Here’s How Social Media Is Creating Unrealistic Parenting Standards
It’s no secret that there is no secret to being the perfect mom. Most people accept that they’ll make at least a few new parent mistakes — and many know that not being a perfect parent is part of the job. However, the more moms post to Facebook and other social media platforms, the more they compare parenting styles. And as a study by researchers at Brigham Young, Illinois State, and Loyola University found, these trends are becoming increasingly problematic.
The study, which researchers dubbed the “iMom Project,” studied 721 mothers and their social media use, parenting behaviors, and health outcomes. Based on the women’s social media habits and ensuing reactions, the researchers solidified the link between these iMoms and comparative parenting.
According to their findings, social media posts about children and parenting styles cause mothers to compare their own family’s situation to that of their friends. A vicious cycle is created: When a mother sees a post from another mom, she compares it to her own parenting style and posts about her own family as a result, which creates yet another opportunity for comparison. People also tend to share the best versions of themselves and their family lives (think angelic toddler smiles and not screaming tantrums) on social media, creating a public image that is unrealistically ideal. Especially in the complex area of parenting, where no one is truly an expert, it is easy to feel less than when your social media feeds are flooded with perfectly behaved children and seemingly effortless parenting experiences.
“When making social comparisons online, mothers may get the impression that they simply do not measure up as a parent,” the study says. “They may wonder why parenting is so easy for others, when it feels so difficult to them.”
These comparisons also have an impact on mothers’ relationships, especially when it comes to co-parenting. Seeing other parents interact on social media makes mothers resentful of families where both partners seemingly work together as a seamless unit. For the women in the study, this trend leads to more conflict within co-parenting relationships.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t post about your adorable kids on social media, or that you should feel bad when others do: It’s about approaching things with the right frame of mind. If you work to be happy for your friends and relatives instead of competing with them, you’ll be much more satisfied in your own family.
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