PARENTS

Pinterest Stress: Close To Half Of Mothers Stressed By Social Media Site, Survey Finds

05/11/2013 12:35 am 00:35:36 | Updated May 11, 2013
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Social media anxiety disorder may not be a recognized mental health issue (yet), but for some moms, social network-inflicted stress has added considerable pressure to parenthood.

Pinterest in particular is stressing out close to half of moms, according to a TODAY Moms survey of over 7,000 mothers across the country. A whopping 42 percent of respondents said that the image-sharing site has caused them anxiety.

Pinterest culture can generate feelings of inadequacy by creating a pressure to throw elaborate birthday parties, attempt intimidating DIYs and bake picture-perfect cupcakes. Comparing the less pristine reality of motherhood to the polished sheen of online images may cause moms to worry about falling short if their culinary or crafting skills don't seem to measure up.

The TODAY Moms survey also found that the greatest pressure on moms isn't coming from other mothers. Rather, it's self-inflicted: three-quarters of the survey's respondents said that the pressure they put on themselves is more powerful than the pressure they feel from other moms.

Other social networks contribute to moms' anxiety, too. Instagram, for example, can present false portraits of idealized family life, adding to the pressure to be a "perfect" mother.

Author and mom of two Claire Bidwell Smith wrote in a HuffPost blog last year that the photos she posts on Instagram depict an idyllic life that doesn't reflect the reality of how she feels on a day-to-day basis. Still, she said, she appreciates the moments of peace that the photos capture.

"I spend so much time feeling like things aren't good enough that when they are, I take a picture, desperate to hold onto that moment for just a little longer," she explained.

Facebook isn't much better: The site can easily become a breeding ground for parental anxiety, with images and statuses presenting a romanticized portrait of life with young children. "Fakebooking" -- posting photos and statuses that cast family events in an unrealistic light -- can make it more difficult to be a parent, according to Parenting.com's Erin Zammett Ruddy. For this reason, Ruddy wrote earlier this year, she decided not to share a misleadingly angelic photo of her kids making a snowman on her Facebook page.

"The kids look too cute and happy and sweet. And they honestly were none of the above at that moment. More importantly, nor was I," she elaborated. "What if a mom who was having a bad day with her brood saw my status update and thought, sh*t, I should be outside with my kids or I should be building a snowman? If that mom can do it, so can I. Well, I couldn't do it. And so I didn't post it."

But some parents decide to share those "perfect" moments anyway, knowing that there's always more to the story. In a post on Kveller earlier this year, Sarah Emily Tuttle-Singer wrote about a deceptive photo she did post on Facebook -- one that made a stressful Saturday with the kids look like a day of laughter and sunshine.

"[H]ere’s the dirty little secret that I’ll never admit on Facebook: I love my kids every freaking second. Would I die for them? You bet," she wrote. "But, I don’t always want to be with them."

Mothers may be able to interact with social media with less stress by using the sites to connect with other moms, swap ideas and find inspiration -- bearing in mind that the statuses and photos they see never quite tell the truth.

"My life on Facebook is an airbrushed and Instagrammed image of my real life," as Tuttle-Singer put it. "Most of the time, I think I’m a decent mom, and I think I’m giving my kids a pretty good life. But I also think I’d be a better mom if I stopped pretending, and making friends on Facebook feel like they have to pretend as well."

Do you think Pinterest puts pressure on mothers to be perfect? How do you deal with social media stress? Share your thoughts in the comments or tweet @HuffPostParents.

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