Your per­fect posts only get oth­ers de­pressed

Khaleej Times - - FRONT PAGE - Asma Ali Zain

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

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