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?
Your post sums up how I think so many of us feel about social media. Kevin actually hates it and even cleaned his Facebook out recently. I, on the other hand, have a slight addiction and probably need to back off a bit at times, but it is so easy to get sucked in. So, we totally have both ends of the stick our house alone as you can see.
“Oversharenting” is now in my lexicon. I’ll be sure to give proper credit.
You’re post is very on point. I feel the ambivalence and the time consumption.
Thanks for the reminder to incorporate the word “lexicon” into my conversations more frequently. And in case I didn’t make it clear, I loved your post. (Go read it, everyone!)
You summed this up nicely. I’m glad that you’re finding ways to step back from social media. It’s an ongoing issue for me. Some days are great and some days I’m filled with guilt for all the time I spent on the computer. I keep thinking that soon I’ll get a schedule figured out, but then the next form of social media comes out that I need to learn about and gain followers on. Gah!
Oh and congratulations on your book!!!
Thanks! Can’t wait to hear your interview- soon!
Oh, super congratulations Stephanie! You’re going to be published….. TOMORROW! You are brilliant and you’ve earned this. I hope you get a chance to go out and celebrate this weekend:) And, on the post topic, I’m enjoying over-sharing at the mo on FB, more so cos I’m not blogging. The kids have been sick and being a SAHM it’s my only contact with the world. If it weren’t for the radio and FB I think I would have gone Do-Lilly this week!!!
Aw, thanks Josie! Yeah, with a blogging break, cutting out FB would be downright inhuman. I will definitely celebrate this weekend- that is if I can drag myself away from the porcelain god by then. I remember your posts a few months ago, so I know you feel my pain. Damn stomach flu!
First of all, congratulations on the publication! Wow, that’s so exciting. One of my goals this year is to get published, or at least completely finish a book and have a publisher interested in it, or get it onto Amazon. I’m totally with you on the social media aspect. I call it a necessary evil, because it is just that. Although it’s great to connect, I’ve also had to limit my time on here. Even now I’m procrastinating again! Could be because it’s almost the weekend too and I’m feeling lazy. Enjoyed your post, and congrats again!
Thanks Melanie! I loved your post, too! Maybe we need a Bloppy support group thread for getting published- it seems like a lot of us are in the same boat. It is beyond overwhelming. Getting published in an anthology was absolutely NOTHING compared to getting my own book published. I still hope I can make it happen…maybe this year?
“The accessibility of social media makes it difficult for me to be fully present.” So, so true. Your insights are spot on – wonderful post!
Thanks so much Dana- I really enjoyed your post, too!
Your post is spot.on. I don’t have balance, and I know it. The only thing saving my ass is the fact that I’m marvelously good at multi-tasking. Then again, we’ll see what my kids have to say in therapy when they grow up!
Thanks Julie. Obviously, balance doesn’t exactly come naturally to me either. I’m glad you are a good multi-tasker- I feel like I am an inept spaz!
Like you I have to find a fine line. But one of my friends on FB the other day was talking about how we often only share the sunshine and glowing moments. How we sugar coat it for the public and others to look like the good parent. She is right. My kids are not perfect. I don’t have all the answers, at least for my life but I can give you some amazing advice HA.
I am definitely not guilty of sugar-coating it, at least not on my blog FB page. I think i post more of the awful things about our day than the sunshiney ones! You make a good point- there is already enough competitiveness in the world without us comparing ourselves to people who are constantly sharing their “perfection.”
Wow, this was a profound post! Interesting and well thought through! I’m learning so much about parenting in these modern times, and I’m loving it! I keep comparing your writing with the years when I was young, and it’s all so different. I was brought up with real Old Country discipline, so am not so easily addicted (I hope!), but I do like the company that the Social Media sites provide! So just soldier on, I’m sure you will work it all out! Have a good day!
coin a term (that people will use) *and* get published.
It’s very interesting how ‘un-simple’ this question of effect (good and bad) of social media. I would venture that we probably are way underestimating it’s effect.
But the connectivity it allows, that in a purely self-sense is worth all my struggles keeping a balance.
(congratulations again on the publishing thing)
Thank you so much Clark!
First of all…CONGRATS on becoming a published author! That’s fantastic!! Whoo Hoo!!
I am ambivalent about social media. I think it’s kind of fun to to Pinterest and Twitter…but it’s hard to walk that find line for me. I lose HOURS of time on them that I will never get back. I spend time on each everyday for the blog (which I enjoy), but my own personal Twitter and Pinterest pages are sprouting cobwebs. That’s fine with me. I enjoy touching base with blog buds through them.
I’ve never liked FB. I reluctantly started YEARS after even grandmas were on. It annoys me. I check once a day tops because people I see in everyday life would say things like, “I know you saw on FB that I” No. No I didn’t. Please just talk to me like a normal person. Let’s not just assume everyone knows things just because they are on FB. Blech.
I also feel like FB reminds me of high school. People look to see how many followers you have and how many people liked what you said. The things said tend to be very narcissistic and somewhat attention seeking for the most part. BAH. I don’t have time for the tomfoolery. I hated it the first time around when I was IN high school. I don’t need it as a woman in my 40s for crying out loud. (I just realized I sound like a curmudgeon. I thought I had at least 2 more decades before that set in)
If you are a curmudgeon, then I say bring it on! Yes- what is up with people assuming I saw some big important announcement on FB? Then I feel like a bad friend when I admit I actually hadn’t! I am terrified to join Pinterest but I’ve heard it is good for the blog. Sigh.
Ha, I’ve never heard of “oversharenting” but it is a great word. I’m thisclose to being a parent to an outside baby and I’ve already had to make decisions about what to share and what not to share online.
That being said, I love social media. I would be so lonely without the connections I’ve made from there and the I don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t put out a call for help on Facebook and Twitter every once in awhile. I am interested in how I will balance things once my little guy is born as social media can definitely be a total time suck.
Thank you so much for reading and jumping in with such a great comment. Social media has definitely been a parenting lifeline for me at times. Congrats on your inside baby! 🙂
Congratulations Stephanie! Do you know if they will publish on Kindle? I love your truths here about SM. When I first got on Facebook Christopher was four. Then my husband deployed to Iraq and I was scared that anyone would figure out we were here alone so I completely canceled my account until my husband got back. That and the fact that I already knew what a time suck it was and I was finishing up a Bachelors degree and about to be a single mom for a few months. I just had to get out. But I’m knee deep now. Knee deep isn’t too bad. I can go days without posting an update anywhere. Most are links to my blog.
My husband feels like you do… that social media is a time sucker. He has FB and twitter… but he rarely uses them. Me, I’m on them all the time… ALL.THE.TIME. I could probably write a month’s worth of blog posts in two days, if I just didn’t feel the compulsion to go refresh my FB wall just one more time. Oh and pinterest… I lose hours of my life to the pretties on pinterest.
Congratulations on being a published author! That’s wonderful news!
Congrats on publication.
You’re right – it’s good when it’s about making connections.
Once I started my blog, I almost completely stopped with personal stuff going on my Twitter and Facebook pages. I just post snarky observations and promote my blog. I leave the personal stuff for the people I physically interact with.
Although, I do still waste a lot of time online.
I am almost the exact same way. I rarely post on my personal FB page- sometimes I post some obligatory update or photo so those who follow my blog page too don’t think that is all I care about. Which, apparently, it is! 😉
I use social media for the basics… connecting with folks, posting pics, but I do these on rare occasions. I was looking at my profile and noticed that I hardly post pics of my kid. I like to keep it that way, and am particular about the types of photos I share. For instance, I won’t share embarrassing or naked photos or anything that he might regret in the future. I don’t feel compelled to post every detail he did either; I figure if people want to know, they’ll send me a message, ring me up or come by for a visit.
I do like social media and parenting forums for the reason you stated earlier: the “I’m not alone in this” factor. It is so reassuring to know that other moms are going through the same pregnancy symptoms, or the same tormenting tantrums. And more importantly, I like finding solutions and information about what I’m looking for.
As a blogger, this is a topic I’ve written about and continue to mull over, considering that I’m pretty private, yet I have a blog all about how I parent my kid. It’s a balance, I suppose, that we all try to find.
You are so awesome. I struggle with balance too but think your attitude is absolutely perfect. And I know exactly what you mean about wanting to share but not overshare. It’s hard to find the balance. It really is.
I’m so excited for you about your part in the book! You ROCK, brilliant woman! I can’t wait to read it. I’m traveling this weekend (actually in Denver but flew in tonight and fly out early Sunday so no time to hang sadly. YAY YOU. <3
Great post! I also sometimes have a love-hate relationship with social media. I love it more than hate I guess, but I do hate sometimes how it can take away time from my family or other things that I should be doing. The same with blogging. Like you, I love being able to get answers from others on parenting questions.
Love the new blog!
I simultaneously love and loathe my son’s Facebook page. The family really enjoys getting updates on his latest tooth, new signs he’s started making, words he’s speaking and pictures and video of his latest antics. It’s nice to have one central place to share all these things with family and friends. But then on the other hand, there are a few key family members (my mother and my oldest sister, for example) who are *not* on Facebook. And so every time I post to Facebook, I feel compelled to try to email my sister or call my mother (she doesn’t even have email — sheesh, join us in the 21st century, why don’t you?) and then my “central location” idea goes out the window and I’m doing double and triple work. Oh, well. Some day years from now when he’s a teenager and I’ve forgotten how precious and fleeting my personal time is right now, I’ll probably look back over his Facebook page and get all misty-eyed, and I’ll appreciate having the record because I completely dropped the ball with his physical baby book. 😉
Any chance you live in NYC?
I often find that I do enjoy connecting with like-minded mothers and parents via the Internet, but then feel even lonelier that we can’t all get together for pasta and chat while our kids play.
I enjoyed this post a lot. It made me feel less lonely. And lonelier. 🙂
I love that comment. 🙂 And I totally get it- less lonely and lonelier seems to be a paradox found often in motherhood. And sadly, no- I’m in CO. 🙂 Thanks so much for such a thoughtful comment!