Your perfect posts only get others depressed
dubai — Picture-perfect posts of happy families on social media are creating unrealistic and unattainable expectations of family life among parents, a survey has revealed. More than half of the 1,002 parents who took part in the survey said such posts fuel anxiety.
More than one in five parents (22 per cent) said happy family photos on Instagram or cheerful baby blog posts on Facebook and other sites made them feel “inadequate”. A similar number of parents — 23 per cent — said it made them feel “depressed”. More than a third (36 per cent) said they thought baby bloggers and ‘Instamums’ were contributing to rising rates of depression, the survey by Priory Group showed.
Dr Rasha Bassim, consultant psychiatrist at Priory, said: “From finding out the gender of the baby and planning a baby shower, to creating an ‘idealistic’ birth plan, social media is awash with posts depicting and normalising unrealistic expectations of motherhood.”
Does linking up with other mothers and fathers on Facebook and Instagram make parents happier? The answer, it would seem, is “no”. A survey by Priory Group, mental healthcare specialists with a wellbeing centre in Dubai, found that as many as half of parents polled think that social media channels like Instagram and Facebook create unrealistic and unattainable expectations of family life, which fuel anxiety and can trigger depression. The survey was done in September among 1,002 parents of youth under the age of 18.
More than one in five parents (22 per cent) said that happy family pictures posted on Instagram, or exuberant baby blog posts on Facebook and other sites, made them feel “inadequate” — while a similar number, 23 per cent, said it made them feel “depressed”.
They didn’t think they were alone.
Nearly 40 per cent said they thought idealised images of parenthood — and “over-sharenting” — were fuelling anxiety among new parents, while more than a third (36 per cent) said they thought baby bloggers and ‘Insta-mums’ were contributing to rising rates of depression.
Some 43 per cent said the bloggers made others feel inadequate, while more than one in 10 said that rather than feel more connected to other mothers, they could make new parents feel even more isolated.
While the desire to share the joy of having a newborn in the family is nothing new, social media platforms have taken proud parenting to a new level, with “baby boasting”, “parenting wins” and “mummy-goals” becoming as much part of the daily routine as breastfeeding and nappy-changes.
There are, of course, clear benefits to “being social” — particularly for mothers without a close network at hand. Social media can be reassuring for new parents who turn to their online community for advice on anything from health, relationships, “best buys”, and general parenting techniques.
For others, however, endlessly “perfect” posts can have the reverse effect, generating feelings of not measuring up, even though they know that continuous boasting, and glossing over the less positive moments in life, is disingenuous and fake.
Results not surprising
Dr Rasha Bassim, consultant psychiatrist at Priory, said: “While extremely worrying, these latest findings come as no surprise. In today’s society, the social media influence on many new parents starts from the moment they carry out a positive pregnancy test.”
“From finding out the gender of their baby and planning a baby showger
er, to creating an ‘idealistic’ birth plan, social media is awash with posts depicting and normalising unrealistic expectations of motherhood.”
Around one in five women have mental health problems during pregnancy or in the first year after birth. Depression and anxiety in particular are extremely common and can cause significant suffering if left untreated.
While ‘baby-blues’ tend to last for just a couple of weeks, postnatal depression is far more intense and debilitating. So, considering the major life changes pregnancy and motherhood entail, not forgetting the accompanying roller coaster of emotions, social media presents a real dan-
of compounding and exacerbating what can already be an extremely anxious, stressful, and exhausting time.
“Of course, social media can have its place, but I would advise all new mums to enter the social media bubble with caution,” she said.
She also said, “Over half of women with mental health problems in pregnancy or after birth are not identified. Even fewer have the evidence-based treatments they need. So, its vital new mums are open and honest about their feelings and concerns and seek professional help when necessary.”
Bijal Oza, global director for counseling and coaching centre and clinical psychologist, SP Jain School of Business Management,
said that social media could help new parents who are in need of assurance or validation about the challenges of parenting. “However, new parents need to be selfaware of the consequences of constant comparisons, and overload of information on parenting. Being mindful and self-aware can help new parents navigate through the pressures of social media,” she said.
Dr Deepa Shankar, clinical psychologist at NMC, said that on social media, people generally tend to portray themselves in a highly positive manner.
“This can cause stress, and help, too. It has both effects and depends on the tendencies of the parent. Mothers who have perfectionist traits and a tendency to constantly compare themselves to others on social networking sites may feel more depressed and less competent as parents,” said Shankar.
Research shows that it’s not how long the new mother spends their time on social media rather how they spend their time is more important. This as well as whether mothers compare themselves to others may ultimately affect mothers’ adjustment to parenthood and well-being.
“Social networking can also benefit a mother by providing a support system if she uses it to get information and share her experience, rather than compare,” Shankar said.
Social media is awash with posts depicting and normalising unrealistic expectations of motherhood.”
Dr Rasha Bassim,
consultant psychiatrist, Priory
Being mindful and self-aware can help new parents navigate through the pressures of social media.”
Bijal Oza, clinical psychologist, SP Jain School of Business Management