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Why New Moms Shouldn't Use Facebook for Validation

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The Short of It

Some new moms who use Facebook for validation are more depressed than the ones who don't, a new study says.

The Lowdown

If you've ever wondered what (if any) consequences there are for all the new moms who frequently post on Facebook, there's now a study here to give you the answer.

Turns out, it's a sobering one: The research concluded that moms who post a lot on Facebook tend to report more depressive symptoms after nine months of parenthood than the ones who don't.

Say it ain't so!

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The study looked at a group of highly educated, mostly married Midwestern moms with full-time jobs, and they found that 98 percent of them had uploaded photos of their infant to Facebook, with the average mom first posting within one week of her child's birth. An additional 80 percent reported featuring their child in their profile picture.

"What these mothers are saying is that my child is central to my identity, at least right now," said lead author Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan. "That's really telling."

But it's not the actual posting that's leading to depression, it's the reasons behind it. One of the study's key findings was that moms who reported feeling societal pressure to be "perfect" posted more frequently to Facebook, and they reported having stronger emotional reactions to the way their photo posts were received—like feeling bad if a pic of their baby didn't score enough comments or likes.

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"If a mother is posting on Facebook to get affirmation that she's doing a good job and doesn't get all the likes and positive comments she expects, that could be a problem," Schoppe-Sullivan explained. "She may end up feeling worse."

The Upshot

Before we all go crazy and start deleting our Facebook accounts, let's take a minute to break this down.

For starters, "highly educated, mostly married Midwestern moms with full-time jobs" is a pretty specific group. Just because these women are using Facebook for validation, doesn't mean we all are. I know I certainly don't use it that way. I tend to post and then forget about it (my middle school daughter, on the other hand, is another story).

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Also, according to Schoppe-Sullivan, an increase in depressive symptoms doesn't necessarily indicate depression. So what, then, is the takeaway here?

"The message of the study isn't that Facebook is necessarily harmful," said study co-author Jill Yavorsky. "But that using Facebook may not be an effective platform for women to seek and gain external validation that they're good moms."

"It's great to share stories and pictures of your baby," Schoppe-Sullivan added. "But relying on Facebook to feel good about your parenting may be risky."

Unless, of course, you're the Chewbacca Mom. But that's another story...

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