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New Moms May Want to Cool It with Facebook Posts, According to a New Study

posted: 06/01/16
by: Mara Betsch
mom baby selfie
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Anyone in their late 20s or early 30s knows this scenario all too well. Your craziest friends from college have slowly swapped their drunken selfies for photos of their newborns and new domestic lives. And you totally understand -- being a mom is a big (wonderful) deal!

But plenty of women struggle with what this new identity means to their former identities -- wife, girlfriend, life of the party, career woman, sister, friend, glass ceiling breaker, etc. There's also a lot of pressure to be that perfect mom, the one who never gets mad at her children, finds time to cook clean, and hit the gym, and keeps moving up the corporate ladder. The reality is that few, if any, moms can reach that idealized (and completely unattainable) version of motherhood. But, they can sure as hell make their lives appear perfect on Facebook, right?

A recent study published in the journal Sex Roles took a look at how new moms use Facebook, and if their frequent baby photo posts have any correlation with their mental health and wellbeing. They used data from 127 new moms to examine the differences between their Facebook use and experiences and their psychological characteristics. Here's what they found:

  • Moms who viewed being a mother as central to their core identity and felt pressure to be a good mom were the most guilty of sharing (perhaps even oversharing) stories and photos of their children.
  • Moms who looked for validation as a mother via Facebook had more emotional reactions to the amount of likes and comments they received.
  • And women in that group of moms were more likely to exhibit depressive symptom, like poor appetite and restless sleep, nine months after giving birth.
  • The majority of moms in this study, regardless of their mental health, used a photo of their child as a profile picture at some point.

So does this mean that new moms should completely avoid Facebook? Not quite. The study failed to prove a cause-and-effect relationship between Facebook use and depression (although other studies have found similar correlations). And even thought the study controlled for age, education, and personality traits, it's a relatively smaller study that relied on self-reporting. For some moms, Facebook is where they get their best tips and advice from other moms going through the exact same situations.

That being said, if you're a new mom and notice that you get down if your latest photo doesn't get 100 likes or feel pressure to present yourself as June Cleaver, it may be time to take a break from social media. The lead author, Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan, told Masahble. "A lot of moms may feel pressured to portray this very positive image of motherhood, and if on the inside you're not feeling that good, I think that could be detrimental." If that's the case, try turning off notifications and creating a private digital photo album for supportive family and friends. Being a new mom is stressful enough -- don't let social media make it any harder!