Usually, when Chrissy Teigen comments on motherhood, it’s to defend her own choices (like formula feeding her son Miles). But this time, the 32-year-old’s comment came in response to another mom— specifically, a blogger who chose to share with Instagram that one of her five children, a 6-year-old son, has shown a “statistical deficit” on social media.
Tweeting in reply to a screenshot of the post, Teigen wrote simply: “Oh. My. God. What in the hell??”
Oh. My. God. What in the hell??
— christine teigen (@chrissyteigen) November 19, 2018
The Instagram in question is one posted by Katie Bower, the author of popular motherhood blog Bower Power, and was apparently meant to show gratitude for her son, Weston. But instead, many feel it came off as a troubling reflection of her superficiality.
“Guys I am gonna be perfectly honest… Instagram never liked my Munchkin and it killed me inside,” Bower wrote to her 52.3K followers, in a since-archived post. “His photos never got as many likes. Never got comments. From a statistical point of view, he wasn’t as popular with everyone out there… I say that all because I want to believe it wasn’t him.”
Omg this Instagram mommy blogger is celebrating her sons bday by writing about how out of all her kids, he “statistically” performs the worse on her Instagram. And she’s worried one day it will ruin his self esteem 👀💀 pic.twitter.com/QpFfJwDOab
— Stephanie McNeal (@stephemcneal) November 19, 2018
Bower went on to ask that her followers “do this right” and shower her son with social media love. “I truly KNOW that my munch deserves allllll the likes… whether or not a stranger gives it to them,” she continues. “And on his sixth birthday, I’m thankful that I know that.”
Based on the 997 comments below the tweet that screenshots Bower’s post, it seems Teigen is far from alone in feeling upset about this post. “jfc this is terrible,” tweeted Jonny Sun, an illustrator and artist. “This is horrifying in so many ways,” added author Saeed Jones. One mom even commented on the tweet to say it inspired her to change her ways.
“As a mom, who is hardly instafamous but finds some satisfaction in a certain degree of online approval, this compelled me to delete all the photos of my son off my Instagram,” wrote the user, named Meagen. “It’s irked me before for safety reasons, but this is probably more detrimental to us both.”
As a mom, who is hardly instafamous but finds some satisfaction in a certain degree of online approval, this compelled me to delete all the photos of my son off my Instagram. It’s irked me before for safety reasons, but this is probably more detrimental to us both.
— Meagan (@atmeagan) November 19, 2018
So what is actually going on here, and how can Bower’s sharing of this post be reconciled?
According to Pamela Rutledge, Ph.D., a psychologist and director of the California-based Media Psychology Research Center, it can’t. “These likes are about objectification rather than substance,” Rutledge tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “I know there are a lot of people who have managed to make a living out of likes, so we’re putting some credence in it as social capital. But it’s sad that she’s worried about her child’s self-esteem being impacted by some future date when he might look back and see his Instagram stats.”
Rutledge says the fact that Bower is discussing this openly means she’s likely to be “operating at a fairly superficial level” overall. “There is some narrative going on in her brain where she’s worried that this kid isn’t getting his due in life, so she’s projecting that onto Instagram likes,” says Rutledge. “She’s keeping a scoresheet… it’s actually more detrimental than this one picture. She’s got this message that social validation is the key to one’s self esteem… as a cautionary tale, I’d say: Make sure you’re not giving your kid the wrong message.”
In an Instagram story Monday morning, Bower seems to double back on her post, saying that she meant it to be the exact opposite of how it was read — as a lesson that she doesn’t think this way anymore. “A lot of people thought I needed him to be liked. No. I don’t. I like him. Nothing’s going to change that, he’s just awesome,” she says in the story. “But kids are smart, ya’ll. Kids know there’s likes on photos and it’s very human nature to compare. So for me, my personal growth journey is teaching my kids that it doesn’t matter.”
Laura Kauffman, Ph.D., a child psychologist based in Menlo Park, Calif., finds the situation troubling. “My concern is that the blogger is signaling to her son that she notices how social media responds to him, and she cares about his ‘performance’ in this domain,” Kauffman tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Although, she means to say that this metric isn’t important to her, I trust her son knows this is a value of hers, just because she is talking about it. Kids are very intuitive, and they are able to understand what matters to us based upon what we elevate to the importance of conversation.”
In order for children to thrive, Kauffman says they need “unconditional love” — something that transcends Instagram likes. “Unconditional love is when children know they are loved, respected and valued, just by virtue of being their unique self,” says Kauffman. “Without having to perform and behave to certain standards.”
Bower did not respond to Yahoo Lifestyle’s request for comment. But by Monday afternoon, she posted that she chose to archive the post because there was “too much drama” surrounding it. “Unfortunately, this is what happens sometimes if you choose to be vulnerable on social media and share something that isn’t perfect about yourself,” she said. “Which is what my goal was.”
Read more from Yahoo Lifestyle:
- Chrissy Teigen had the best response to troll who tried to mom-shame her about breastfeeding
- Chrissy Teigen calls out fan who dissed her new short haircut because it makes her face ‘look huge’
- Diary of a Fit Mommy blogger opens up about her plastic surgery regrets: ‘You do not need fixing’