Idealizing of Motherhood On Social Media Platforms Impacting Mental Health Of New Moms, Study Shows

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A recent study from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln highlights the misleading portrayal of motherhood by social media influencers. Instead of depicting the challenges, these influencers present motherhood as glamorous and easy, potentially harming the mental health of new mothers who struggle with the actual demands of parenting. This research underscores the significant gap between social media portrayals and real-life experiences.

Social media impacting mental health of new mothers

Assistant Professor Ciera Kirkpatrick from UNL’s College of Journalism and Mass Communications explores how media messaging impacts mental and physical health. She’s particularly interested in social media’s influence on new mothers. Kirkpatrick’s research suggests that exposure to idealized portrayals of motherhood on platforms like Instagram can increase anxiety and envy among new moms, especially those already vulnerable to social media pitfalls.

Prof. Kirkpatrick’s recent report extends previous research, examining whether specific personality traits influence susceptibility to negative impacts of idealized motherhood depictions. She discovers that individuals with greater social comparison orientation, who tend to compare themselves to others, are more adversely affected by idealized portrayals.

Most importantly, mothers with higher social comparison orientation are more likely to perceive lower parenting competence when exposed to idealized motherhood portrayals, diminishing their confidence in their own parenting abilities, especially on social media.

Self-esteem impacts idealized social media posts

Professor Kirkpatrick emphasizes that while it’s common for people to compare themselves to others, some individuals are more prone to this behavior. Therefore, understanding the impact of social media posts on mothers, particularly those who are more negatively affected, is crucial for health professionals and communication strategists to provide targeted support and intervention.

According to Kirkpatrick self-esteem might influence the impact of idealized social media posts, particularly among mothers. However, research findings revealed no significant variance between mothers with low or high self-esteem.

In light of the increasing popularity of short-form video platforms such as TikTok and Reels, Professor Kirkpatrick intends to conduct further experiments involving idealized and non-idealized motherhood content. She is encouraged by the trend of more mom influencers presenting a more authentic portrayal of parenthood.

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