Every so often in this newsletter we look directly at the camera like we’re being directed by Adam McKay, and we announce that there's a momfluencer we particularly enjoy. Folks, I enjoy the content of Bekah Martinez.
My enjoyment of Bekah’s content is occurring in a context that I will probably spend the next few months trying to figure out: Momfluencer content is getting more boring. It’s not boring to analyze (for me, anyway!), but it’s boring to consume. There’s a thick heather-gray fog of niceness that has settled over all of Instagram. (This isn’t happening as much on TikTok, mind you.) Niceness is better than nastiness, of course, but there’s an entire spectrum that is absent lately. Shades of personality, you might say.
Two of the exigencies I suspect are driving this trend toward dullness are the need to convert sales, and the desire to avoid provoking angry commenters. Creators are tracing a more direct line to sales, with less friction along the way — friction often being the good part, the weird posts that got us hooked on social media in the first place. Instagram’s affordances (earn an income! engage with your community!) have had the unintended consequence of sanding down the voices and personalities of creators, of molding them into an increasingly undifferentiated mass of affirmation-repeating talking heads. I feel for them; I imagine it’s less fun to create boring content.
Bekah Martinez is one momfluencer whose content has resisted this trend; if anything, she’s getting more confident in her voice, and her posts are getting funnier, more subtly human and unpredictable. Bekah IRL might terrify me a bit: She is tiny, hot and opinionated. When people insult her appearance in her DMs, she reminds them that actually, objectively, scientifically, she’s very attractive.
I have never watched The Bachelor, but if you have, then you probably know of Bekah from there; she was a contestant on the show about four years ago. After she was eliminated from the competition, she was broke and went up to Humboldt County to trim plants on a weed farm for a bit of quick cash. (See? I told you she’s fun.)
Here’s the text from an old Instagram story that Bekah posted explaining what happened after she arrived on the weed farm:
“the girl I was with got kicked off the farm and I had been using her phone to stay in contact with my parents bc it was the only one that had service… she got mad i wouldn't leave with her when she got kicked out so she texted my mom that I was being held hostage [by] meth heads with knives and then stopped replying."
Anyone who’s spent time in marginal hippie scenarios recognizes this as a classic situation. There is always a sketchy person with whom you should NOT make allegiances, and the cell reception is never good. Oh, my god. I am so happy I’m not 22 anymore. How fun would it be to do an ethnography of a weed farm, though.
Anyway, in the 24-hour period during which Bekah’s parents were under the impression that she’d been abducted, they reported her missing to the Humboldt County Sheriff, naturally. After it was all sorted out, they tried to call back and report her “found,” but they always got voicemail, and it was never handled. When Bekah’s season of The Bachelor finally aired, she was still technically listed as “missing” in Humboldt County, which led to a renewed round of tabloid interest in her story.
All of this resonates for me in multiple chakras, in particular the “it went straight to voicemail and I didn’t bother to leave a message” chakra, which for me is very active.
You can read more about the saga here - there’s more to it than I have the real estate for in this space, but by all means, dive deeper. What I want to talk about today is the way Bekah works with the challenge of a difficult audience. Most creators seem to have given up on engaging with their most critical followers, but Bekah can’t seem to resist doing so, and I think this makes her content more vivid and human. (I cannot use the word “authentic” with a straight face, here or anywhere. That word is as corroded-of-meaning as the concept of “self-care.” Don’t use it!)
Recent history: Bekah’s April Fools pranks
Today, Bekah’s a mom of two, and she’s a momfluencer and podcaster. Her boyfriend Grayston runs a climbing gym in Long Beach, and does a bit of light dadfluencing as well, which I enjoy. Over the last few years, among other things, Bekah has become known for her April Fools posts.
Her first prank was a fake ad for a product called Fit Baby Tea. This was in 2019, when detox teas were being heavily promoted on social media. Her caption: Hey guys, I’m SO excited to tell you about this new product that is really a game changer. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Ruthie’s gained a bit of weight since her birth and has been getting bloated from late-night feeds and milk cravings. Summer is right around the corner so you know it’s important that she slims up for those beach days ahead!
That’s why we’re putting her on a 30-day detox with @FitBabyTea . Being a #fitbabyteapartner means putting your child’s appearance before their health ☺️ I’m sure we can all relate! If you’ve got a chunky baby or tubby toddler, you’ve gotta try out @FitBabyTea today.
She’s gone on to post fake ads for baby tanning cream, and a baby vape “for stressed-out kids.”
This year, Bekah took the Instagram April Fools joke project a step further, requiring followers to actually click through to a link to see the punchline. We chatted on the phone about how it went down. Our conversation has been edited and condensed.
“I had this idea months ago,” said Bekah. “We had put in an offer on a house, and I thought, it would be so hilarious and out of touch if someone asked their followers to help them buy their house. It would be a perfect April Fools. I thought, ‘I’ll make a GoFundMe.’”
On April 1st, she posted the following pic:
The caption reads:
I can’t believe I’m writing this, but we found our dream home!!! …and we need your help.
You many be thinking…what? 🤔
I know it sounds crazy, but we thought, why not ask this beautiful group of people for support on our family’s journey?
We’re looking to raise money for a down payment on this gorgeous, one-of-a-kind home. It just feels right.
We’re confident that 4,200 square feet is a great size for our growing family! We’ve never been one to keep up with the Jones’s, so this humble space feels like the perfect fit.
I feel like this is exactly why I’ve cultivated this community— I can be vulnerable about our needs as a family and I know that you all will be supportive— both emotionally and financially. ♥️
Gofundme link in bio. Any little bit helps ✨
If you click through to the GoFundMe page, you come to a Habitat for Humanity campaign that Bekah created, and a big April Fools banner. What I love about this joke, and about all her pranks, is its winking deployment of the saccharine language of the mom-internet — “beautiful group of people”, “our family’s journey”, “I can be vulnerable about our needs as a family.” Chef’s kiss!!!
“If I saw this, the first thing I’d do is click on the link,” she reflected. “I’m way too nosy not to click through. I’d be like, how much are they asking for? So I thought everyone would immediately click on the link and see it was a joke.”
That did not happen. Many people took the bait and sent Bekah angry DMs. She shared a few choice cuts in her stories:
I asked Bekah why she thought people got so upset this time around.
“We are in the age of out-of-touch influencers. [This joke is] not necessarily so far out of the scope of reality. This might actually happen. To me, I thought this was so obvious. But I got an influx of very very angry DMs… It also really seemed to showcase how people are genuinely excited for an opportunity to shit on someone. And then there were people who were mad even after they’d found out it as a joke. ‘Oh, you shouldn’t be rage-baiting people.’ Or, ‘Oh, you should be donating to Ukraine instead.’ ‘This isn’t the right way to donate to a charity.’”
Think momfluencers are annoying? You should meet their biggest fans
Bekah cultivates a mildly chaotic persona which is central to her appeal for people like me, but that makes a target for free-floating rage as well. Many momfluencers post “funny” content, but very few actually poke fun at their followers.
“I definitely understand and respect why other momfluencers engage with their audiences the way they do,” she said. “Often it’s very positive, very ‘love you guys!!!’ But all influencers know their audience is NOT the best. The most vocal, small percentage of followers is often the worst… I mean, these commenters are cut-throat and hyper-critical. It’s just in my personality that I can’t help but express frustration about that. You’re always doing a dance. You’re in constant crisis aversion mode. Someone’s going to take this the wrong way, so you need to put a disclaimer. Sometimes it feels hard to say anything at all.”
Read in this context, Bekah’s chaotic energy feels juiced with extra potency. Perhaps she attracts a particularly vituperative breed of commenter. Her interest in holistic health definitely makes her a target; anything health-related is highly combustible in the mamasphere. Perhaps her unhinged followers inspire her. There’s definitely a feedback loop going on.
Bekah has a working theory that highly active and opinionated commenters fall into two categories:
“There’s one category of people that puts influencers on a pedestal and really want to be like them, and really relates to them. They assume I fall in line with all their beliefs. So they experience genuine disappointment, when they’re like, “oh wow, this person I admire, they’ve fallen off the pedestal.” That can trigger a genuine emotional reaction.”
The second category are people who “feel really powerful when they exert control over others. I’ve experienced this in cancel campaign events we’ve dealt with on the podcast. A group of people will band together, and it’s a feeling of power in coercing someone to issue an apology, or get a brand to drop their sponsorship. I think it helps people feel that they’re in control of something. Maybe this kind of person doesn’t feel very in control of their life.”
When I remarked that it sounded like she’d given this a lot of thought, she laughed. “I really, really have.”
One of the reasons I never get tired of thinking about momfluencers is that they’re always changing, trying to keep up with the latest trends in marketing and self-presentation. The self as product, baby! Can’t let the competition render you obsolete! Will the current emblandening become old hat, and lead to a pendulum swing back to a trend of less polish and a broader spectrum of affect among the moms? I kind of expected that to have already happened, with the launch of Reels, but I haven’t noticed a shift yet. I hope Bekah keeps it up in the meantime.
Thanks for reading Mothers Under the Influence!
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i love that bekah's boyfriend is participating in the valentine's day shoot but wearing his normal clothes, which to me is funnier and more interesting than if he was also in costume. also i feel like every engagement and maternity shoot i've ever seen features a glamorous, dressed-to-the-nines woman with her man in a polo shirt and sneakers.