A small, “exploratory” study has found that moms’ Facebook activity goes up after giving birth. Also, the higher the levels of parental stress, the more parents turned to Facebook.
Sound familiar, anyone?
Researchers surveyed over 300 parents nine months after having they had a baby. About half were moms and half were dads; most were white and well educated. They answered questions about their Facebook use, stress, satisfaction and parenting.
The survey revealed an increase in Facebook time in the newborn period– especially for those parents dealing with lots of stress. Interestingly, it also found that moms with a higher proportion of relatives among their Facebook “friends,” found more satisfaction in their new roles.
The dads who made the best adjustment to parenthood, on the other hand, had a greater proportion of Facebook friends who are also a part of their day-to-day life.
The study, published in the Journal of Family Relations, suggests that Facebook connection with extended family provides stress relief and support for new moms: “Parents may feel like they’re getting positive feedback about their role as parents,” says co-author Sarah J. Schoppe-Sullivan in a statement, “and they particularly need that.”
I’m not surprised!
The work of new parenthood is not meant to be done in isolation. Looking back over time and across cultures, there are many rituals in place to connect mothers to a community of extended family/the proverbial “village” during the first few months.
Facebook is a modern solution to a modern problem: We’re all separated from one another, but we have an ancient need for community. Facebook is not going to bring you a casserole, but it might help you feel connected to other humans.
Contact with extended family can be particularly helpful to new moms, too. On one level, there’s just the fact that blood-relations will be interested in your kid in a way that most, understandably, are not. But there’s also a kind of larger reinforcement, a sense of one’s role in the great, big Cycle of Life. This reinforcement can add a slightly more profound quality to your days, which are otherwise filled with decidedly un-profound questions like, “Is it weird that the baby’s poop is slightly greener on Day 9 than on Day 8?”
What do you think? Can Facebook be good for maternal mental health? Or is it a lousy stand-in for real support?