This is a blog post I’ve been wanting to write since I got home from the Lamaze/DONA Confluence last month. The last two conferences I went to spent a TON of time covering social media basics. I’m on social media personally and professionally. BabyLove has a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a Google Plus page, an account on Pinterest, and is on Instagram, too. Me, personally, for the human being behind the smiling avitar….I like twitter (though my no-nonsense, very straightforward, always honest tweets don’t always land well.)
We’ve all had to grapple with the really crummy parts of the internet and social media. I know we know they are there. But I still want to take some time to touch on some things that I’ve been thinking about for the last month, especially in relation to pregnancy and motherhood.
OK, so there are some really great things that social media can do for pregnant and new moms. I look at the various tongue tie support groups out there and know that if it weren’t for the internet and social media, we wouldn’t have so much progress in a movement that’s been parent-driven. It’s so grassroots, so worldwide…it would have never moved forward without Facebook groups and websites. Truthfully, it would have gone nowhere, as no community would ever be able to gain enough momentum on its own.
Sometimes social media can put you into contact with people you NEVER would have otherwise been able to meet and get to know. In my case, Twitter is where my people (AKA Tweeps) are. It’s where I’ve met people who I genuinely like and enjoy chatting with, even though I’ve only met a tiny handful IRL (That’s “in real life” if you didn’t know.) And the nice thing about twitter, too, is that there are things like #ppdchat that exist to help new moms navigate the challenges of coping with our ever-changing lives. While Facebook isn’t always a great place if you want to stick to civil discussions, there have been a few times where it’s made me like someone more. And for those of us who are very, very busy moms, it can be one of the few ways we can connect with each other in any way, shape, or form.
To sum it up: not all of us become mothers with a super tight group of women surrounding us. Some of us are introverts. Some of us have social anxiety that can make going to playgroups absolutely hellish. However, thanks to the internet we can get that connection, interaction, and support we need to keep up afloat in even the choppiest water.
As I wrote in my previous post about not googling your birth, the internet and social media is full of way too many opinions and it’s hard to find the facts. So while it may seem easier to search for an answer yourself, it can quickly get to be too much. I’m sure your social media connections are perfectly fine people, but again– you’re just getting a lot of opinions. Now, for superficial things, like where to buy clothes for your child or ideas for parks to go to, opinions are fine. But when it comes to your health and wellbeing or your child’s health and safety, you NEED to find people who know what they are talking about. If you take someone’s opinion and they were wrong…that’s bad.
You know what’s coming: the trolling, the name calling, the bullying…and I’m talking about adults, not teenagers! Because SO MUCH of motherhood that we hold near and dear (specifically birth and breastfeeding) isn’t controlled by what WE want as women and mothers, but rather by the doctors, midwives, nurses, and lactation professionals we come into contact with, when we have lost our say in the outcomes, we feel small, violated, and wronged. It’s from THAT place of anger that I think most of the vitriol stems. And it’s fair to be angry when we go to someone we trust and they refuse to help. It’s just not fair to transfer that anger to innocent women in that mommy Facebook group.
Then there will always be those moms who get a kick out of stirring up anger and controversy, spreading gossip, using social media to target moms that…OK, you know what? I don’t know why those women behave that way. Having been that target, all I know is that it sucks. I’m sure someone who specializes in this area of things would be able to articulate it better, but I find those moms are usually dealing with a huge amount of anger, a lack of self-esteem, or they just get their kicks out of manipulating other people. I don’t have any easy answers for that, especially if they are people you know IRL.
Bottom line? Being a mom is isolating in about a million ways. If you’re struggling with Postpartum Depression, Anxiety, or just floundering in general, there are some amazing resources out there. But do not belittle, name call, stalk, or harass other moms. I’m not saying you would, but…just don’t do it. And if you ask the internets for help, do so from a place that’s genuinely open to what you’ll get back. If you need to whine about something, whine away…just don’t ask for help when all you really want to say is, “THIS SUCKS.”
Of course, it can take awhile to find your place. And do only what you are comfortable with–It’s hard enough to figure out who you are as an adult without throwing the sticky layer of motherhood on top of it.
That’s what I have for today. Be kind to yourself and others.