newsflash: instagram is filtered

Newsflash: Instagram is Filtered | The Adventures of Ernie Bufflo

Instagram is probably my favorite corner of the internet. Facebook is often lovely, but just as often feels like a room full of people shouting about their opinions, arguing with friends of friends about hot button issues, and a never-ending string of memes and click-bait stories from aggregation sites. Twitter is like carrying all of my funniest, wittiest friends around in my pocket all day long, but it often contains a disconcerting number of people who like to run up to me at random and yell at me that that thing I said three days ago was VERY WRONG, and also, what’s my problem with Rand Paul anyway?

Newsflash: Instagram is Filtered | The Adventures of Ernie Bufflo

Instagram, however, is a happy place. I follow a lot of lovely folks there, and for the most part, they share interesting little pieces of beauty that they see as they go about their daily lives. Just scrolling through my feed, I see breathtaking landscapes from National Geographic, smiling babies, delicious and beautiful food, cute pets, yummy cocktails, friends loving their lovely #selfies, cute shoes, fun outfits, lovely interiors, and exciting travels. It’s impossible to thumb through without smiling and giving out a smattering of hearts. What’s not to like?

Newsflash: Instagram is Filtered | The Adventures of Ernie Bufflo

 

Newsflash: Instagram is Filtered | The Adventures of Ernie Bufflo

Apparently, people have decided they don’t like that it’s “fake.” That we’re not photographing our shitty moments, the ones where we’ve burned dinner, or it rained on our picnic, or the pile of clutter just outside the frame. We’re rarely shooting selfies of our bad-hair-days, or showing that in fact yoga pants are most frequently our #ootd (outfit of the day). Somehow our beaches are always empty and serene, our dinners expertly plated, and obviously our children are going to eat all of that and wear that outfit, and not get their knees muddy or their hair mussed or haul off and slug their best friend. I even saw a piece today about an account dedicated to showing the “Truth Behind Instagram Photos” that reveals all that’s not shown inside each little square of loveliness.

Newsflash: Instagram is Filtered | The Adventures of Ernie Bufflo

This irks me. Isn’t the beauty in the frame just as true as the mess that may be lurking outside it? Isn’t beauty ALWAYS found in the midst of clutter, chaos, and just plain life? To me, being able to notice it, to focus on it, to at least momentarily crop out the other stuff is in a way a mindfulness practice. A way of reminding myself of a bigger truth: that there’s a lot of beauty and love in the midst of my messy, imperfect life, and the more I notice it, the more I find waiting to be noticed. Does it make us feel better or worse to point out the rings on the coffee table just outside the perfectly cropped picture of a mason jar full of pickles? Is the beauty of a post-bedtime cocktail less important than the pile of mail I moved to the side to take a picture of the glasses on the kitchen table?

Newsflash: Instagram is Filtered | The Adventures of Ernie Bufflo

Everyone knows that the things they see on Instagram are literally filtered by photo tweaks inside the program, by the way it crops things into neat little squares, and by the way we curate what we choose to share. Isn’t there something refreshing and radical about a space that invites us to notice and share the things that we find beautiful, the things we love, the things that delight us? There are plenty of places for us to share OTHER aspects of our reality, but I think we, or at least I, need the reminder that the beauty is there and very real, too, especially when the mess, chaos, and ugliness seem oh-so-overwhelming.

Newsflash: Instagram is Filtered | The Adventures of Ernie Bufflo

 

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my ‘mommy problem’ problem

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You probably saw it in one of your social media feeds in the last week– a New York Times opinion piece by Heather Havrilesky called Our ‘Mommy’ Problem. Most of the piece was stuff I head-bobbingly agree with. One of the things I most feared prior to motherhood, and one of the things that most annoys me about it now that I actually have children, is the way women with children are reduced to “mommies” and mommies alone, not allowed or not able to have an identity outside of their relationship to their children.

I also kind of always hated the word “mommy” in general. It sounded infantilizing to me. I was determined that my children would always call me “mama” or “mom,” never “mommy.” But the entire world refers to me to and in front of my children as “mommy,” and so they have started calling me “mommy,” too. Sometimes I’m “mama.” Sometimes I’m “mommy.” Sometimes lately, I’m “Sawah,” as they’ve noticed that their dad and I call each other names other than “mama” and “daddy” and they’re trying to figure out how we can be people with names and also their parents. (One day, when they’re grown ups, they’ll realize we’re people, full stop.) And in my children’s sweet, small voices, just about anything they call me sounds sweet and lovely, at least the first 5 times in a row that they say it. This, I loved:

Why does this word irritate me when the wrong person says it? When my kids call me “Mommy,” I feel a surge of pride and happiness. “Mommy” is also my mother’s name, thanks to the fact that my older sister shamed me when I tried to switch to “Mom” in my teens. But the “Mommy” I say to my mother or hear from my children is a private word, a word that defines the relationship between me and my mother, or me and my kids. It’s like the word “sweetheart” or “lover,” but arguably even more intimate.

But the essay lost me when it started blaming social media, our filtered window into each other’s home lives, for making mothers into something they don’t want to be:

We are besieged by Facebook images of sun-kissed children canning homegrown peaches and building tiny replicas of the Eiffel Tower out of toothpicks and being home-schooled on organic dairy farms in Wisconsin. We know far too much about other people’s lives these days, and the more we know, the clearer it becomes that we are doomed to lag behind the pack in this increasingly high-stakes game.

I know I’ve been one to defend the filtered world of Instagram, but I immediately thought of a quote widely attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt:

Image via Etsy, click to go buy this seller’s lovely print.

I mean, what do the homeschooling dairy farmers really have to do with you, you know?

I have lofty aspirations of being a Crafty Mom. But I have 2.5 year olds, two of them, actually, and I have realized that doing crafts with them is just not worth it, to me, at this time, most of the time. Because it takes me an hour of internet surfing to get the idea, and then I have to gather supplies, and then the actual project requires me to first get them occupied with something else for 20 minutes while I set it up, and then they spend 5 minutes on it and make a massive mess, and then I have to bathe them and then occupy them so I can clean up the mess, and then I need a nap. Maybe we’ll do crafts one day when it’s easier. Maybe I’ll just get over my urge to be That Kind of Mom. But in the meantime, it’s not like the moms out there with toddlers, crafting, are actively crafting to make me, way over here in Arkansas, feel bad. They’re just dancing to the beat of their own drummer. (And I mean, maybe they are trying to make me feel inferior, in which case, they’re assholes, and who cares what assholes think about anything?)

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I get that Slacker Mom is a really popular internet genre. There are like, two kinds of moms online and they are either the ones writing super detailed Pinterest tutorials or the ones writing hilarious f-bomb laden tell-offs to the Pinterest moms:

My sister-in-law told me about a mom at her kid’s elementary school who took the basic school T-shirt that everyone got and painstakingly created a beaded fringe at the bottom, replete with cinched waist and perfectly cuffed sleeves. All of the other little girls gathered around, screeching variations of “I want the same thing!” Incredibly enough, instead of laughing in their unrealistic faces the way our parents might have, all the adults started mumbling, “Yes, O.K., we can do that, sure, I’ll learn a challenging new craft, no problem. Tonight, of course. We’ll do it tonight.” This made my sister-in-law, who was already late for work, want to teach a few people the artisanal craft of rearranging someone’s face using only your bare hands. We are outclassed at every turn. We are outspent and out-helicoptered and outnumbered. It used to be good enough just to keep your house from being coated in a thin layer of dog hair and human feces. No longer.

I mean, for sure, no one can make you bedazzle a tee shirt without your consent. You seriously, really, for real do not have to do it. Sure, on some vulnerable day, you may see some lovely Anthropologie-model of a mom post a picture of her doing some insanely enriching and hippie-tastic nature-related gross-motor-skill-developing spiritually-affirming whatever in her backyard, all with perfect hair and kids who have on like, matching clothes, and you may like, actively hate her for all the ways she’s making you feel. And on those days, maybe close Instagram and walk away and have a cookie and hug your kid and watch some cartoons and tell both of you that things are all gonna be OK.

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Just being my best impersonation of one of those Anthropologie moms being all educational-nature-tastic while also basking in the ray of sunshine that follows me wherever I go. You can’t see my kids, but they are impeccably dressed, wherever they are, off camera, I assure you.

But on a good day? On a good day there is just no reason for you to take that shit personally. Because she’s not backyard Montessori fine motor skill meditating TO YOU. She’s just doing her thing. You see your dance space? It’s over there, and it’s got nothing to do with hers, so just go on with your bad self over to your dance space and you do you. And maybe unfollow people who bring you down. And maybe talk nicely to yourself and let yourself know that you are the mother your children need, and they don’t need you to be anyone else but you.

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And then maybe if we can stop constantly seeing other mothers as the problem, we’ll all have some energy left over to pursue our own self-care and interests and hobbies and careers and righteously tell off the strangers in public who insist on calling us “Mommy” instead of…oh…anything else.

life, filtered: thoughts on instagram and identity

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I’ve made no secret about the fact that Instagram is probably my favorite Internet. Instagram is a happy place, for the most part (unless you’re totally following the wrong people), where folks share the beauty and joy and interesting things in their lives. There’s no BuzzFeed Quizzes. No weird out-there political rants. No ugly. No mean. Just all of my favorite things: food, babies, nature, pets, scenery. It’s the first thing I check when I fire up my phone in the mornings, and often the last thing I scroll through before bed.

Which is why it confuses me when people feel the need to “expose” the reality behind the filtered world of Instagram, or confess that Instagram makes them feel insecure.

Continue reading “life, filtered: thoughts on instagram and identity”

why I call myself a #spinabifida mom

Why I call myself a #spinabifida mom
#spinabifida mom tip: a small shopping cart makes an excellent mobility tool at an outdoor Easter egg hunt.

If you read my Twitter bio, you’ll notice that among the facts about myself I chose to include in my scant 140 character allowance, I use the phrase #spinabifida mom.

This means my feathers were somewhat ruffled last night when someone I follow (and like!), whose baby has recently undergone surgery, expressed bewilderment that some moms choose to identify themselves through their children’s illnesses. For one thing, my daughter’s disability is not an illness. It’s not something that we can treat and eventually put behind us. It’s part of who she is and has been since long before she was born. It has shaped our lives in many ways up to this point, and it will be a defining (note I said “a” and not “the”) factor in the rest of our lives. Spina Bifida will mean more surgeries. It will mean more therapies. It will mean doing many day-to-day life processes differently. It will mean concerns about the accessibility of public places and the adaptability of certain activities. It will mean advocacy and activism and acceptance. It’s just a fact that it’s a huge part of Claire’s life, and, because we are her parents, ours.  Continue reading “why I call myself a #spinabifida mom”

Easy DIY: The InstaFridge

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Check out my fridge, covered in pictures of my babies! You, too, can achieve such a cool (ha) fridge!

Here’s the deal: there are companies that will make you magnets out of your Instagrams (and lets be real, the best pictures any of us are taking these days are on Instagram), but they charge $15 bucks for 9 magnets, and they aren’t very big. Meanwhile, I was recently informed by a friend that Walgreens has a cool new app that, among other things, connects directly to your Instagram and prints 4×4 prints at your nearest store for you to pick up in just an hour or two. For 39 cents a pop. So, using my rudimentary math skills (aka a calculator, because I am an English and Poli Sci major, and math makes me cry), that’s $1.27 cheaper than the pre-made magnets per picture. The savings shrinks a tiny bit when you take the added step of turning the prints into DIY magnets, but bear with me:

Supplies:

1 sheet foam board, or, if you’re extra thrifty, 1 cardboard box

A bunch of Instagram prints

Photo Corners (like these, which are less than $5 for 250)

Craft magnets (Amazon sells bazillions for like a nickel each) + glue gun if you don’t get the magnets with adhesive backing

Scissors

Steps:

  1. Affix pictures to cardboard or foam board using photo corners
  2. Cut out squares
  3. Glue and/or affix the magnets to the back of said squares
  4. Stick all over your fridge
  5. Laugh at schmucks paying $1.20 more per magnet for their StickyGrams that look tiny and puny next to your awesome creations

The bonus of using the photo corners as opposed to gluing the pictures directly to the foam/card board is that you can easily change out the pictures and reuse the magnets over and over again! Which will work great for me as my whole fridge is pictures of the Bufflo Gals, and they tend to do this pesky growing up thing, which means I need to update the pictures regularly.

seeing life through a rose colored filter

I have literally thousands of photos on my iPhone at any given moment. It’s become second nature to use it to constantly document my life as I go about my day– the sweet, the surprising, the routine, the beautiful–it all gets snapped. And a tiny fraction of those photos gets sent through what is probably my most favorite app: Instagram, where photos are cropped into squares, run through filters that mimic the look of old-fashioned film, and shared on a timeline among similar photos from all of my friends.

I know it might seem silly to say this about an app, but Instagram literally makes my life better. I’ve said it before when talking to fans who also love the app, but I feel that going through my day, looking for moments to Instagram, forces me to be more aware of the beauty and amazement all around me. And being able to see similar moments shared by people I care about? Super special.

It’s why I mostly loved this piece on Huffington Post from another mom about how Instagram serves as sort of a light in the midst of a lot of the difficulties of parenting. However, the author feels like the filter of Instagram– both the literal filters of the film and the way we each filter what we decide to share– necessitates a kind of confessional, a disclaimer that her life isn’t always as pretty as it may appear onscreen. I guess I’m just not sure that’s necessary. After all, and I’m only half-joking, isn’t the sharing what’s hard what Twitter is for?

I don’t think I or my friends are somehow being false or one-sided by choosing to mostly share beauty and interest and humor through our Instagram feeds. Instead, we’re looking on the bright side of life. Heck, sometimes we’re clinging to it. And that’s OK. It’s necessary, even, in a world where we have dozens of outlets that give us negativity and bad news, to have one that focuses on the good and beautiful.

All photos above from my Instagram feed, where you will find me as erniebufflo.