Social Media Comparisons and Motherhood: All Too Common

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, Sarah
Sarah Coyne

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

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The Wheatley Institution: Academic Research on Important Issues

Hot-button social issues such as marriage and family, religious issues such as faith and science, and political issues such as education and international affairs have all long been examined by  Brigham Young University. As a religious institution operating in an increasingly secular world, BYU provides education and academic research on those topics. The aims behind all of these endeavors is that they be spiritually strengthening, intellectually enlarging, character building, and leading to lifelong learning and service. The Wheatley Institution, an on-campus think tank, seeks to forward those aims by contributing recognized scholarship that preserves and strengthens the core institutions of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and BYU.  Doing so, it claims, will both enhance the academic climate and scholarly reputation of BYU and enrich the experiences of students and faculty alike.

Many faculty members from BYU’s College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences are fellows of the Wheatley Institution or have otherwise been involved in some way. Perhaps most prominent among them is Jason S. Carroll, a popular professor in the School of Family Life. Professor Carroll is an internationally-recognized researcher and educator on various aspects of marriage, and has spoken at the Wheatley Institution, most recently on key lessons for young adults can prepare for marriage.

Ed Gantt, a faculty researcher in the Psychology Department, has also contributed scholarship to the Wheatley Institution in the form of theologically-centered essays on “faith, reason, and critical thinking,” “happiness or joy?,” and “scientism and the temptations of orthodoxy,” and ”

The Wheatley Institution holds numerous events throughout the course of the year in an effort to promote scholarship in line with BYU’s core values. The next one will be a presentation by United States Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom David Saperstein on November 17th.