According to the research, published in the Biological Psychology journal, exposure to social media content about motherhood – such as 'mummy blogs' – can trigger a sense of threat amongst parents, activating the body's stress response and increasing the levels of cortisol output.
As for why that is, it's all to do with comparison – relatable, right!? During IRL social interactions – and when on social leave – people frequently compare themselves to those around them. This, as the study points out, can lead to negative feelings.
"Social comparison is very frequent in contemporary society, and inevitable as we interact with others," Nataria Joseph, an associate professor at Pepperdine University, explained. "They are especially salient when we face new roles in life, such as becoming a mother for the first time."
Joseph went on: "We hope that putting a spotlight on social comparison will make individuals pause and reflect on their social comparison tendencies and find healthy ways of making comparisons so that individuals don’t have to experience negative emotions when comparing themselves to others."
"First, being one's authentic self on these platforms not only validates one's self but also contributes to creating an online community in which individuals can see that others struggle and are flawed," she added. "Second, if an individual monitors his or her emotions as he or she interacts with these online platforms, that individual will be better able to recognise when his or her social comparisons are becoming unhealthy."
As well as this, Joseph recommends being mindful of why you're heading to social media in the first place. "If a mom needs practical information (hey Facebook group, which paediatricians do you recommend?), online mom groups can be a wealth of knowledge and advice, though discernment is necessary," she notes.
"If it's friendship or reduced feelings of isolation, some online mom groups can also be wonderfully encouraging places to make 'real-life' friends, but some are not," Joseph went on. "Moms should explore the culture of a group prior to engaging. It’s always worth questioning why and what you’re scrolling."
For information, support and advice about mental health and where to get support, visit Mind’s website at www.mind.org.uk or call Mind’s Infoline on 0300 123 3393 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm).
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