencers, particularly mom influencers on social media. To do this I had to do a deep dive into the research on what the potential dangers and issues are of having children online in the social media age. And there was plenty of terrifying stuff there. I won’t get into it now because that’s not what this essay is about. You can listen to it here.
The second reason I took them off is that it was just too easy for strangers to know them. Earlier in the year a woman approached our caregiver on the playground. She claimed to know me and my kids. She did know a lot of facts about us, but also said a lot of things that weren’t accurate. When our caregiver told us about it my heart froze. I had never met this woman. She claimed that she had once babysat my youngest, but it wasn’t true. My daughter was born right before the pandemic and she had never had another babysitter. Needless to say, it freaked me out. Shortly afterwards I saw a post from the influencer and entrepreneur Jess Kirby where she detailed a very similar thing happening to her. She took her daughter off Instagram immediately. The next day I wiped my kids' faces almost completely off Instagram. This was more difficult to do than you might think, by the way.
First off, the app doesn’t make it user friendly to do a mass delete. And sometimes, even when you delete photos, they reappear. So I had to do my en masse cleaning a few times.
But psychologically it has been strange as well. As much as I never wanted to admit it, I often turned to social media for validation that I was doing a good job as a mother. I liked those likes. Sometimes I even loved them. They made me feel like I was doing OK on the many, many days when I felt like I was failing. Even writing that makes me feel a little ridiculous, but it is true and I think we all need to have a good long think about what truly motivates us to post anything on social media. Mothers are unsung heroes. We are told we need to be everything (great moms, perfect employees, loving spouses) while we are treated like nothing. Mothers receive no validation for their work from the American economy or culture.
Like many moms I experience guilt on a daily basis. I feel guilty when I take time away from my kids to write books and guilty when I take time away from my books to be with my kids. Somehow other people, strangers even, liking my pictures helped alleviate some of that guilt. None of this was rational!
I caved less than a month after I took my kids offline. It was the pre-dinner rush, that time of the day when I try not to put a ridiculous show on the TV and instead throw an ABBA dance party while I boil some pasta on the stove. My kids’ ABBA flagship song is “Lay All Your Love on Me.” I’m more of a “Waterloo” girl, but who am I to judge. Their coordinated dance moves were so adorably odd that I had to make a video. And then…what? I started texting friends the video, but got no response. Everyone else was also cooking dinner for their children, or putting them to bed, or catching up on Ted Lasso. And then I did it. I posted the clip to my Instagram stories. I just needed the world to explode with the cuteness.
Sigh. Reader, it felt so good.
I forgave myself the slip. Plenty of addicts relapse or fall off the wagon. I recommitted to keeping their faces off social media. And for the most part not posting them does make my life better. I have to say that knowing I will not post pictures of them makes me keep my phone at bay much more often. It allows me to be in the moment instead of recording the moment. I’m more present when I’m not constantly figuring out how any given slice of our lives will appear to other people.
It has also made me focus more on who my identity is outside of being a mother. For better or worse, our social media selves have become a part of our identities. And when I am forced to write about what I am doing and how I am feeling instead of defaulting to mama pics, I start to excavate the parts of my identity that have taken a backseat to parenting.
Who knows what the future holds. Maybe I will relapse again or change my mind about how to handle social media in the future. Maybe I will get off Instagram altogether one of these days. But in this moment, right now, I am content with my decision.