Kathy and Emma, this one is for you.
This is a conversation that started a couple of evenings ago as I was stood in just my knickers whilst one of my best mum mates was also stood in just her knickers, and another mum mate sprayed us both with fake tan. It was one of THOSE conversations. Semi-serious but still quite light hearted because, you know, we were basically nudders whilst our three pre-schoolers policed themselves in a room next door. (Also, hasn’t mum dating come a long way?).
Anyway, somehow we got to discussing the Facebook groups we all belong to – de rigueur here – and the various characters within them. These are complete strangers who we all knew by either first name or their posting habits. Now, to be clear, I am not about to diss the Facebook group community, not at all. In fact, I have given advice to other newbie’s here to join the groups asap because they’re full of useful information and helpful people. But I also said to turn notifications off and to only look at the feeds on an as needs basis. If only I followed my own damn advice. Instead I waste valuable moments of my life reading questions posted and then long trails of answers, advice and arguments. Sometimes, god forbid, if I’m in the right sort of mood (or the wrong mood to be more accurate) I bite and find myself wading in to some petty discussion on some inane topic that doesn’t actually concern me. I don’t know why I do it (I do- I’m bored and PMS addled). Reassuringly I am not the only otherwise moderately intelligent and rationally minded woman who loses her shit over absolutely nothing. That social media etiquette suggestion of “don’t like what you see, keep on scrolling” just goes out of the window sometimes. Not that I or any of my other mum mates with zero tolerance for stupidity are out to troll anyone. Again, not at all. But I simply cannot understand why (in this case) women would rather post in a fairly public forum (as in membership of 10k plus, even though a closed group) basic parenting and life questions before googling them?
Now I said that I wasn’t out to diss the Facebook groups community and I’m not. As a community of women, wives, mothers and expats we are thrown together to exist in a world where we have to create our own villages in which to parent. And social media is an amaaazing village of support, love and the right words when you need to hear them. But there’s something about Facebook groups that brings out the best and worst in people- myself included. From mothers asking for medical advice (on Facebook! From non-medically trained strangers!) AND seemingly following that advice, to seeing almost identical questions posted over and over again, to the same perfect super-Mommy’s answering everything with a my-way’s-best attitude… I’m aghast. And yes, I do REALLY need to turn notifications off.
So anyway, Facebook parenting, what a first world problem to have.
And I can’t just leave these groups because let’s face it I’m a millenial bored housewife, aka FOMO sufferer. So instead I find myself snapping now and again, usually just a little “haha” comment here and there in a typically sarcastic and British way of dealing with stupidity. I am justified in these moments by the likes I might go on to get from other women also rolling their eyes behind their iphones and computer screens. Or at least that’s my self-justification, not that it makes me right.
But my question is simple- Is Facebook making us lazy at parenting when it’s easier to do as someone else does than listen to your own gut feelings and instincts as a woman and mother? Is it simply that by validating our problems via social media we can offload some of our guilt that the problems exist in the first place? Because as mothers we seem duty bound to be guilt ridden by anything and everything, whether in our control or not. Where we would once have faced these hurdles with real life people – family, friends, neighbours who would have stayed up all night with us taking care of each other’s children as one huge unit – we’re now more likely to shut the door to real life support for fear of showing weakness or failure in our roles as women and mothers. Instead we find comfort in words rather than actions in an online world where we can control the information we give out in order to get the responses we want, or sugar coat problems to make ourselves feel less shit and judged. Isn’t that so sad?
Even just writing this post I’m kicking myself. Why do I scoff when I could just as easily scroll on by, or better still offer a cup of tea and a listening ear? If I saw another woman out somewhere struggling with the frenzy of parenting I would never shake my head and look away, never! But then I also very much doubt that that same woman would start broadcasting her maternal woes to other passing women.
So what is it about Facebook that changes those social boundaries?
I don’t have the answer to this modern day parenting conundrum, by the way, but I’ve just successfully wasted 5 minutes of your life and 920 words pondering it so far, which probably makes me just as bad as anyone asking about their toddler with a temperature on Facebook. Double standards, I know, and ironic that a blogger of all people would question parenting via social media…