Is social media to blame for our skewed idea of parenthood?

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Social media is a mixed bag when it comes to parenthood – on the one hand it has helped bring together parents as a support community, helping them feel they are not alone as they stumble through the somewhat perplexing landscape that parenthood can be.

Just a quick rummage through the forums sees endless numbers of parents sharing and comparing their problems, and leaning on each other as they try to make sense of the endless amounts of WTFs!!? bringing a child into the world for the first time (and subsequent!) can present. In the same vein, it has helped connect people to information and resources in a way that was never possible before, as overwhelming as this can be in itself.

So what is my beef with social media? What is it that deep down is irking me about it all?

The inconsistent picture that is paints.

Social media, and I’m thinking particularly Facebook here (and perhaps Instagram also) which in terms of the general masses, is still the most widely used social media application amongst parents, enables us all to become our own storytellers.

We capture the best moments of parenthood, weave them all into a shiny, happy, sparkly picture, and filter out all the crap that nobody wants to see or talk about. Let’s face it, nobody wants to see a picture of a moaning, grumpy, sleep deprived you awake in the wee hours of the night with a screaming little one cutting their nth tooth (or whatever); they want to see a happy as larry bumpkin bouncing around on an equally happy as larry parent. Ask and ye shall get.

Yet behind the scenes, parents are working jolly hard, feeling the strain and those who wouldn’t know any better (yes, I’m talking all those unsuspecting, would-be parents)…literally do not know any better…thanks to the picture painted on their friends Facebook accounts.

Then let’s look at parents, or perhaps more so, mums who seem to be more vulnerable in this context, who are feeling the strain, who are then seeing these idealistic images projected onto their newstreams…well, despite their better judgement it can bring out all sorts of other feelings – how come I don’t find it as easy as that? how come I’m not doing that? feeling that? invited to that? Yup, it makes it seem as though everyone is having one big jolly with their little tikes 24/7 when you are busy banging your head against a brick wall.

Don’t get me wrong, there are many, many wonderful parenthood moments to be shared on social media,it’s just that with that filter on, things can seem a lot easier, care free and tickedy-boo than they might actually be behind closed doors.

I do wonder how that adds to the pressure of being a mum (and Dad!) when everyone is presenting the happiest, rosiest, showcase of their life on Facebook and other social media platforms – and then having to stand by that wonderfully 100% happy and easy breezy image they are projecting. I am often perplexed by the disparity of what I have seen on Facebook versus what I have actually been privy to in some people’s parental struggles.

So where does this leave us? Obviously we don’t want to fill up our friends’ Facebook feeds full of candid tales of the woes of parenthood – that would probably kill off the entire human race. Motherhood – The Real Deal is my little part in filling in the blanks, but what else should we be doing to bridge the gap? Leave a comment and share your thoughts…

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60 comments

  1. I think we are all guilty of it too so completely agree with your post! You all post the best bits; the cute pictures and selfies but god if I had posted pics of myself in those first few weeks it would have been a different story!!! I think social media has it’s place but people need to look past all the smiles and think this isn’t real all the time xx #mummymonnday

  2. I understand where you are coming from with the “perfect” instagram /fb posts, that if your naive you could think the authors life is perfect, but I do love them lol, I think I love them because i know we all show the best sides of things and i know it’s not always like that in reality so i’m aware that some of it/all of it is maybe “flitered”/ staged. My way of thinking is in “real” life there is enough negativity around, we see on the news, whilst out and about etc I don’t need my online life to be a negative lol (is this making sense?) so i’ve made a conscious decision to keep my blog upbeat and happy likewise my fb / instagram and generally read happy and positive blogs etc too. Plus i’m a sucker for a pretty picture 🙂 … great post #mummymondays

    • Oh don’t get me wrong, I do love the happy smiley stuff too! But I think you’ve hit the nail on the head there…it’s to do with how naive you are or let yourself be, and so something that perhaps is more relevant for parents-to-be or first time parents. I think it’s great to have upbeat content out there, just as much as we need to hear the more gritty stuff too. Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  3. To a certain extent, I think there is a responsibility on the part of every reader to realise that what we see on social media is only ever an edited, filtered version of the truth at best, because it’s only human nature that we would prefer not to air all our dirty laundry in public. (And, as you say, to do so would probably drive us all to depression.)

    I have to admit that, while I understand it’s easy to take things the wrong way, I do find it a bit odd that so many people seem to take what they read on social media at face value. It’s not really any different from real life. Facebook only tends to give us the sunny side of the story, just as a CV only highlights a person’s positive achievements.

    • I think that’s a really interesting point about taking responsibility for what you see on social media as an edit…I think in the parenting sphere at least, once you are a little more experienced and established, as opposed to first time parents (my gosh I remember just how green I was having a baby on the other side of the world and pretty clueless without a support network!) then it’s much easier to do so and read between the lines, and I guess it’s with those first time parents and would be parents who I’ve spoken to who I’m really thinking of here. I guess the thing with Facebook is that is has given us an unparalleled opportunity to share so much, more so then we would ever do via, for example, face to face (these days), and that perhaps, is what sets it apart and requires some readjustment in terms of people’s take on what they see there…

  4. Apply the ‘Filter Factor’. Yes some people are overly honest on social media, Lot’s create a social media persona but I always apply the filter. Yes, that lady on instagram may look like a godess in all her photo’s, while I have pregnancy acne. Yes, all her household furniture and soft furnishings are white and glossy, while i live in a house of mis match and this morning I drank my tea from a chipped mug! You know what. None of it really matters, we all have good and less good things to show, we can be selective when using social media but I think we should remember that it is also the real, raw parts of life that enable us to connect with others 🙂

    • A very sensible approach Ceri! I guess it’s so much easier to feel confident and not compare once you are more experienced…but I remember as a new mum, on the other side of the world, how I felt with Facebook as my main connector at the time..As with most things in life, we do need to take things with a pinch of salt, and being confident of your motherly abilities really helps with that in this context!

  5. I have to disagree with the idea that the image projected on social media about parenthood is always, wonderful and ‘with the filter’. Since becoming pregnant I’ve read a lot of very honest accounts from parents online, and particularly on sites like facebook seen the struggles of friends new to parenthood, some in very difficult situations (birth complications, etc). Reading blogs and forums/message boards can be quite depressing sometimes, as a lot of people’s stories are very sad and/or they are brutally honest about the realities of parenthood. There are a lot more posts and articles about how hard being a parent is than the opposite , it’s just the pictures people put up that are showing the ‘happy times’, thank goodness really, I don’t want to see the bad all the time, especially as an expectant mother! 😉

    • That’s so interesting – I find that I read a lot of the “real” stuff on blogs, forums and the like, but what I see on my Facebook feed is very different, hence why I wrote the article…I’m not sure what that says about my personal network on Facebook!? 😛 I do agree that reading blogs and forums can be depressing although sometimes hugely inspiring and uplifting and it’s nice to see happy times as well…especially as an expectant mother! Wishing you all the best for the coming journey! 🙂

  6. I agree, we have to keep in mind that people are (generally) only showing their best sides and not allow what we see on social media to make us feel like we don’t measure up in some way. I also try to balance the nitty-gritty parts of life with the happy parts in my blog and on my social media. We could all stand to keep it a little more real!

    Thank you for sharing with us at #MommyMeetupMondays! Hope to see you again next week!

  7. I do agree with the most part although I definitely remember posting some status’ complaining about the lack of sleep making me a zombie! But yes, most of my photos were and are happy ones! I’m not shy to share a picture of a tantrumming toddler though! Thanks so much for linking up with #TwinklyTuesday

  8. Oooohhh Yes yes yes. This is a bug bear of mine too. Fortunately for me I wasn’t really into facebook until I’d had my second, and then very quickly realised that it was a bit of a competition between some Mums as to how many wonderful activities they did every single day with their beautiful children. Now I’ve wised up, and realised that those are usually the most insecure of parents, projecting those statuses in an almost defensive way. My ‘real’ friends are the ones posting pictures of their snot ridden, crying selves/children, and I love them all the more for it!!

  9. I wonder if it is who you know/follow that changes they view of parenthood (or maybe age I parented before social media so maybe am not so affected). I have many, many friends whose statuses are complaints about parenting, so do see that side, I think there are people who only want to show the perfect aspects of parenting, but they are probably the ones I’d avoid chatting to about most things if I’m honest 🙂

  10. Interesting post, I think I’m probably with Tim on this one. We know that most of it is ‘filtered’, and we’re all guilty of it. Sometimes it’s just what I need to see, a bit of colour and positivity! And other days, I filter it out 🙂 My blog is an honest place, but I do focus on the positive, even if that is simply by finding the lesson/beauty/happy in a bad day/situation. #sharewithme

    • Hi Sara, thanks for commenting…I do agree that a little bit of positivity is just what we need to see sometimes! I think your attitude of finding the lesson/beauty/happy in a bad day/situation is a very noble one…Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  11. I completely agree! It’s so difficult for new mums and dads to deal with reality, because all the photos and comments you see are the good ones.

    I have tried to be a bit more honest now when I post on Facebook, and try to mix the good with the bad, but I’ve yet to whip out my iPhone when one of the kids is having a meltdown and taken a picture…. it feels…. wrong.

  12. I am always telling myself to not worry about how good the life of everyone else but me. That (I wish) they have problems too but its not being posted in FB. A lot of days I wont visit social media such as FB as its .. making me so down. #sharewithme

  13. Yep, social media def makes me suspicious, and even though I’m part of it now in the blogging world, I still have a deep distrust of the whole thing. And I do worry that it is so completely false sometimes!

  14. Totally agree with this post. As a first-time mum – in the first 2 months I constantly compared myself and our little boy to ‘friends’ on social media and their babies. I felt like a failure ALL the time. I constantly thought that I was doing everything wrong. My baby wasn’t happy all of the time – or asleep all of the time. My baby wasn’t sleeping through quickly like the others were. Now? I try to keep my blog real where I can – I’ve talked about crying, illnesses etc. Because whilst parenthood is the best thing I’ve ever done, it is by far the hardest. Thanks for sharing #bigfatlinky

  15. Interesting post. I think we are all guilty of using social media in this way. Is always easier to paint a perfect picture sometimes. I think Instagram (which I’ve only started using recently) is a lovely happy place to be and wouldn’t want it any other way! X

  16. I love seeing happy lives portrayed on social media, but some people do see this a negative it depends on the individual I suppose, I also know someone that shouts so hard about her wonderful life but is actually very unhappy which I find so odd, instead of convincing the world she is happy she should deal with the issue x

    • I think that last part is what I’m getting at…I just think people should be a little more consistent rather than shouting about a wonderful life when in fact it is quite the opposite! It doesn’t really help them, or anyone else for that matter! x

  17. I completely agree with this and I am guilty at feeling like I am not up to par in my parenting because i don’t do more writing or crafts or messy play with my kids or take them out more etc. I think we are all guilty of this at different levels. I also made a video on my youtube channel showing our true life no makeup pjs on house a mess and kids screaming. The point it was making that I may share our beautiful moments but we are just a normal family just like everyone else. lol 🙂 Thanks for linking up to Share With Me. Happy Easter! #sharewithme

  18. Fab post. I totally agree. I have often sat back as I’ve scrolled down the instagram photos thinking ‘ bloody hell – how do they always look so week turned out? or such like. But I suppose the trick is to take all these images with a big pinch of salt. I must say though – I tend to mix things up a bit – my life is full of ups and downs – which is what my blog illustrates – so it’s only right I show the rough with the smooth in picture form too! Thanks so much for linking up with #sundaystars – great discussion topic! Steph xxx

  19. This is such a dilemma for me. On one hand, I want to be as real as possible but on the other hand, there are a lot of factors that make me feel like I CAN’T complain about motherhood. For one, it’s not fair to those out there who struggle to become parents. My complaints may seem unappreciative of the blessings I have been given. So I show the good stuff, I show the moments that make us the happiest, the experiences that bring us the most pride. It’s really not fair when you think about it, right? Thank you for sharing at #MommyMeetUpMondays.

  20. I think there are some really honest bloggers out there (you included) giving the warts and all insight into parenthood. But yes, I agree that on FB and IG in particular people can present a skewed view. Having said that I get why some people just want to share the best of their lives. Where it can be a problem as you say is when it makes other people feel inadequate or resentful or worse where the public them is a front for a desperately unhappy reality. In this latter case it can mean potential support from friends isn’t called upon because they think everything is ok. I just posted about this in relation to Easter but it could apply to any weekend.
    http://dadwithoutamap.com/2015/04/05/the-perfect-easter-weekend/

  21. Fantastic post! So many things to say….so excuse the essay 😉

    I think that you’re perfectly right about it capturing our best moments and from that it paints a difficult picture to make up what you want to do or are doing.

    I blog about everything highs and lows; what you read is literally me. But I do see some bloggers who write nothing but positives, following this with social media and I feel instantly like a rubbish dad. What am I bringing to the table when these fine examples ate showing how it should be done! But then on good days I realise that I’m more realistic…These days ate good because I get to read and see others showing their lows too and I think I’m doing everything exactly the same.

    This being said Facebook has brought me closer to groups like the dad network where for the first time I’m talking to men about parenting. My contact with men is limited at the best of time so to actually be part of a men’s group fantastic.

    On the parents who are under strain. I have a variety of mental health issues and because of that social media is a nightmare. It allows connecting and seeing connections far easier than ever before. Which can be a negative. You see people in real time doing everything and when depression hits it can completely isolate you in a brand new platform.

    In reality though, if used with caution, honestly, social media can be exactly that; a new social platform.

    Great post and thanks for linking up with us on the #bigfatlinky

    • Wow thanks for your reply.. So many great points there. I totally feel you on all of them. As with most things in life, I guess it’s a case of everything in moderation and taking it all with a good pinch of salt. Thanks for visiting again!

  22. I totally get why many of us, me included want to show the rosy side of life but I really think blogs are ideal for bridging that gap, I write honestly about the tough times too, it’s important to share how hard parenthood can be too so we don’t feel so alone. Loved this post. Thanks for linking up to #brilliantblogposts x

  23. I see your point but I would also like to think that if you are posting only the positive, yet still experiencing negative things that you are censoring from your feed, then you must assume others are too…and if they are prob doing the same as you then you can’t envy or feel pressure from it. I suppose not everyone can think that way though. FB is deff a cesspool. Lots of drama and judgement. #effitfridays

  24. Oh I am sat here nodding away. I censor my facebook (kind of) because often I am too busy in the moment dealing with the absolutely nightmare that is unfolding before my eyes and then I’m hitting the wine to drown out the sorrows 🙂

    I much prefer the REAL posts. And I think that is coming across with blogs like yours, the Unmumsy Mum and Just a Normal Mummy for 3 examples from the top of my head!

  25. It’s a fine line! You want to be real but you don’t want to be one of those parents complaining about how awful it is all the time or calling your toddlers names that would have gotten your mouth washed out with soap when you were younger. I think posting a few pictures of your messy house goes a long way toward making other moms feel better about their lives. 🙂

  26. I know in reality the truth is a lot more complicated than this, but sometimes I feel as though when it comes to blogging and social media, people generally fall into one of two camps: those who prefer to show the happy and lovely side of parenting, and write upbeat posts, and those who like to show things warts and all. Each have their positives and negatives. You just have to look at it all with a bit of a critical (and sometimes cynical!) eye really.

  27. Oh I so agree – I struggle with the filtered life that is portrayed – I think it’s the honest posts that people warm to (not the woe be me ones every day though – that’s too draining!) but just the great mums trying to do a great job – no showing off though! I think people need to consider talking on social media as if they were having a … wait for it … real life conversation! I think then perhaps people would think twice about what perhaps they post. I struggle with the posts of how many goals one mums kid scored in a game – they wouldn’t say that to someone’s face – they would feel too uncomfortable bragging (well most do I’m sure – I hope!) so why put it all over Facebook?! Some decorum would be nice occasionally! Let’s write some social media etiquette post! Great read though … again!

  28. I tend to regard social media posts (even from my good friends!) as the personal equivalent of advertising. For each post/person I ask myself “What image are they trying to create? What version of a life are they trying to ‘sell’ me?” We all do it – before social media it was just done differently (keeping up with the neighbours and not ‘airing your dirty laundry’). I don’t love my friends any less for it (in fact, it helps me understand them better) but swallowing it whole is just daft!!!

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