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Vol 9 No 3: September issue

Giving Care a Platform: The Use of Instagram by Mothers of Children with Chronic Illness

August 22, 2021
August 5, 2022


In this article, we explore the ways that the social media platform Instagram shapes the intersubjective experience of caring for children with chronic illnesses. Based on long-term immersive social media research and in-depth interviews with women maintaining popular Instagram accounts dedicated to caring for children with chronic illnesses, we approach Instagram as a ‘moral laboratory’ (Mattingly 2010) in which caregivers negotiate the meaning of their present experiences and experiment with potential futures for themselves, their children, and their relationships together. Through a consideration of the role played by Instagram in mediating the forms of affective labour these mothers engaged in, we consider how the very features that make Instagram a resource—its ability to foster a sense of social connectedness, validate their invisible labour, and provide practical knowledge—both create new and intensify longstanding forms of pressure and anxiety in their lives. We regard these Instagram feeds as complex social settings that are playing an increasingly important role in the trajectory of lives of people with chronic illness and their caregivers.