In undergraduate school, I studied political science and communication studies and one of the prevalent themes throughout my studies was Marshall McLuhan’s theory that “the medium is the message.” Although this concept was developed back in the late 1960s, I truly believe he was making a premonition for the future. In today’s day and age, social media is the new medium behind the message. It surrounds us, it keeps us connected and informed. These days, everyone is connected to at least one form of social media. We scroll through our Instagram feeds, we pin ideas to Pinterest boards and we follow support groups on Facebook.
For new parents, specifically for young mothers, it can serve as a great resource for information such as postpartum and pelvic health to sleeping training, feeding and everything in-between. With that being said, I also think there is a troubling side to all this as well, specifically in the realm of mental health in young mothers.
Let me explain
It came to a point where I was feeling pretty down about myself and I could not figure out why. I felt inadequate; I felt as if I was not pretty enough or good enough. It then dawned upon me that I felt this way because I was over-exposing myself to social media, particularly following various mom bloggers and celebrities who looked “perfect,” who appear to have “perfect” lives and marriages, served their kids “perfectly” healthy meals, and overall women looking like they even didn’t have a baby. (I hope you noticed the quotation marks around the word perfect!) Although we can all agree that social media is a great tool to keep us connected, it can also be very deceiving.
We only post what others want to see – vacations, a night out or an extravagant purchase. Of course, no one wants to see what I look like after a long day at work, being screamed at by two small kids, or mountains of toys and books scattered in my living room. But the sad reality is, a lot of what we see on social media, isn’t reality…and that’s what people like to see. I used to follow a lot of “mom blogs” with women wearing high-end distressed jeans, perfectly put-together hair with a designer handbag and baby in tow, but in reality, most moms can’t afford that handbag as it’s the equivalent to a month of child care. It was these very images that was sending me the wrong message and once I made that correlation, I realized I was “mom-paring” myself to other people and it just had to stop.
Social Media affects our relationships
There’s also another caveat to all this as well- how social media affects our relationships with others. Human relationships are real and it came to a point where social media interfered with my relationship with my husband and kids. I was wasting too much time scrolling and less time doing something real, something productive. My kids kept asking me to look at my phone as they were curious why I was on it so much. I didn’t realize how bad it was until my husband made a comment that I was spending too much time on the phone, when we could use those few moments alone to talk to each other. He was right.
This was my wake up call to detox myself from social media.
A new house rule was established: our phones would be left on the counter and to be used only for phone calls or taking photos.
- I started by shutting my cellular data off for certain apps (iPhone allows you to do that). I kept certain things like e-mail and iHealth on but others like Instagram off to avoid the temptation of scrolling through. It also improved my communication with others and forced me to talk to people again. I became more productive again.
- At home, I gave myself only 15 minutes a day to scroll through social media, and did so when the kids were asleep. Browsing my cell phone during the day time became off-limits. I started to communicate more with my family and actually enjoy activities with my children.
- In terms of my actual Instagram account, I decided to unfollow a lot mom bloggers that I felt weren’t sending me the right message. I instead followed bloggers that were more supportive of real parenting and that were body positive.
- I took up Pinterest a bit more and started creating boards for my writing and for cooking. Within days, I felt a huge difference with my self-esteem.
The effects of social media, particularly in the mental health of adolescents, have become a fascinating topic in the realm of psychology.
Multiple studies have been released over the years highlighting how harmful social media can be on mental health, leading people to feel unwanted, undervalued and alone. It’s no surprise that people feel this way. Now, don’t get me wrong here. I think social media is great and it comes with its advantages such as bringing families closer together, it can be a great resource for support, especially in times in need, and is a great way to share memories with your peers. With that being said, it’s important to separate yourself from what you see online to what reality is. Therefore, I think it’s important to navigate social media in a positive way. If you have experienced these feelings, then I suggest the following:
- Follow accounts with body positive images and realistic views of parenthood. Some of my favourite blogs are Lifetime of Love Doula and Motherly.
- Know it’s OKAY to unfollow certain accounts and blogs. If they don’t make you feel good, know you are not obligated to follow them. You owe nothing to them. I had to stop following various fashion accounts and celebrities for a while for this very reason.
- Remember that a lot what you see is not real. Many of these people are paid to advertise a product on their Instagram and the truth is, it’s their day job to just blog. Most bloggers have professional photographers so know that a lot of photos you see on Instagram are edited and staged.
- Follow support groups or accounts that promote certain hobbies (i.e. arts and crafts, cooking, reading clubs…) and start new hobbies instead of wasting time scrolling your phone for hours on end. You will feel more fulfilled.
- Just put the phone away – especially before bed time! The effects of the blue light on your brain will not help you sleep, so put it away 1 hour before bed.
Just know that if you too felt this way, you aren’t alone. There is much more pressure today than ever before for young mom’s to be perfect, but what I always say is, to find the perfection in imperfection; not every day is going to be “Insta-perfect” or “Insta-ready.” Remember to separate what you see online to what reality is and embrace what is real versus what is imagined.
Natalie is a working-mom who resides in Burlington, Ontario along with her husband Michael and two boys, Tomislav and Ivan. In her spare time, Natalie writes about her thoughts on mom-work-life balance at her blog, www.stilettosandespressos.ca. Natalie’s interests are food, wine, travel, reading, coffee, and anything preemie. You can follow her on Instagram @stilettosandespressos