Curious Reads: Martha, Martha, Martha
Martha Stewart's Instagram is mesmerizing.😵💫
Hello friend, Liz here.
#1 Today’s top of the fold story is Martha Stewart—that is, the strange unaffected and off-brand persona that Martha presents on her personal instagram account is part-grandma, part-Musk-style-Mogul, and part-gentlewoman farmer.
…And I dig it.
“For the last decade, the @MarthaStewart48 Instagram account has shared freewheeling, typo-ridden posts about Martha Stewart’s personal life in chaotic, mesmerizing detail.”
(BTW this week I’ve been sick, so you’re getting a less detailed evaluation than usual. (My brain is foggy.) Enjoy this fun one! 😉)
Read the story: “Inside Martha Stewart’s ‘Finsta’ of 1.9 Million Followers” by Rachel Sugar at Bon Appetit Magazine
Martha is entirely herself online. Which is, frankly, refreshing for the namesake of everything house and home.
She seems fearless. She is matter-of-fact about the life she lives, whether or not you like it. “As for punctuation and grammar And spelling Please!!! I write on horseback, in the car, in the dark, In a rush Give me a break!!!!!!!!!,” she wrote at one point, captioning a picture of eggs fresh-laid by her hens. She has no time for or interest in making her existence scrutable to commoners, and while she responds occasionally to criticism, she is philosophically unmoved. “The comments,” she offered Zen-ly, through a representative, “are often better left unread.”
This is only interesting because her personal posts contrast dramatically with the brand account that bears her name, @MarthaStewart “which is shiny, consistently well lit, and warmly detached.” Like any marketing copy.
Not Martha’s personal account. Martha’s posts are full of typos and strange punctuation. The photos look exactly like the photos you’d expect from an 80-year-old with an iphone. She posts multiple times a day and about anything at all, the caption and the photo not always matching up.
Take, for example, her post on January 6, 2021, the day of the Capitol Insurrection:
You’d think that posting like this would be disallowed so as to preserve her social media manager’s mental health. Except Martha is the queen of business. She and her media team understands that that this exact authenticity is what her 1.9 million followers crave from the woman who seems too perfect.
None of us can relate to her, not really. A multi-millionaire with multiple properties, a barnyard full of animals, gardens, a media empire, and all the staff needed to make her life and business run will never be relatable to a middle-class American like myself.
That’s what makes this personal account genius. Martha knows you and she are not alike, and she does not try to perform as if you and she are alike.
None of [her posts] felt relatable at all. What makes @MarthaStewart48 feel like the unfiltered thoughts and tossed-off impressions of actual Martha is in fact how casually alien it is. Famous people are always trying to convince you that they are just like everybody else. They also eat Chipotle and get tired and often walk their dogs! They love coffee too!
Martha Stewart, on the other hand, is nothing like you…Of course she’s not like you, and she has no interest in pretending she is—that would be stupid, obviously, and Martha is not dumb. She does not perform relatability, or even likability; the only thing that she performs is the art of being Martha, a woman who lives an extremely particular kind of life. She does this without affectation: One never has the sense, on @MarthaStewart48, that she is not exactly the level of interested in hydrangeas that she purports to be. According to Martha herself, as relayed by Martha’s representatives, the account is meant to be “impulsive, diary-like, and interesting,” which it is.
BTW, did you know that the great American feminist essayist Joan Didion wrote in defense of Martha Stewart’s version of feminism for the New Yorker? (Me either; it’s delightful!)
Writer Dan Brooks, speaking of Donald Trump, examined what makes an excellent social media post-er:
“The first criterion is intangible,” he writes. “Great posters are very much themselves, not just communicating ideas but iterating with each tweet a character—one that offers both a candid presentation of their thoughts and a knowing, semi-ironic performance of them.” …He could have been writing about Martha, who seems forever engaged in a competition to become the most herself.
Yet what makes Martha the most relatable is when she suffers the curse of the “extremely online.” Occasionally, you’ll see her defending herself in captions before anyone accuses her of anything.
I feel closest to Martha in these moments, when she appears most aware of possibly being uncharitably watched. To voluntarily advertise the minutiae of your life online, and then, in the same breath, defend against the potential backlash—that is the masochistic agony of posting! …In this one way, at least, @MarthaStewart48 is just like us after all.
So, as we examine our online selves this New Year, making resolutions about the time we spend peering into screens, I find Martha’s example interesting.
If being ourselves online is the holy grail, then Martha may be able to act as our guide. (Who’d have thunk it?) Or maybe she’ll drive us underground and off all social platforms altogether. (Do we really want 80-year-olds posting photos of their lives online?) Either way, I’ll still be watching Martha from my screen at home in fascinated delight.
Thanks for reading. Warmly, Liz Charlotte Grant
YOUR TURN: To your great surprise, which social media accounts have mesmerized you? Share your favorite accounts below!
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More Curious Reads
#2 Rebecca Solnit writes artfully about Mary, Mother of God, and also about a photographer whose medium is frozen film. —Lit Hub
Solnit’s three astonishing run-on sentences will make you breathless:
“…At a certain point in the European middle ages the mother of God became an important figure of mercy and intercession and femininity in Christian life as a new source of blue pigment arrived—pulverized lapis lazuli from far-off Afghanistan—that allowed painters to depict intense and vivid shades of blue as never before, and this blue known as ultramarine was most particularly dedicated to depicting her robes, and blue became her color, all of which I delved into after returning to view some of these paintings in which the robes pour off her like water and ripple around her feet as if in inlets and bays, paintings that make me wonder if rather than thinking of all that blue as celestial, the garb of the queen of heaven, as she was also known, it makes her aquatic, oceanic, marine, ultramarine, a living and lifegiving spring or lake, an ocean giving rise to new conditions for life as the cyanobacteria did, an entity whose liquidity is also the female condition in ways that have sometimes worried men, the porousness of those bodies that men sometimes enter and babies sometimes exit, of the flow of blood and amniotic fluid and words…”
#3 Trump (AKA Orange Jesus) and his allies are threatening retribution against the press. Because, of course, they are… —CNN
#4 How does winter affect humans? We hibernate, sort of.
According to psychologists, “In the winter, people tend to eat more, move less and mate more. You may feel a bit more glum, while also being kinder to others and having an easier time paying attention.” —The Washington Post
#5 A rabbi challenges Christian Nationalist theology, correcting the record on how Jews interpret the Old Testament passages on nationhood. —Sojourners Magazine
Strange, but True
Australian police are investigating a real-life murder mystery…by mushroom poisoning. —NPR