When I was younger and wanted to know how to do something, I would seek qualified and knowledgeable people in that area. For example, as a teenager curious about the proper shade of foundation, I would visit the Clinique counter in the department store at my local mall. (These days, of course, I turn to my Madison for all things beauty-related.) If I needed to know how to properly cook chicken, I looked in a cookbook or called my mom. If I was curious about the most comfortable and affordable jeans, I either asked my close friends or went to the store to try them on. And as a young mother, when I had a question about child development or behavior, I looked in a book written by experts, called my doctor, or relied on the knowledge and experience of my mother and grandmother, women who had spent their lives successfully guiding young children to adulthood.
Where am I going with all of this? All over social media today, young women and mothers are bombarded with advice from Influencers, people who use their platform to persuade others to purchase the products and follow the ideas they promote. In many cases, this is fine. The problem arises when an influencer is not an expert or is not experienced in the field she is promoting. Too many people I see as I scroll through social media platforms are haphazardly promoting products and ideas they are not experts in or even experienced enough to influence others.
I see a mother with very young children telling me that I should make my child responsible for the household chores like scrubbing the toilets and mopping the floors in order to "raise capable kids." I should have my young child earn money to buy necessary items like sneakers to appreciate the value of money. I should make chore charts that my young children must complete before they are rewarded with screen time. My issue with this? First off, how does this particular mother know that these things will indeed raise capable kids when her oldest is only ten or eleven? What basis does she have for encouraging young mothers who watch her channel to have their little ones clean bathrooms and wash dishes when they can barely reach the sink?
This same mother promotes an organizational system that she developed to run her household efficiently. She encourages mothers to purchase her planner and program, yet her entire online presence is unorganized and chaotic. Her shtick, if you will, is highlighting her crazy and hectic life. "Look at me! I am a mess! But oh, by the way, buy my planner and be organized! Make sure your kids are scrubbing toilets because that will teach them to be capable later in life!" No mention of the fact this allows her to spend all day filming, editing, and posting on social media.
Other influencers will gladly show you their makeup application and skin routine, and of course, give you a "code" to shop the products they directly benefit from. Are the majority of these influencers certified to give this advice? No, most are not. They will tell you to buy makeup, hair products, clothing items, and kitchen appliances. All because they will make money from your purchase and your interaction with them. When the influencer asks a question like "What is your favorite memory with your kids" or "Tell me what television show you are watching because I really need a new one!" it most likely isn't because she wants to know. It is because platforms like Instagram feed on engagement. In other words, the social media influencer needs to prove that people are seeing and commenting, and liking her content to keep her relevant.
Why do I care? Some say I should simply stop reading and stop watching. I can, and I do. But I am compelled to share my feelings here in my little space to remind younger women and mothers that they should not be easily influenced by so-called experts. They should rely on their own instincts and the knowledge of those close to them for advice. Just because someone has a platform does mean she has the knowledge or experience to tell you how to dress, or run your home, or, more importantly, raise your children. When I see this mother encouraging others to have young children complete chore charts and scrub toilets and mop floors, I am reminded of one of my very favorite quotes from psychologist Jean Piaget, "Play is the work of childhood." Maybe these social media influencers should think about this, put their phones down a bit, and play with their children. They will be grown and scrubbing their own toilets in the blink of an eye.