If you compare yourself with others while on social media, you are not alone; such comparisons are fairly common. But if you’re a mother making those comparisons,the likelihood that you’ll feel worse as a result of them is increased, according to a recent study published in Computers in Human Behavior, and the number of people affected by your comparisons is potentially greater. School of Family Life Professor Sarah Coyne examined the connection between making social comparisons on social networking sites with a mothers’ parenting, mental health, and romantic relationship outcomes. Results concluded that mothers making social media comparisons are affected in their parenting, mental health, and romantic relationships.
Coyne and her associates, Brandon T. McDaniel and Laura A. Stockdale, asked 721 mothers social media use, parenting behaviors, and health outcomes, for the iMom Project. Most of them were caucasian, had a college degree, and one or two children, with their youngest or only child being about 1 1/2 years old. Most of them were middle-class, married, heterosexual. Coyne’s research acknowledged that people post their idealized life and best self on social media. “If people compare others’ ‘best selves’ conveyed through social media to their own ‘normal selves’ or ‘worst selves’ this may result in increased negative social comparisons and decreased overall mental health and well-being,”she says.
“Even when difficult parts of parenting are presented,” she continues, “many parents laugh it off online or portray themselves as cool under pressure. Rarely, do we see the true face of parenting online, where parents present the frustrations, exhaustion, self-doubt, and pressure combined with the joy that exists in a typical parenting context. They may wonder why parenting is so easy for others, when it feels so difficult to them. These feelings may increase a sense of role overload…, parental stress…, higher levels of depression…, lower feelings of support, and less positive perceptions of the coparenting relationship.”
Feeling Content in a Comparing World
With this in mind, Coyne et al. caution others to “focus on developing a positive view of self as a mother as opposed to focusing on comparing one’s own self with the many idealized images and portrayals of mothers online. [This] may be helpful in mitigating the negative impact of social comparisons on social networking sites.” The College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences at BYU provides many resources to support mothers in those kinds of efforts, from posts and publications on parenting, single parenting, marriage, and relationships, as well as publications and events on those topics, and places to spend family time, like the Museum of Peoples and Cultures.