From the first smile to the last graduation, mothers love to announce and record children’s achievements on social media. Doing so keeps friends and family informed and compiles a journal of sorts for future perusal. Social media can even be a support system for frustrated moms. However, a recent study highlights a dark side of social media for moms– social comparison.
The “iMom Project” surveyed over 700 mothers about their social media use, parenting habits, health, and relationships. The moms who compared themselves to other parents on social media fared worse in a variety of ways. They felt more overwhelmed and less competent in their maternal role. These moms were also more likely to engage in conflicts over social media and were less likely to be satisfied with their children’s other parent. Unsurprisingly given these outcomes, these moms were significantly more depressed than the participants who did not make comparisons based on social media. The study has been published in the academic journal Computers in Human Behavior, and you can read the original study by clicking here.
The relationship between social media use and depression has been examined at length over the last decade, but tweens and teens have received the most attention in combating the “Facebook effect”– higher levels of depression and dissatisfaction after using social media. This study shows adults are also prone to comparing a friend’s glossy vacation photos to the gritty minutia of normal life. In particular, mothers are highly invested in their children’s accomplishments, and the requirements of caring for children may make social interaction online easier than face to face socializing. Tweens, teens, and mothers may all be more prone to the Facebook effect if they do a higher percentage of their socializing online than off-line. When you spend too much time interacting with online personas, it is easy to form and maintain an unrealistic view of others’ lives.
How can social media users fight the Facebook effect? Balance and self-awareness. If you are already having a bad day, find another way to unwind. Even on good days, limit the amount of time spent scrolling. The Facebook effect is particularly pronounced for “lurkers,” people who only consume social media. People who post, comment, and otherwise engage have better online experiences. Social media can be a wealth of information and support, but many of the individuals who need the most support leave this resource untapped.
How do you make the most of social media? Comment below!