Move over cyber-bullying. There is another societal ill that results from people spending too much time online: Social Media Anxiety Disorder also known as #SMAD (which I don’t expect to end up in the D.S.M.-5, at least not until Big Pharma can find a prescription more profitable than “turn off your computer”). Even more curious is the fact that women in particular are affected by an ailment from using the site Pinterest, which functions like an electronic corkboard of both professional and amateur photography. According to the Huffington Post article Pinterest Stress: Close to Half of Mothers Stressed by Social Media Cite, Survey Finds, “Pinterest culture can generate feelings of inadequacy by creating a pressure to throw elaborate birthday parties, attempt intimidating DIYs and bake picture-perfect cupcakes. Comparing the less pristine reality of motherhood to the polished sheen of online images may cause moms to worry about falling short if their culinary or crafting skills don’t seem to measure up.” While these articles did warrant a major eye-roll (not to mention a few mocking email exchanges), I am not completely unsympathetic. Women face a lot of pressures, and being “perfect” (whatever that means) and “having it all” (a notion I already wrote about being a fallacy) do make an impact on how women perceive themselves and each other. But ladies, let’s break this down, because embedded in this easy-to-make-fun-of “first world problem” is a troubling phenomenon.
First, a few words on Practicing Safe Social Media. I’m a little late to the game on Pinterest (having only created an account so that I could properly “research” this post). Call me old-fashioned, but I’m really more of a Facebook-kinda girl. Lady Economist tweets, but when I’m the woman behind the curtain I mostly I just judge people for their abbreviations and can’t wait to get back to the civilized world of blogs. No matter your poison, I recommend treat social media like food: eat until you’re full – and then stop -and watch your empty calories (aka mindless entertainment).
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, we can get into the part that I find most fascinating: that the “Pinterest stress” is over crafting, cooking, and DIY projects. I wish I could take a sigh of relief from everyone having body-image problems, but I can’t. Now, if engaging in or reading about these activities brings you pleasure, a topic that economists are notorious for misunderstanding, then good for you! I recently read an issue of Martha Stewart Living cover to cover- and I was inspired to cook something delicious, so I get it. But, for the women who responded to the survey that the site causes them stress, I honestly feel that they’ve been had.
Modern-day devices that breed nostalgia for a time when everyone was raised by June Cleaver are doing women a disservice. It’s fetishizing unpaid domestic labor, at a time when women are more likely than ever to work full-time and contribute to their family’s income. Why then should women also be expected to preserve their own pickles or hand stitch children’s clothes? As Dorothy mentioned, it’s women who are often responsible for this unpaid work, and there are major opportunity costs – not just in terms of work but also in terms of increasing their social capital and life-time earnings – and apparently, their self-esteem. I know I can’t encourage everyone to Lean Out of Domesticity, but I’d like to let women know that I think it’s okay to do things the easy or convenient way from time to time. Buy pre-washed greens! Wear last year’s styles! Get your kid’s Halloween costume at a second-hand store! Then you can get on with the rest of your life, or at least find a slightly less neurotic neurosis.