Let me start by saying this: I love social media. It connects me to my friends and family, it’s how I stay up to date with world occurrences, and it’s how I’ve found a community after moving to a new city. I’ve found connection with moms from all over the globe, literally, through mom groups on Facebook and by scrolling through Instagram at two in the morning while I’m trying to stay awake to feed a baby. I run multiple social media accounts that in turn put food on the table for my family. The internet keeps the world turning in my house in a myriad of ways.
Social media allows moms, even more so stay-at-home moms, to feel less alone.
Moms that are stuck at home with new babies and toddlers can go days without any interaction with other adults, especially if their spouse travels. If you’ve ever been scrolling through Facebook and see a mom you know posting five times a day and having conversations in the comment section, instead of saying, “Wow, they need a life,” maybe you should think, “That lady needs someone to talk to other than her kids.”
Social media gets a bad rap (rightfully so and I’ll get to that in a moment), but it has created a web of moms that support each other. A mom knows what it means to feel isolated in her experiences; just ask any of us who have been home with littles over the past two years. Finding connection to get through motherhood is vital – and for some moms, social media is the only place they can find it. It allows moms to find playgroups, get pediatrician recommendations, vent, figure out what rash their kid has (if you know, you know), seek out community resources, and more. I’m a firm believer that if you need an answer to something, ask a moms group on Facebook because they have it (and if they don’t, they’ll find it).
Social media has opened doors to an endless possibility of connection. So, when is it time to close the door? That’s basically the question of the decade.
With the good comes the bad and boy can social media get ugly. It brings out the worst in people, no doubt. Any day you log on, you can find people saying things with a keyboard they’d never say to a person’s face. Social media interactions can harm families in more ways than one (ask me how I know), introduce you to things and/or people you’d be better off without, send you down a rabbit hole of (false?) information, and educate a person just enough on a topic that they then think they’re an expert.
Social media also just plain sucks. We talk often about how bad it is for kids, but a very vulnerable and often overlooked cohort is moms. Moms suffer at the hand of social media. How? I know because I did. And I know I’m not alone in this.
It’s one thing to ask a question on Facebook or Instagram to stir the pot (and we’ve all seen plenty of that, hello 2020), but it’s another thing when there’s a child’s health, safety, or wellness involved. You can be the most well-meaning mom in the world just needing advice, but it doesn’t matter the question you ask, some other person will come through the weeds to make you feel like an incompetent and useless mother. If your kid is sick, someone will tell you it’s because you didn’t breastfeed long enough. You talk about needing diapers, a lady will tell you you’re killing the planet and therefore your child by using disposable diapers and wipes. You mention needing a pediatrician and a mom comes keyboard blazing about how vaccines are of the devil even though you never even mentioned your kids’ needing shots. If you’re looking for an OBGYN, it never fails that someone will insinuate that you’re a bad mom for wanting to give birth in a hospital instead of in a pool at home.
Aside from your run of the muck mom Facebook groups and Instagram comments, there is still a broad scope of social media harming mothers. I could write an entire blog post on COVID-19 itself, but for this we can just mention the overreaching effects the news reporting of COVID had on moms. We had no idea what we were dealing with — did anyone? All moms want to do is keep their babies safe. I don’t know one that doesn’t. So moms were constantly refreshing news platforms to get the latest update about the pandemic and creating a cascade of anxiety within their homes; I know this because I did it. Then once they feel confident and up to date enough to make a decision for their family, they can find comments bashing every stance a family takes on the situation: “I’d never send my kids back to school. It’s a death sentence!” or “I couldn’t imagine homeschooling my kids. What a disservice!”
Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
No one is out here making motherhood look less than fun and ideal on the ‘gram. Everyone has a spotlessly clean farmhouse built in 2020. Everyone’s babies are hitting all the developmental milestones and early at that. All the moms have a full face of makeup, freshly washed hair, a happy working from home dad that’s readily available to help out all the time, well-behaved, smiling children, and a dog that never pukes on the carpet.
Well guess what? Most of it is fake.
But try telling that to a sleep deprived and hungry new mom who has a baby on one boob, a toddler on the kitchen table, a husband traveling for work, and a dog chewing the baseboards of their entirely normal and lovely home that isn’t painted white top to bottom.
Social media creates an unrealistic portrait of motherhood. We’ve all been guilty of painting the picture of our lives to look better than it actually is. No one is on Facebook posting about the difficulties their kid has at making friends, the fight over dinner with their husband, or their anxieties over the state of the world. We don’t want pity; we want to feel good. Social media allows us to feel good. We get that dopamine dose when we need it and then keep on moving through our lives.
I said all of that to say this: don’t believe everything you see regarding motherhood on the internet.
Sure some of it is valuable and friendly and true, but for every bit of good, there’s at least one bit of bad mixed in with it. Take a step back if you need to. Go unplugged for a bit. Love on your babies and appreciate your home. Text your friends and meet up with them and ask about your kid’s rash in person. Buy a car seat by reading reviews on Amazon instead of asking in the car seat group on Facebook that will rip you to shreds (you know the one I’m talking about).