If a mother is posting on Facebook to get affirmation that she’s doing a good job and doesn’t get all the ‘likes’ and positive comments she expects, that could be a problem and she may end up feeling worse, the authors noted.
The study looked at a specific group of moms — highly educated, mostly married Midwestern women who had full-time jobs. It found that those who felt societal pressure to be perfect moms and who identified most strongly with their motherhood role posted more frequently than others to Facebook.
These same mothers who posted most frequently also reported stronger emotional reactions to comments on the photos they posted of their new baby — such as feeling bad if they didn’t get enough positive comments. “While many new mothers are active on Facebook, these results suggest some seem to be more drawn to the site than others and may use it in less-than-healthy ways,” said Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan, professor of human sciences at The Ohio State University.
In fact, those mothers who posted more on Facebook tended to report more depressive symptoms after nine months of parenthood than other moms.
The message is not that Facebook is necessarily harmful. “Using Facebook may not be an effective platform for women to seek and gain external validation that they’re good moms,” added Jill Yavorsky, co-author and doctoral student in sociology in a paper appeared in the journal Sex Roles.
The researchers used data from the New Parents Project, a long-term study co-led by Schoppe-Sullivan. In all, 127 mothers from Ohio participated in this study.
“Because this sample includes mostly highly educated women from dual-career couples, the results may not hold for all new mothers, especially those who don’t work outside the home,” Schoppe-Sullivan noted.
Nine months after the baby was born, the researchers measured how much the women in the study identified with their role as a mother.
The researchers also measured the frequency of their Facebook activity since their child was born. The study showed that the new moms in the study nearly universally used Facebook to share about their child and 98 percent said they had uploaded photos of their infant.
The average new mom reported a slight increase in Facebook use since her baby was born. One of the key findings was how mothers who thought society expected them to be perfect and who identified strongly with their motherhood role reacted to Facebook posts.
These mothers paid close attention to the comments they got when they posted pictures of their baby. “They felt validated when they got a lot of likes and comments, but they were also more likely to feel bad and disappointed when the reaction wasn’t what they had hoped,” Yavorsky pointed out.
“These are not stay-at-home moms in our study. They have jobs outside the home that can also provide validation, which makes our results even more interesting. They have other successes to point to for validation,” Schoppe-Sullivan commented.
All mothers should be aware of why they are using Facebook. “It’s great to share stories and pictures of your baby, but relying on Facebook to feel good about your parenting may be risky,” the authors suggested. – IANS