For a while, social media became a very unhealthy part of my life. So much so, that I had to delete it altogether. But now, I’m back on and finding a whole new appreciation for it. And a whole new appreciation for the phrase “It Takes A Village”.
I’m a millennial (cue angry eye roll and exaggerated sigh). I only point this out for context, to explain that I have been online for most of my life. I spent hours a day chatting on AIM, crafting cryptic away messages with lyrics from Dashboard Confessional songs and getting angry every time someone called the house and kicked me off line. I had a very active Live Journal account with lengthy posts all about the trials and tribulations of being a high school freshman. I, of course, had a MySpace page where I learned how to code and rate my friends in batches of eight.
And then, Facebook happened. I was late to that game. Most people had one before me. It was just for college kids at first and I wasn’t cool enough to know anyone with a college email to get myself an account. But then my friend set me up and…so it began.
I’m not sure when things took a turn, but somewhere between Tom looking creepily over his shoulder in his profile picture and Mark Zuckerburg selling all of our personal information to corporations, we started living online. We use to leave away messages that said “BRB”. But we don’t say that anymore. We live here now. And that’s fucking with us. Big time.
The Internet is like the Wild West. It’s still relatively new and we’re still figuring out how we should be using it. I think this whole social media thing kind of got away from us and now we’re starting to take notice and reel it back in. There’s been a general hum about this phenomenon, I’m not the first to speak on it (see here, here or here). But what I’ve learned is that the best thing any one of us can do is become conscious of our relationship with social media. Understand why we’re on here, why we’re posting what we’re posting. Social media is a tool. We can use it as a tool. To learn and connect and make ourselves better. We can control it.
But that’s not how we’ve been using it. Well, I don’t want to speak for anyone else. But that’s not how I was using it. Far from it, really. I was using it as a meter, to gauge how well I was doing. At being a person, I guess. With likes and comments and friends. Strangers validating the lies I was sharing online. It was making me sick.
I had been struggling with depression on an off for a while, and taking breaks from social media really helped. Then I got pregnant. And I knew I needed to focus all of my energy on being healthy. So I went completely dark. I had an entire online business that I had started from scratch that I completely abandoned. Friendships that only lived online. Potential clients in the pipeline. I just walked away. My relationship with social media had become so toxic, I needed to cut the cord entirely.
Then, toward the end of my pregnancy, I started to miss it. I wanted to share my experience with family and friends. I had been individually texting everyone “bumpdates” and trying my best to keep in touch, but it was becoming impossible. I needed a way to share with the people who cared about me and social media was the best way I could think of. So, I gave my Facebook page a serious detox. I deleted everyone I don’t know or speak to on a regular basis. I made my account completely private. I took control.
Once I gave birth, I started writing more about my experience as a new mom. And the more I wrote, the more I wanted to share my experience with other new moms. So they could relate or feel less alone or give me advice. The best way I could think to do that was to start using Instagram again. I fired up my account for this blog and started sharing. And soon enough, a community started forming. I call it my “Virtual Village”.
It Takes A Village
When it comes to the content I share on Instagram, I’ve made the decision not to show my daughter’s face because I didn’t feel comfortable with it. Maybe that’ll change, maybe it won’t. But the point is, I made that decision. I took control.
I also created a private Instagram account to share photos of my daughter, because that’s a whole lot easier than texting them to all my friends and family.
Taking control of how I use social media has made a big impact on my life and mental health. Where I used to come online and feel depressed and anxious and angry, now I feel excited and happy and connected. It has become my greatest accountability tool. When I go online and say I’m going to do something, I feel like I have to do it. It has become where I go to talk to friends. To shop. To learn. To ask questions. I’m careful about who I follow. I’m conscious about what I’m posting and, more importantly, WHY I’m posting it.
Pretty pictures get attention, but honest words make the connection. And that is why I’m back online. To connect with other new moms. To share my experience. To find my my virtual village.
It is incredibly hard to make new friends as a stay at home mom. For one, you don’t leave your house. And when you do, you have a little person who needs all of your attention. Try making conversation over coffee while your bending up and down picking your baby’s toys up off the floor while simultaneously getting your hair pulled and trying to force feed your baby pieces of food they refuse to eat. Mom’s aren’t out there making friends. But you know where moms ARE? Here. Online. We’re scrolling through our phones while baby is distracted in her playpen for five minutes, or finally goes down for a nap. We should be “doing things” during those times, but we’re too drained to even think. So we let our thumbs scroll and tap through our Instagram accounts and we try to feel like we’re a part of society again. We try to feel a little less alone. At least, that’s what I do.
So, all in all, I’d say I’m happy to be back online. I’m enjoying how I’m using these platforms and I’m starting to see a real value to them. And I’m really enjoying getting to know all of YOU. The people who read my words or see my pictures or watch my video stories and REACH OUT. I am so grateful to you, my virtual village. This momming thing would be a lot harder without you.