Social media and our narrow view of motherhood

January 21, 2015

In November of last year, the New York Post ran a piece by Karol Markowicz titled, “Modern moms looking for perfection in all the wrong places,” in which the author encouraged mothers to stop the comparison game and just love their kids. This is not the first such article, nor will it be the last. I have spent significant time over the past two months thinking about this issue and how best to respond to it as a follower of Christ.

In her piece, Markowicz writes, “You may have noticed, in the last few years, a proliferation of crafting, baking, clothing-making, all photographed to dreamy perfection in perfect light with a perfectly designed (and clean!) home as the backdrop.

“Domestic perfection is in, and no one has been harder hit than moms.”

Keeping up with the Joneses on the internet

The author goes on to describe the problem not as a phenomenon, but rather a spin on an old issue—keeping up with the Joneses.

“It used to be coveting the new Mercedes in the Joneses’ garage, but now they’re on the Internet showing us the birdhouse they built using reclaimed wood and recycled wire and making us feel bad about ourselves in a whole new way.”

It is true that social media takes this natural inclination to comparison to a whole new level. Not only do we see the birthday parties of our children’s friends when we attend, but now, online, we see those of our high school acquaintance’s children whom we’ve never met. We see images of report cards, sports trophies, ballet costumes, Lego creations, and science projects. And then we compare—either we’re not doing enough, or we’re patting ourselves on the back for doing more.

I started reading the comments on this piece by Markowicz and those on other articles on this topic and noticed that many articles addressing the “mommy wars” or the danger of comparison miss something vital: a “good mother” is not defined by one demographic.

Motherhhood in different demographics

The truth is, for millions of mothers around the world the thought of themed school lunches or birthday parties (or even birthdays) will never even enter their minds. Even in our own cities and towns, these ideas will never be a reality for many. So when we define mothering success by the images we so often see (and share) on social media, we are unwittingly setting a standard that many women will never attain. Success for many mothers would be to provide their children with three meals a day and shoes.

Yet, because of our ability to curate the information we receive on a daily basis, we easily take on a myopic view of the world. I have noticed how quickly my own social media interaction falls into line with those I follow. We develop our own terms and language. We post the same kinds of pictures. And for anyone who doesn’t fit into the online world I’m creating, my role as personal curator allows me to simply cut them out of my news feed. So, in essence, I have the unfortunate ability to limit my exposure to people unlike myself—people who live vastly different lives. We can insulate ourselves from news outlets or different perspectives that make us uncomfortable. And so, we trick ourselves into thinking our mothering experience is universal.

Broadening our social media spectrums

The more I have thought about this, the more intentional I have tried to be with broadening the spectrum on my own social media consumption. I find when I open things up and stop following people who only speak and look and have the same life as me, I’m far less prone to comparison. It changes what I post online as well. There is a steadying balance to rejoicing with those who rejoice and weeping with those who weep. I know I will never love perfectly in the already/not yet reality in which I live, but I want to love both my children and my fellow moms well.

At the end of the day it boils down to what Jesus said to His disciples in the upper room: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:9, 12).

I fail at this daily, but the real example of how to love my children doesn’t come from other moms, either in “real life” or on social media. That’s too limiting. If my definition of loving my kids does not apply to my sister in Rwanda, then it’s the wrong definition. Sure, it may have different practical implications, but, at the heart of it, our requirements for one another are too small, rather than too great. Our example is not someone who got up early to bake gluten-free bread and harvest eggs from her free-range hens for breakfast (which sounds amazing). Our example is One who gave up His life. Greater love has no one.

Yet, the Father who gave His Son and the Son who gave His life do not wait for me to fail to live up to this standard and then rejoice at my failure. Right now, the Son is interceding for me before the Father, and the Father loves me and sees me as righteous because of the Son. So when I walk in the joy that comes from knowing such a gracious God, it redefines motherhood. The reality is that we’re all failing at this daily, but there is peace and joy in Christ in the midst of it. That is a portrait of motherhood that works universally and one we can share with our social networks—on our street and around the world.

Catherine Parks

Catherine Parks writes and lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband, two children, and a cute dog named Ollie. She's the author of Empowered and Strong, collections of biographies for middle-grade readers. You can find more of her writing at cathparks.com Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24