#liveyourbestlife : considering the discursive construction of feminine psychological wellbeing within Instagram during the first COVID-19 lockdown in Aotearoa, New Zealand : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Psychology, at Massey University, New Zealand
Informed by post-feminist theory (Gill, 2017; McRobbie, 2007), which contends that there are societal expectations around how feminine subjects live their lives, I question how feminine psychological wellbeing is discursively constructed within Instagram during the first COVID-19 lockdown in Aotearoa New Zealand. There is currently a lack of research on how feminine psychological wellbeing is constituted within digital spaces. There is also an increasing social emphasis on the importance of psychological wellbeing, which has continued since the response to COVID-19. This project was an opportunity to consider and critique dominant understandings of psychological wellbeing. Based on a feminist post-structural epistemology, the project is qualitative, utilising a critical discourse analysis of public Instagram posts. My interest was in identifying and critiquing the discourses present in the postings and how they may contribute to expectations for feminine psychological wellbeing, at present, considering the unique experience of lockdown during COVID-19. The analysis of these public postings was informed by a reflexive consideration of my own Instagram consumption at this time, as this informed the analytical lens brought to the project. The analysis demonstrated that a feminine audience was being addressed in a direct and instructional manner. Dominant understandings of successful femininity that were reflective of neoliberal and post-feminist ideals, were drawn on to constitute feminine psychological wellbeing and white, middle-class, heteronormative, young feminine figures were presented as normative within this content. Traditional Eurocentric norms of femininity were evident as reformulated and reinstituted within this post-feminist context. Feminine psychological wellbeing was described as constant work upon the feminine self, with specific sites for control and discipline including feelings, thoughts, the body, and behaviour. During Aotearoa's first COVID-19 lockdown, feminine subjects were encouraged to get through and stay resilient, by working on themselves, focusing on what they could control, and remaining productive.