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Browsing by Author "Kurki, Sannamari"

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  • Kurki, Sannamari (2020)
    The topic of this thesis is self-care as currently discussed on social media. Research questions address what caring for the self consists of and why it is practiced, what kinds of selves are constructed in social media self-care discourse, and how self-care is discussed on social media. Data for the thesis was gathered on the social media site Instagram, where questions of wellbeing and self-care are avidly discussed. Data consists of observation on Instagram posts and their caption texts, conversations on comment sections and interviews with content providers. Self-care discourse is understood to be part of Western originating therapeutic culture and data was primarily from Anglophone countries and Europe. However, due to the global nature of Instagram as a social media, the research was not limited geographically. Interviewees were from North America and Europe. The thesis takes part in anthropological discussions of wellbeing. It is based on the assumption that discourse on wellbeing can provide insight into ideologies that are at play in societies and how they affect the individual. Self-care is understood as part of therapeutic culture where psychological concepts are used to inform understandings of the self. Selfhood in self-care discourse is seen as a continuation of a Euro-American tradition, where the self is understood as a bounded individual. The background of current self-care practices is traced through how caring for the self was practiced in Antiquity and early Christianity, to the impact of Calvinist ideologies of work and American originating ideas of positive thinking and self-help. Empirical studies on self-help literature informed investigations and provided a comparative framework to self-care discourse. Two key ways of approaching projects on the self are discussed: a Foucauldian inspired governmentality-focused perspective, where cultivating personal wellbeing can be understood as a form of neoliberal governance, where individuals are governed through freedom of choice; and a perspective that emphasizes interpretation and agency in self-helping practices, and where self-identity can be understood as a reflexive project, where engaging in therapeutic culture is an avenue of self-making and may have emancipatory potential. Mindset and practice are found as two key aspects in current self-care practices. Self-care is a practice but what determines something as self-care is the mindset it is done in. The self-care mindset is about a specific way of relating to the self. The self and relationship towards oneself are highly valued and the self is framed as a prime source of knowledge for the individual. Taking care of oneself thus entails listening to oneself, what the self needs, and acting accordingly in the practice of the self. Self-knowledge is a requisite for the practice of self-care, but increased self-knowledge was also the result of caring for the self. Caring for the self resulted in better awareness of the self and increased wellbeing, especially regarding mental health. In self-care discourse the individual is understood as being embedded in social relationships and obligations. However, sociality is often presented more as a problem than a solution to individual wellbeing. Happiness and wellbeing are to be found within, not from others. There is an ethical duty towards caring for the self first. This was also framed as the best way to take care of others. Western society is seen as stressful, fast-paced and taxing. There are ample opportunities for people, but also a lot of information, responsibilities, and expectations in life, both at work and outside of it. Self-care is about living in this choice-laden world, with the solution of focusing on taking care of the self. Self-care is seen as benefitting all aspects of people’s lives. These practices cannot be completely divorced from power relations. Caring for the self could be understood as a form of governance that produces responsible self-governing citizens. However, self-care discourse also includes social critique, where societal norms around mental health and women’s roles are questioned and attempted to alter by sharing personal narratives, information, quotes, advice, and reminders on social media. Self-care discussions are understood as an arena for life politics, a politics of lifestyle choices. In the self-care lifestyle caring for the self before others, rest, and vulnerability are valued. The thesis argues that Instagram self-care discourse is an avenue for self-making. Through sharing personal narratives, Instagrammers construct their self-identities. Life is understood as a journey that has its ups and downs, and sharing all aspects of life on social media is a way to counter narratives of an ideal person and especially woman who is always productive, a view that society is seen to generate. An ethical way of life is about taking care of and loving oneself first, which generates wellbeing to the self and others.