Updated: Dec 23, 2020

Here are the videos and transcripts for both focus groups conducted.

The term ‘self-care’, speaks for itself and on the surface is a notion which is personal to singular individuals. However, in an online space such as Instagram, self-care is something which is also spoken about collectively, whether it’s coming from brands, influencers, celebrities or an everyday Instagram user. The concept of this project derived initially from personal experience of the overwhelming amount of self-care, wellness and self-improvement content on Instagram. However, in order to gauge whether or not women find the notion of self-care on Instagram empowering, it was important to find out the views of others.

Qualitative data was collected through 2 online focus groups

The topics of both focus groups addressed the relationships individuals have with self-care personally and the aspects of self-care narratives on Instagram they find to be emphasized on their own feeds. The second topic focused on the collision of beauty with wellness and whether or not the women find this overlapping, in relation to self-care empowering or not, particularly discussing brand narratives. The final topic focused on how self-care on Instagram can work as a community for women and how these narratives of self-care are interpreted by them.As this project focuses on self-care via Instagram, it was important to address the significance of the platform in relation to women’s self-care practices. Do women find narratives of self-care and wellbeing on Instagram empowering? What sorts of content do they find to be the most engaged with or not so? What are the effects of Instagram being infiltrated by big companies and advertisements?

Initially there were reservations about the online format, however as candidates were all in the comfort of their own homes, places many of them often practice ‘self-care ’, the format felt entirely appropriate and candidates were extremely vocal.

Focus Group 1

Focus Group 1 - Transcript

Florence It's kind of empowering in a way,

but sometimes you do do too much, sometimes you do track your calories or your steps and you burn out so I’m on the fence about the word ‘optimizing’.

VICKY I think I agree as well from from looking at it as kind of one of those things that when is enough enough. Like how how far do you go and how much you striving to achieve from this kind of like the value that it could bring when actually maybe that could only bring negatives with that. Mm hmm.

Annie - Eloise, what do you think about self-optimization?

Eloise I think it's quite easy, especially with Instagram. I think it's quite easy to sort of get sucked in to, I guess, like an ideal of self-optimization, like and I guess like being expected that you should be taking care of yourself and that it should be in a certain way? I think especially with a lot of influencers around us. So that makes sense.

ANNIE Yeah. Yeah. Do any of you feel like so from the paddlet, I found it really interesting looking at just all the different things that you do, and I definitely do as well. When you're sort of having a self-care day. But do any of you sort of have days where you kind of like, actually fuck this? I just want to do nothing to day.

ELLI HORTON Yeah. Like not doing self-care is a form of self-care.. Yeah. Yeah. That isn't all about like focusing on your body or your mind. Self care isn’t always about improving. It's just about like being like being happy.

RACHEL It's like checking in with yourself and being like, do I feel like doing effacement today or is it just I just want to be in my sweatpants and want to watch Netflix. And that's not necessarily like, oh, you're doing like great things to your body. It's just kind of what you're comfortable in that certain mindset on that certain day rather than constant self -improvement. Yeah, yeah.

ELOISE - I think as long as you're doing something to make I think as long as you're listening to your body and listen to yourself, then I think it like it doesn't really matter what you do. LiKe, for example, when you said like if you wanna spend a day and your trackies in bed doing nothing, that's still a form of self care compared to if your if you wanted to put a face Moscow and put your nails.

[00:03:13] So when you do have those days where you just think sod it all. And then you go on Instagram, which we all do, and we will just sit and scrolling the phones. How do you then feel when you scroll through Instagram? Is any sort of pressure or guilt? From particular people on Instagram?

VICKY- yeah, I think that's I think that's the thing. I think it's all good well like feeling like that. But then as soon as your own social media, all you see is a bombardment of kind of these like perfect lifestyles and the amount of people that have, like, these highly curated Instagram accounts that you get drawn into. And then you also having that self-care moment, it's completely contracted by the fact that you will then sitting there like, oh, well, I should be doing it now, but while I do it, why am I sitting here being lazy when I could be going and doing a work out?

[00:04:08] Unless you kind of have that sense of awareness, which is extremely important. I think it's so hard to remove yourself from Instagram and think, oh, actually, no, they all do that as well, but we just don't see it. And I think that kind of balance is so hard.

FLORENCE- often get it where I'm like, you see people like working out on Instagram, they post work home videos every day. And in the past, like I've been that person, where I’m always at the gym like always counting calories and it was a big part of my life.

But then, like, I actually suffered with, like chronic burnout, like I was completely exhausted for like half a year. Like six months. And in that moment, what I needed to do self care was to rest, was to go to the gym and it was almost like the complete opposite of everything that people considered to be self-care. You know, like it really does depend on your situation and you personally.

RACHEL- You know, I had a really similar experience, actually, prior to lock down, I was very much like, oh my God. Like, wake up at 5:00 a.m., go to the gym like no carbs. And just like. I was so careful with my diet and just everything felt like this is the order of my life. But then when lockdown happened, also like the gyms closed. And then there were so many things on Instagram, which was like, oh, like this is like a not home workout you can do. And then you were just like bombarded with all of this advice. But then I realized I was just so, like, tied to the so-called self-care fitness routine that I had prior to lockdown, that that was just not I was so militant and that was not healthy. And the flip side of it, like one day my body was just like, you know what, we're just going stay here and not do anything. And I think I just, like, didn't do anything for three weeks. And I was like, that's exactly what I needed. But even just doing that detachment, but also looking on Instagram and realizing that that's not what I need. And just feeling overwhelmed with all of this sort of advice and guidance that supposedly is going to support you through lockdown is just it's so personal as well that it's just like it works for certain people. But for someone else, it's just like kind of triggering know

MAISY - kind of like following on from kind of Instagram and fitness chat. Like as much as sometimes I might like to post a selfie of me at the gym to show that I'm doing fitness and doing this, this and this. I tend to actively put no self-care content on Instagram because I know that if I then don't post a selfie of me in the gym the same pattern, or if I don't show that I'm doing a face-mask doing whatever, then I start to really like think that all of my followers are going to be judging me. So I try and keep any sort of self calm self optimization content, quite private label just from my close friends, Instagram. Otherwise I just feel like it's going to all get ahead of me.

ELLI - Yeah to add on to that. Like there is a kind of pressure to keep it up. And that in itself is daunting to even like participate in self-care sometimes because like, there are certain things that you might feel like it's like you're not doing it right kind of thing. And then self- care becomes the complete opposite. And it was stressful like exercise for a lot of people. I used to hate it and it took me to learn to love it myself, to actually find it relaxing and to find it a form of self- care And some people just don't like it. So subjective. It's impossible to, like, define what self-care is.

ANNIE- Where do those pressure come from? I know, obviously, that it's you know, Instagram is a huge pressure in itself. But like other places or people or types of people that you can think of, like you might feel that. So when you sort of have to keep it up.

ELOISE - I mean, personally, I used to follow, like, quite a lot of influencers and, you know, the classic people who have big followings. They do a lot of beauty and stuff like that. And I found that really a lot. I've always found myself comparing the like, compare myself to them and think oh well they’re doing this. I should do that as well. And I found that just by unfollowing all. It literally made such a difference because I didn't feel there was no pressure to have to try. And I guess I compete with these people who also want attainable anyway.

ANNIE- I think that's really interesting. I've seen a lot in recent days about Instagram, clear outs and having this all clear out, a few things that you don't or you shouldn't be looking at. Are any of you conscious, like Eloise said of what you're looking and do you make that sort of active decision to be like, actually I don't need this. I really should be looking at stuff that's making me feel empowered. I think it's quite interesting. The whole Instagram clear out thing.

VICKY personally, I actually follow hardly for any influencers, at all and the ones that I do that kind of noticeable people because I would look be that, wow, I want to be like that.

It’s difficult because you I say this but yeah, I can't unsee it because it's like explore pages and not other people showing you things. And again, I personally try and limit myself what I follow, not because I in a conscious level, it's just more that I know in my head that's not real. And I know that a small I have quite a lot of awareness of what is how well they've done to achieve that. But at the same time, how do you avoid it? So it's very difficult. So I think although it's very easy to be like well, you have these clearouts, ,but because of explore feeds, because the general media and all of that is very hard to get away from it in everyday life, actually.

CHARLOTTE I actually saw the other day when I was going for it because I went for an unfollowed a whole bunch of people because I, I don't even know who I'm following. I'm following nine hundred people like who are all these people. And when I opened up my list of following I saw that on Instagram. Now it shows you like the top 50 accounts that are most shown in your feed. And I'm like, oh, that's quite interesting. And had a scroll through. And like the top 50 accounts that were most shown on my face were all like fashion influences and like fitness models and like bloggers and stuff like that.

And I was like, it's not actually a true reflection of kind of my life. It's what I'm seeing the most in my feed are like all of these people who live this like sort of rich and glamorous and, you know, that always at the gym and always looking after themselves in all these ways that, you know, you just see on Instagram. And that's what's always in my feed. And I think that kind of you know, that might be why when I do have like a day or something where I, you know, during lockdown, I've had so many days or I just sit there and feel like doing nothing and then feel that, like, sort of overwhelming guilt. And it's probably because on my feed I just see all of these people that I don't actually know doing all of this stuff that is, you know, self-care, sort of making themself better all the time.

RACHEL- It takes a lot of energy, I feel like, to not only try to avoid it, but when you are triggered by it, you're like, I go through this checklist, right? They actually they probably have a trainer or they have a nutritionist. They have like all this money to buy these supplements. And they probably just like, you know, they say show themselves eating a pizza. But then that's like we don't know what goes behind that picture. You always have to think, like, what are they doing that's totally inaccessible and unrealistic in my life. Helps to, like, detach yourself from it because it's you know, you don't see what's behind the scenes. And it's like it's like an active thing. It's tiring to then go through that list to remind yourself as well.

FLORENCE- it is stressful though, like I follow Bella Hadid and she's like the most thin, like, perfect skin, But like, all she shows is her eat pizza and burgers. And I'm like, come on, you have to try and like create some sort of, like, illusion. Like, no one's buying it. We all know that you've got like a whole list of employees who are working around the clock to make sure you like that. It's just frustrating. And like for me, like, I will take active breaks, like month long breaks from Instagram because you can't actually avoid it. You're on your phone. Like, I'd rather just not open the app. Like, I will leave my phone in my room and not then I don't have to think about it. You don't get that trigger.

MAISY: Yeah, I was going to say. Which is llike as much as a lot of influencers are the problem, I also find a lot of brands are the problem as well. If I decide I want to go on a diet and exercise and be healthy, which is fine, I follow like I follow this brand called Shreddy, on Instagram posting, like aesthetic, workouts, things like this every day at work. Sreenshotting their users who have had really good weight loss,, which is incredible for them. But also for me it's like if I'm having a day where I just want to sit and watch Netflix on my sofa, then it’s like oh fuck. Shreddy says I should be doing the plank.

VICKY- I completely agree with that. And I think also my friends and fashion brands, all these kind of things, they are benefiting from the empowering side of kind of social media that they you can be they such getting on board is all these big movements online. But then they are the ones that are completely bombarding you with images of this perfect lifestyle, such wellness and beauty and how you should be. And that's fueling you to then be like that. But then that results in you not feeling very good. I don't think that is just so hard to escape.

ELLI It's like like it's like capitalism kind of guilt trip, guilt trip you into wanting to be that. So you see this, then you feel guilty and then you're like, shit do I need to do this? Then you go to subscribe to that like workout program. I go by the protein shakes and then I got one. It just adds to the narrative if you're like constantly striving to be like the perfect version of yourself. But that doesn't exist because even if you become everything that you always thought you wanted to be, you've still got to have ambition and drive to do other things. You know, I mean and I think, like, self-care is all about finding the balance between, like, knowing that it’s benefitting you mentally, but like not in a way that you’re doing it for someone else, to appease to other people, it has to be purely for your self-confidence.


[00:15:43] Can you see my screen? Can you see the. Yet. So on the paddler which you filled out. I noticed that. I don't I don't know who said it. I was asking about whether beauty comes into your wellness routine. If you have one. And I'm just wondering who who sort of the beauty is being part of that. Kind of like well being. And part of making them feel good and their self care.


ELOISE- I did as well

RACHEL- I said about glossier as well, because I just love glossier

ELOISE- Yeah, I really like it.

FLORENCE- They somehow make you feel good about wanting to wear makeup, but in, like, a really natural way, it's like enhancing what you naturally have, not trying to, like, carve your cheekbones and like create this illusion. It's very. Like person-centric.

RACHEL- I feel like the thing with like beauty for me. That's part of my self-care routine is I just feel like I'm doing something, especially with skin care. I know that it's going to benefit me and I know I'm nourishing myself. And then sometimes it's just kind of as vain as I just want to feel cuter than I woke up today. So just putting on makeup just to feel nicer about yourself is also quite empowering.

ELLI- I completely agree. Yes. But losing again too soon, it has to be for yourself kind of thing. Otherwise it just becomes a chore. Like I used to wear makeup because I felt ugly. I felt like I didn't look good enough, like without it. Now it's just to, like, enhance your mood kind of thing.

ANNIE - So, yeah. Well, I was what I was going to say here is kind of what are your thoughts of, like the merging of beauty and wellness? Do they fall under the same bracket in terms of yourself? And do you even think about as being part of self-care?

FLORENCE- Mm hmm. Yes, I personally do like my skincare routine is like it changes a lot. But like, I just have like a phenomenal amount of products and I suppose that's the catch. It's like. Creating a system like I feel good about doing my skin, so therefore I buy more products and people make money. It does make me feel good. It does. It just does. Skin color just makes you feel good. And my boyfriends, I wanted you have all these trinkets and trinkets like so much more than that. I think I think that's like that just shows the way that women in particular. Like this has been part of our life since we were like forever. Like, he kind of it gets ingrained in your heads. My my boyfriend, like, you didn't know what a cleanser was until about a year ago. And I was like, I can create skincare routine for you.

RACHEL I actually I think about this a lot, though, because I feel women are either. I think brands have a tendency to dupe women into buying products that they can feel better about themselves, or we feel the pressure to take on all these tools and have all these products because we feel like we're not good enough. And I feel like that is the lie of capitalism, where it just lures you in under the guise of empowerment and like feel good products. But then also I'm falling for it.

So, yes, we all know we all.

ANNIE- I don't want this group to be really, like, depressing, but I mean, there are parts that I really think too deeply about it.

ELLI - Like you say, like it's not all negative, you know. I mean, like, it does make us feel good. So why not spend our money on it? Yeah, it's just about being aware of why you’re doing it.

ANNIE- you feel like other any sort of instances that you can think of where I mean, I know there are quite a lot of brands who tie a narrative of self-care and wellness and kind of like body positivity to their products. Do you ever sort of buy things and think, oh, actually, like, is this genuine? Like, do you ever sort of like really think about what you're buying and why you're buying it, or do you just go for it? Is there ever I kind of like person in the back of your head. It's like, why are you buying this?

VICKY- Yes, I personally think I am massively have that, but I'm really good at thinking I want something to think about, why I'm getting it for, who I'm buying it from and then not getting it at all. like I'm quite and I don't know if it's because I said I actually did quite a fairly similar dissertation to what this is and I did fashion marketing degree. So I learnt about the industry in general and the negatives of the industry. And I think learning a lot about that, as really put me off a lot of people and how they treat people and obviously everyone's main aim is to get you to buy their products. Right. The companies that have brand values that differentiate from what the message that they're sending and that massively me I'm now very good at kind of not getting the, just not buying, because I've asked myself, fulfill

ANNIE- good for you, I wish I was.

MAISY- I'm like, I do that exact mindset and way anyway.

RACHEL - So I mean, I sometimes have a problem with all these kind of beauty products that are culturally inspired or Jade Rolling or Guajira or like A or I or Aveda kind of propositions that I'm like I click into the brand and I go to the website, go to the founder. It's always like a white woman. And I'm like, this is not authentic. And I, I get really frustrated because I see these like influencers. They're like blond and pretty. And then they'll talk about like Chinese medicine. And I think that they're an expert and then sort of like have an opinion on it. And I'm like, that's not I feel I feel really, really frustrated that I sort of like, co-opted under the guise of self care. And I feel like I've built a good kind of like scrutiny against these brands. But I do see a lot of that I feel like.

FLORENCE- Is it super prevalent and I personally have kind of, I've thought about it more recently because I'm really into yoga and I want to be a yoga teacher. But then I realized that like yoga has come from like a really like traditional cultural background that I'm not privy to. I haven't experienced it. So I have to be really careful how I go around talking about yoga, because obviously I am a white woman from England and there are so many instances of brands and influences like coopting these traditional practices and unlike Westernizing and like kind of like ruining the essence of it. And it pisses me off as well. But people don't realize they're doing it and they do it.

ANNIE- Yeah, I was just I was just wondering if anyone has sort of that kind of specific we know for something because they realize like, oh, I actually like that brand is literally coopting an entire culture and capitalizing on it. And are there any specific brands control named that you store all also like that do that? I mean, I can name loads

ELLI I've got I've got like quite like relevant recent example. Yeah. So I don't know if anyone knows Monroe above. And basically she was the face of Rimmel and she was like the first black trans woman to be the face of Rimmel and she was fired for speaking out about her treatment against something I can't remember. But basically, when all of this Black Lives Matter movement began, they posted on the pages like Black Lives Matter, stuff like that, like we stand with you and stuff. A memo called them out and said, like you want. You didn't stand by me when I worked for you. And that. That put me off Rimmel.

But then they hired her as that Diversey ambassador. So it's kind of like it's like there's always room for improvements even in, like, the biggest companies. You know? I mean. But then at the same time, it did. Do they actually care or is that just a marketing ploy at the same time? So that's kind of put me off. Rimmel and also the. I think they like tests on animals as well. So I've been avoiding that for a while anyway. But yeah, and also yet animal testing, I try and avoid runs that test animals, but sometimes it's just impossible if you just want. If you just need a quick, cheap foundation or something, I don't know.

ANNIE- Yeah. Any other brands which come to mind?

FLORENCE- I can't really think like a brand in particular.

RACHEL- There's definitely like a few flying around on Instagram. And I'm like, okay. Yeah. Yes. I click and do it.

ANNIE- Yes. OK. And how do you guys feel about celebrities and influencers endorsing wellness and self-care products. ? basically how do you feel about hashtag AD

MAISY- as soon as I see hashtag AD I’m like no, and I log out I'm like, I'm not gonna buy that. They don’t necessarily love their products, they’re being paid to advertise them.

ELLI Yeah. Yeah. I don't think I would pay attention to who was advertising it if it was anyone from Love Island, then probably not. But if I knew it was someone that had a good awareness of good brands and they were promoting genuine brands, not what they actually believed in, then I would listen.

MAISY- I’d listen, but It does actively put me off.

RACHEL- Yeah, it depends. But it's also hard to just know.

ELOISE - I think also like when it comes to buying skincare, I rely on other people's opinions and how it's worked for someone else. So if someone is promoting something and it does say hashtag AD, I bet it looks to have genuinely worked for them, that I would be more enticed to buy it. Then just reading like someone's like five star review that they've left on the comments.

VICKY- I think also that these people are paid so much and that this it's so they just capitalizing on it so much. It's so ingenuine. And there's a lot of examples online of people to especially with all the detox stuff and all that kind of you see on how to make yourself feel better. Make yourself skinny, make yourself all these things. And then they're posting about how you could do this to your face and all these kind of massive like claims. All that does is just like naturally we'll it puts you off even more because you just know it's not genuine, because there's always something new like how can you be doing all this? And it's just not real life. And it just kind of feels that like an idealistic kind of look which they’ve probably got through plastic surgery and all the other things we're speaking about earlier are not true, like their skin care routine.

I don't think it's just so difficult and it just preys on people kind of do have insecurities and vulnerabilities to buy off them,

RACHEL- because I think it seems like we're we're all in kind of like nice position where we can look at something and judge whether it's authentic, whether it's realistic. But I just think about what young teen girls just scrolling through Instagram and just kind of reading these things and taking it at face value.

FLORENCE- We will track back like 10 years, like when I was 15, like I would look at all of the stuff on Instagram, which wasn't around then. I'm unsure 100 percent. It would completely like completely get into my brain. I'm like you. It's the shame because people don't actually realize how amazing they are. Because you're constantly comparing yourself to, like, these unrealistic goals. And then people are also like celebrities endorsing these products and saying, oh, this skin care cream will pay off all your debt. And like this, that and the other. And, you know, you know, it's just like, come on.

VICKY - I think that's so true. Nice. You realize how wearing such a fortunate position to be even having this conversation, because there's so many people, they are falling victim to all these online kind of like campaigns, just making them feel feel bad about themselves and then buying the products without actually probably thinking about what they're buying and for what reason they're buying it

VIOLET- I'm quite guilty of that. Sometimes if I'm feeling a bit like low, like sometimes you don't even realize when you're feeling down, but then you find stuff for the shop, for you to spend 20 pounds on like something stupid that would go in a drawer and you'll never use it again. And it's like, why do I feel the need to buy something to make myself feel better?

RACHEL- I think it really depends. Because sometimes there are influencers that I follow and then they do this thing and may because I'm biased and I actually do respect them and I feel like they don't have that negative effect over me. I'm like, oh, actually, that sounds good. I will buy it. But I think, like, for me, it depends on maybe the way that they're describing the product or the way that they're documenting themseves, use the product and whether the brand kind of aligns with the values of that influencer. Mm hmm. I think once all of those things are kind of like, you know, aligned, then I feel I kind of sort of feel the authenticity coming through, even from an Instagram post. But again, that's kind of my own judgment. And I guess that's very volatile at times.

ANNIE- So this is a quote from a book that I have, so celebrity culture places aesthetics above health and well-being values immediate results above the adoption of sustainable long term health strategies and perhaps worst of all, confusing science and pseudo science, making it more difficult for us all to sift through the mountains of health, diet and beauty advice that permeates popular culture. So this is kind of more thinking about how celebrities sort of promote p