Commentary

Social Media Worsens Moms' Financial Worries

Lots of moms love social media, but it may not be the best thing for them psychologically, judging by a growing collection of research and surveys which suggest that it undermines self-esteem and fosters insecurity by encouraging unrealistic comparisons with peers. The latest evidence comes from a survey of 1,100 moms by BabyCenter, which asked about the costs (financial and otherwise) of raising children -- and found that the stress is aggravated by social media.

First of all, there’s plenty for moms to worry about without social media: two out of three mothers surveyed by BabyCenter said they worried about having enough money to raise their kids, up 11% from last year, and half said they worry frequently (meaning at least every few days). Money worries are also fueling discord in relationships, with four out of five moms arguing about finances with their partner. 58% of moms said they are planning to limit their family size for financial reason, and 81% said they would have more kids if money were no object.

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Turning to social media, fully 60% of moms surveyed by BabyCenter said they feel pressure to appear well-to-do on social media, as well as feeling envy and embarrassment because of their own situation compared with others; one in four millennial moms said she feels “significant” pressure to look well-off on social media. BabyCenter quoted one respondent: “Everyone is doing fun things and posting them on Facebook, and I want to do those things too.” Another respondent said: “It’s embarrassing for people to know that we are struggling.”

This might not be such a big problem, if it didn’t end up prompting many moms to make unwise financial decisions, including splashing out more than they can afford for vacations, dinners out, and new clothes for their kids. BabyCenter’s in-house financial expert, Carmen Rita Wong, noted: “With social media and constant marketing, there's a lot of pressure on moms to feel like they need to buy the latest and the greatest products in order to do right as a parent. But sometimes it's just not wise to spend the extra money.”

This isn’t the first survey to find that moms are in a love-hate relationship with social media. Last month I wrote about a poll by Current Lifestyle Marketing and Impulse Research, which surveyed 1,004 mothers and found that half said they felt pressure to create an image of a perfect life on social media. That figure rose to 63% for mothers ages 18 to 24 and 60% for mothers ages 25 to 34. Moms also objected to excessive marketing, a proliferation of annoying invitations, and over-sharing by online contacts.

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