Facebook, the study suggests, presents women with new ways to “do motherhood,” or to perform a gendered role online for an audience, and to receive feedback for that performance. The study looks specifically at the earliest, most stressful months of parenting, saying that Facebook is known as a place that potentially “undermines well-being.”
What do we know about the mothers who were sampled from in this study? 85.7 percent of them were white; about half worked full-time; nearly 87 percent of them were married, and they were almost universally highly educated, with nearly 80 percent having completed college.
Working with a small sample of 127 women from the Midwestern United States, researchers from Ohio State University surveyed mothers on the issue of motherhood as an identity, and the expression of that identity on Facebook.The research concludes that “mothers who were more prone to seek external validation for their mothering identity and perfectionistic about parenting experienced increases in depressive symptoms indirectly via greater Facebook activity.”
The size of the study is extremely small and represents a homogeneous set of women who are mostly white and highly educated. But overall, the researchers say that the findings back up previous studies that indicate that Facebook can be undermining to people’s well-being, and they find that, in particular, Facebook is associated with greater parenting stress for new mothers.