When it comes to social media, the word “ambivalent” does not even begin to describe the wide range of feelings I have about Facebook, Twitter, and all the others that I am too petrified to join. On the one hand, I love being able to connect with people at any moment- old friends, family members, even people I may never actually meet in person. And the convenience factor of being able to easily communicate with people via instant messages, facebook groups, and tweets is so enticing in light of my tendency to be overwhelmed and over-scheduled.
I love that I can peruse the family photos of my high school classmates, share in the accomplishments of my friends, and know that we are reading and discussing the same thought-provoking article that somebody shared.
But I also hate it. The phrase “time-sucker” springs to mind. I could easily spend hours surfing, posting, and chatting with people on Facebook and Twitter. In fact, I have drastically limited the amount of time I allow myself to spend on social media because of the drain on my time and energy, not to mention the distraction factor. I find that I am often preoccupied when my iPhone is within grabbing distance, and the quality of time I spend with actual people– be they my family members or my lunch date- suffers greatly. The accessibility of social media makes it difficult for me to be fully present.
I try to spend a few minutes of the day on Facebook or Twitter, in an effort to connect and stay involved with at least a couple of my friends, be they real life friends or blog buddies. But I no longer allow myself to lose hours of the day in front of a screen; when I realized that my social media time was beginning to feel compulsive, I set some hard and fast limits for myself.
I think many people can relate to my love-hate relationship with social media. I’m going to take it a step further, though, and discuss how I think it has affected my experience as a parent- particularly a parent who is still in the throes of early childhood.
One of my favorite things about social media is the ability to instantly connect with another person. As a mother, one who at times feels isolated, unimportant, or frustrated, this can be a godsend. If I am having a rough morning with a toddler who refuses to eat, climbs on the kitchen table every 45 seconds, and screams “MI-I-I-NE!” all day long, all it takes is a few clicks to post my complaints and receive comments from countless other flustered mommies. The social isolation of motherhood is a thing of the past, in some ways. Perhaps it is no substitute for actual time spent in the company of other moms and kids, but it is at least something. For some people, it is better.
When I wrote Better Off Than Our Mothers? several women left comments that they feel more connected to their online friends. They made the point that back in our mothers’ day of parenting, proximity and convenience dictated friendship, whereas now we are free to “connect” with other like-minded women that we feel kinship with. Perhaps there is some validity to that.
The downside to me is the fact that sometimes I feel like it is a compulsion to capture and share the minutiae of our day. If I don’t share this picture of my daughter’s first pigtails, it won’t matter to anyone but me. If I don’t post that hilarious thing my six year old said, who will enjoy it with me? Maybe there is nothing wrong with the tendency to share these things. As a mother, I love it when I read a post from someone whose child just threw a tantrum on the floor of Target. I’m glad I’m not the only one, I think when I read posts like these, be they entertaining or a call for advice.
I wrote a post last year after I heard the term “oversharenting.” One can certainly see the tendency to “over-share” aspects of our lives as parents that others may find unsavory. Raise your hand if you talk publicly about poop more than you ever dreamed possible! Sometimes the unconscious impulse for me is, If I don’t share this, it didn’t really happen. Sort of the modern-day equivalent of compulsively keeping a diary to prove you existed. Perhaps Facebook has become a “public diary” for our generation.
I guess it is a fine line between using social media to connect with others and alleviate your own isolation, and feeling compelled to share everything, lest the lack of public knowledge negates its value. Kind of like the old saying, “If a tree falls over in the woods and nobody is around, does it make a sound?” It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking, If I don’t post this, it’s not really important/funny/cute/profound. Social media makes it hard to keep things to yourself. My husband hates it when people post pictures of their food to Facebook. I guess I understand his point, but sometimes I too feel the urge to share, thinking, The world needs to know how perfect this Creme Brulee looks.
So I struggle to find a balance of connecting with others in the name of solidarity and sanity and keeping some things to myself in an effort to stay anchored in the present moment, surrounded by warm bodies who are actually here with me. There are days when I may drop off the face of Facebook to find my footing in the real world, and there will be days when I seek solace in the virtual world I have created for myself. Like everything else, balance is key. I never want to sacrifice spending quality time with my children because I am too busy posting things they have said or done on Facebook and Twitter.
So…how do you feel about social media?