New UNL research suggests popular ‘mommy influencers’ can harm new mothers

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) — A new study says social media influencers can create a toxic culture for new mothers.

UNL assistant professor Ciera Kirkpatrick was working on her doctorate when she became a first-time mom. Her own experiences inspired her dissertation research. 

“As I became a parent, I realized that social media was having a huge influence on me,” Kirkpatrick said. “Seeing the portrayals of other mothers on social media and their children made me compare my experiences.” 

Kirkpatrick shared Instagram posts from “mommy influencers” with more than 400 new mothers.

Many showed off clean homes, perfect makeup and happy children.  Kirkpatrick says the group of new mothers came away more anxious and envious.

But this tendency is not new.

“Back in the ’70s and ’80s, motherhood was glamourized even back then, but it was in the form of magazines,” Kirkpatrick said. “Now anybody can post a portrayal of a motherhood experience because we all have access to social media.” 

The pandemic made it even more problematic. Seeing the world through phones became a bigger part of people’s lives. 

“This was a time, especially for new mothers who became mothers for the first time like me, when we felt even more alone,” Kirkpatrick said. 

Kirkpatrick said hospitals should provide more information to new mothers on how social media affects their expectation. 

“Social media is not a portrayal of real life; it’s a portrayal of the highlights of real life,” she said. “So, those mothers who are posting nothing but happy, exciting experiences are also having rough times, too.” 

Kirkpatrick recommends keeping it real if you do post.

She tries to showcase difficulties and challenges, saying that sharing hardships can help other moms feel less alone.

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