The Family Weekly: Inside the Lives of Child Instagram Influencers

Plus: The myth of the home cooked meal, and the real danger the ‘Momo’ hoax distracts from

This Week in Family

(Courtesy of Mia Foos)

Vada is 5 years old—and she’s already got 40,000 Instagram followers who love her unique style and dramatic poses, shot all over Austin, Texas. Most of those posts are sponsored by brands, and it’s all thanks to the hard work of Vada’s mom and manager, Mia. Instagram has given rise to the mommy blog 2.0. It’s now easier than ever to build a parenting narrative, post cute photos of toddlers and pre-teens, and sell products, but child-labor laws weren’t built for the age of Instagram. Where is the line between work and play for these mini-influencers?
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(Wenjia Tang)

In this week’s installment of The Friendship Files: These 14 Vietnam veterans from the same platoon drifted apart after their deployment, but reconnected with one another years later. They call themselves “the Cavily”—a portmanteau of cavalry and family—and their regular reunions, ongoing since the 1980s, now bring together extended families of children and grandchildren. When one of the vets wrote a letter, after wondering how the group was doing, it took a few more tries before the men were comfortable enough to meet in person.
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The home-cooked family meal has reached something akin to mythical status in American culture, and in our expectations around gender, family relationships, and health. In a new book, Pressure Cooker: Why Home Cooking Won’t Solve Our Problems and What We Can Do About It, three sociologists study the cooking and grocery-shopping habits of poor and working-class mothers. These families aren’t typically the subjects of glossy recipe books, but their stories are much closer to the reality that many Americans experience when it comes to family meals.
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Journalists are rarely at the center of the stories they tell—but for Uighur reporters in China, telling the story of the ethnic and religious minority’s plight has imperiled their own family members. It’s hard to come by reliable information on the Chinese government’s internment camps, but more than 1 million Uighurs might be imprisoned right now in what many researchers are calling the prelude to ethnic cleansing. Getting the story out to the world and elevating Uighur voices is dangerous, but a source of strength and purpose as well for these reporters.
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How did an obscure work of art in a Tokyo gallery become the panic-inducing hoax “Momo?” Taylor Lorenz explains how the meme was initially spread by local news, and once it was picked up by social-media influencers—who were largely mocking it—it took on a life of its own, eventually making its way into the news feeds of anxious parents. The takeaway for parents: Fear not. Momo is a meme, not a threat.
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Dear Therapist

(Bianca Bagnarelli)

Every Monday, the psychotherapist Lori Gottlieb answers readers’ questions about life’s trials and tribulations, big or small, in The Atlantic’s “Dear Therapist” column.

This week, Reginald from Texas writes that he has long regretted his marriage, and is finally ready for a divorce. His wife is on the same page. The obstacle? She has a long history of health problems, and he doesn’t want to leave her right before serious heart surgery. While he says he is committed to taking care of their daughter through the difficult circumstances and the added pressures of a divorce, he doesn’t want to “come off as a jerk.” Is there ever a right time for a divorce in a situation like this?

Lori’s advice: Reginald needs to rework the narrative, and step out of his own unhappiness. Developing empathy for the other characters in his story—his wife and child—can help him figure out a next step:

For starters, you say that you don’t want to come off as a jerk, but consider: This probably isn’t the first time a woman you were partnered with thought that you acted like a jerk. Instead of indirectly asking me whether you’re being a jerk, ask yourself, Why do I find myself in situations where I have to ask that question in the first place?

The part of your story that seems to stand out for its accuracy is that you aren’t leaving your wife because of her illness—at least, not completely. Given your history and the way you told your story, my guess is that you’ve found it hard to stay in any relationship, illness or not, and that you’ll continue to do so if you don’t figure out why relationships are so challenging for you.

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Send Lori your questions at