While Pinterest might seem like a place for caring and sharing, the female-dominated social network is actually stressing a lot of users out, according to a Today.com survey of 7,000 U.S. mothers: in fact, 42% of respondents said they suffer from “Pinterest stress,” stemming from anxiety that they can’t live up to the ideal suggested by images of domestic perfection posted on the site.
Additionally, 75% of mothers told Today.com they are their own worst critics (versus other moms). Since the stress is largely self-induced, it’s easy to imagine triggering it by looking at, say, pictures of someone else’s happy children playing in their urban rooftop vegetable garden and then the delicious healthy organic vegetable lasagna they made from scratch for their happy children who ate it all without being asked twice because it was so tasty and, well, you get the idea. Overall the mothers surveyed posted an average stress level of 8.5 out of 10 (yikes).
Of course, this phenomenon -- in which people carefully craft their online images to show themselves in the best possible light, and other people mistakenly assume this somehow corresponds to reality -- isn’t limited to Pinterest. Back in January I wrote about a study conducted by researchers from Humboldt University’s Institute of Information Systems and Darmstadt’s Technical University, which surveyed 600 Facebook users and found that one third felt worse after visiting the site. The most prominent negative outcome was a feeling of dissatisfaction with their own lives, which was most commonly triggered by people posting photos of their fabulous vacations online.
And in 2012 a study by researchers at the University of Salford in Britain found negative outcomes from social media use, including feelings of insecurity or lack of confidence when users compared their achievements to their friends. Two-thirds of users with negative outcomes said the psychological distress made it hard to relax or fall asleep after being on a social media site.
As always, to anyone afflicted with these feelings I humbly proffer this advice from the Tao Te Ching: “In work, do what you enjoy. In family life, be completely present. When you are content to be simply yourself and don’t compare or compete, everybody will respect you… Care about people’s approval and you will be their prisoner.”