Somewhere between Selfish by Kim Kardashian and “Your Facebook friend John Doe just joined Instagram” is me, standing at the gates of the hashtag heaven, where my turn in social relevancy came into fruition. Due to a particularly good hair day and right lighting, I took one of the most magnificent selfies my Instagram handle will ever have the good fortune of hosting. So good, in fact, my friend’s little sister casually dropped a #mom in the comments.
#Mom, for those unfamiliar, is a hashtag you can use when you’d like to show your admiration for a woman (who’s not actually your mom) virtually. Your actual mom can sound preachy and disapproving when she’s giving you career advice, but when Sophia Amoruso does it, it’s with the undeniable appeal of #Girlboss. #Mom’s popularity can be traced to (yes) Kim Kardashian—specifically when Lorde retweeted Kim Kardashian’s link to the Paper cover, with the hashtag. Initial response misunderstood the gesture—as if the singer was criticizing Kardashian for posing naked while being somebody’s mother. Ever the levelheaded teen, Lorde went on Tumblr to explain herself: “omg haha ok so. time to explain this. i retweeted kim’s amazing cover and wrote ‘MOM’, which among the youthz is a compliment; it basically jokingly means ‘adopt me/be my second mom/i think of you as a mother figure you are so epic (sic).'”
All potential sarcasm and mocking aside, had I been elevated to this level? Maybe. To be completely honest, the hashtag on my selfie wasn’t so straightforward—it was more of question. “Mom?” she wrote. Uh…yea? I guess? At this point, I’ll take it, confusing punctuation included.
You would think that, like many a social media-based trend, the whole #mom thing would have petered out. But there’s something about it that makes it stick out—and stick around, if only in my mind. Even before Lorde’s explanation, I got the sense that #mom was amongst the highest of compliments. It’s an exclusively female word that encapsulates all that is nurturing and aspirational—still, my 15-year-old disciple seemed unsure of herself, as everyone else does.
If there is one woman I admire for her aesthetic, gravitas, and endless mood inspiration, it’s Dana Wright, aka @Dentata666. The model-turned-punk-singer-turned-R&B-singer and I chatted last week, and I not-so-casually mentioned my adoration for her, explaining the whole #mom thing in the process. Her response: “What is #mom???” OK, so maybe not as self-explanatory as I thought.
I showed her Lorde’s tumblr post and asked, “OK, what do you think?”
“As long as girls are doing it in a genuinely supportive way, then it it great,” Dana said. “We need all we can get when it comes to females supporting each other’s sexy fierceness. There is definitely a movement slowly happening and this is just a small thread of it.”
If Lorde’s sincerity wasn’t enough, take it from someone who built her brand on social media—both personal and professional. Julia Baylis, internet queen and co-founder the clothing line It’s Me and You, seemed like the one who would finally set me straight. “Just because you want someone to be your #mom doesn’t mean you want to be them,” she told me. “It’s like applying this level of admiration we normally think of associated to women like Hilary [Clinton], Meryl Streep, and Angelina Jolie, but to anyone. #Mom means this person is doing things that I like, she’s someone I want to model myself after, and she doesn’t necessarily have to be a mom.”
However daft it seems on the surface, I’m convinced this hashtag in particular shows a positive evolution from early social media trends. Instagram can be about branding, sunsets and all the fitness #goals in the world—physical, self-conscious aspirations, and maybe part of the reason why actual moms don’t want their kids to have a Twitter or an Instagram (thank God my mom spared me from Myspace). But #mom isn’t necessarily visual. It means something bigger, I think. “It’s beyond just the immediate reaction to the image,” Julia told me. “It sums up your whole feeling of this person. It’s what they do, where they come from, and what they’re representing.” Put it this way: If Lorde had retweeted Kim with #goals instead of “mom,” the conversation revolving them would be an entirely different story.
“I think that the ability for anyone who’s younger to be able to find a role models through social media that they don’t have in their day-to-day life is awesome,” Julia said. And while one particular woman shouldn’t be an end goal (because certainly they aren’t thinking of themselves as that end goal) Julia brought about a point you kind of forget when thinking too much of what’s right and wrong in internet culture. “By habit we’re creatures of reference,” she said. We moodboard, we “like.” I reference that one scene in Paris, Texas as inspiration again and again, but I’m not Nastassja Kinski, and I never will be. I’m also not Dana or Julia, or Lorde or Kim Kardashian. But each woman has something I admire, and the fact that they have their #moms, and may be a #mom to someone else is equally inspiring for me.
Image via Twitter and author’s Instagram.