When I first joined Facebook back in 2008, I was a mom knee-deep in dirty diapers, strict schedules and in desperate need of adult conversation. As an extroverted introvert, Facebook was my savior. I was able to connect with people near and far, deep-stalk ex-bosses and old flings (come on, you know you do it, too)—but the real reason I joined was to have some interaction with people over the age of 5 while not having to get dressed.
Almost everyone I know is now on Facebook, and the conversations I have today with moms about their feelings toward social media are very similar. Motherhood can get lonely; yes our days are jam-packed, especially if we have full-time jobs, but many moms still feel very isolated. Facebook has helped them connect and feel less alone.
However, while we get some kind of a connection out of it, there is also a dark side. It's hard to put parts of our life out there and not get the response we are looking for. And it's damn near impossible not to compare our behind-the-scenes to everyone else's highlights. Some of us are seeking validation from places like Facebook and not even realizing it.
These women felt very supported if they got lots of positive feedback, and felt less-than if they didn't get the feedback they were hoping for.
A recent study in the journal "Sex Roles," using data from the New Parents Project, looked at groups of moms who were highly educated, mostly married Midwestern women who had full-time jobs. As reported by the Ohio State University, researchers found that "those who felt societal pressure to be perfect moms and who identified most strongly with their motherhood role posted more frequently on Facebook."
These frequent posters reported stronger emotional reactions to comments, like feeling bad if they didn't get enough positive comments on photos they posted of their new baby.
I think we can all agree this is where Facebook and other social media outlets lose their luster and feel counterproductive. Whether you are a new or veteran mom, the last thing you need is another form of stress, judgment or comparison.
Jill Yavorsky, co-author of the study and doctoral student in sociology at Ohio University said, "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."
The article goes on to say these women felt very supported if they got lots of positive feedback, and felt less-than if they didn't get the feedback they were hoping for.
I hate that what I post might make someone else feel bad.
We can all relate; this study sounded very familiar to the conversations I have had, so I asked a few of my mom friends what Facebook does for them:
"I get enough validation in real life, so I don't really need Facebook for that. However, it has made me feel less introverted when I see people in public that have 'liked' one of my posts. It makes it easier to approach them and talk." — Shannon L., mom of three.
"I'll admit it. I unfollow moms who post saccharine #soblessed bullshit." — Sarah C., mom of two.
"I spend way too much time on Facebook. As a mom, it usually makes me feel OK, but I make sure I follow other moms who aren't assholes." — Jean M., mom of two.
"I check in on friends and their kids I don't get to see often in person via Facebook, but it doesn't affect how I feel about myself as a parent." — Kim B., mom of two.
"Facebook is the place where I realized that there were truly funny moms who also had a sick sense of humor like I do. And now, these women are my best friends." — Ashley F., mom of two.
"Sometimes Facebook can make me feel small and lost and left out—all the things I try to protect my kids from. I know there are people that see my posts and think my world is pretty cool, which it is, but I hate that what I post might make someone else feel bad." — Kerri D., mom of two.
So while I won't quit Facebook anytime soon, I will shut it down if I start to feel like it is affecting my self-esteem too much. Women and mothers are already judged enough, and if we are putting ourselves out there for something that is supposed to bring us closer and help us reconnect with people, shouldn't we walk away if it does anything less than that?
We are more than our likes on Facebook. Sometimes we need to put the phone down and walk away. It is easy to get sucked into the life of social media and have it leave a bad taste in our mouth. We need to remember people are putting their best foot forward for the most part when they post something. Of course some of us feel #soblessed sometimes, but there are a lot of us who feel #imgonnaloseit, or #getthesekidsoutofmyface or #icantstandmyhubbytoday.
Facebook is just showing everyone pieces. Pieces of our messy, chaotic lives. We are all busy and stressed, we all want to do more, we all have crap days. And just because someone is killing it on Facebook doesn't mean they are better than we are.