Maria Rushe looks at how mums can feel isolated on social media ... even when they're always connected.
Being a Mum generally means that “you will never be lonely again”, but in reality, it is often the loneliest place in the world.
I’ve spoken before about how social media can help with the isolation of new parents. But boy is it a double-edged sword? The same platforms and pages that offer modern Mammas conversation, support and company, very often also encourage feelings of loneliness, despair and isolation.
I like social media.
I like how it allows me to stay in touch with people.
I like how it helps me to connect with old friends.
I love how it allows my family members who are scattered like glitter across the planet, to see what’s happening at home.
I love how one comment or image can spark conversations that are both heated and entertaining; sometimes even intelligent!
I like to see photographs of the people I like, smiling and happy.
I enjoy it and I get it I suppose.
As a Mummy, it provides some escapism. When the kids are asleep or you find yourself with 5 minutes to sit with a cuppa, there’s something nice about hitting the little blue F and seeing what’s happening in the real world.
You know? That place where exciting things happen? Where Peppa Pig isn’t in charge and where people live wonderful lives?
Where everyone has terrifyingly precise, painted eyebrows and sparkly white teeth and where people look naturally happy, all of the time?
You get to look into the lives of your “friends”: see their exciting nights out, admire their fabulous clothes, wonder where they get the time or money to visit that salon again.
We see happy families, smiling for the selfie.
We see who’s at the gym, who’s out for dinner and who’s heading away on holiday.
And while there is no harm in this really, the key is to know that what you’re looking at is not reality.
No one’s life is perfect all of the time. We know that, but let’s face it…who is going to voluntarily put a shitty photograph of themselves up for the world to see?
The natural selfies are probably one of 23 shots.
There are magical filters that apparently beautify! (Note to self…find out more about these.)
The reality is that regardless of how careful you are, if you look through your list of friends, you’ll possibly come across at least 2 people about whom you have to ask yourself “who is this?”
And while it keeps us connected, a huge issue for many new mums, is the isolation caused by social media.
Yes, we can see what’s happening and stay up to date with our friends. We post photographs and status updates about our children and about our lives, to let our friends and families see how cute they are and how entertaining life is with kids.
But when this means that our friends feel that they don’t need to visit, or meet for coffee, or pick up the phone, then… we have a problem.
When seeing everyone else having fun, makes you feel boring and frumpy in your busy, unglamorous world of feeds and nappy changes, then…we have a problem.
When you know the story before someone tells you it, then…we have a problem.
When someone you haven’t spoken to in 2 years only realises that you’re no longer friends when you finally unfriend them on social media, then…we have a problem.
When every conversation you have includes the line “Yeah, I saw that,” then…we have a problem.
And it’s our own fault. We see it all on social media so we no longer feel the same need to ring someone up to ask how they’re doing.
After all, we know they’ve been to dinner this week, had the dog to the beach and that the baby has been puking. We read it on Facebook.
We no longer consider a coffee date important as we know what’s going on with them.
We read it on Facebook.
But of course, Facebook doesn’t give you the same satisfaction that you get from good conversation over a cuppa.
Facebook doesn’t give you a hug before you go back to the whirlwind of your life.
Facebook might help you feel connected to the world outside your home, but only for a second, and only until it doesn’t.
Recently, I met a good friend for coffee.
She’s not on Facebook.
It was refreshing. She was interested in my stories, in how I was, in how the girls were doing… she hasn’t seen it on Facebook. I was delighted to hear about what she’s been up to. It was real conversation and it was lovely. We actually had so much to catch up on. There were no lies about how perfect life is. It’s difficult to lie to someone’s face.
We were able to talk about the difficulties we have with our respective Mini-Mes. We laughed at things we remembered from our nights out BC. Stories were interesting because they hadn’t already been told or seen. It was good, old-fashioned catch-up and it made me feel fuzzy and loved and ridiculously real again.
So while this isolation I speak of obviously doesn’t just apply to mums, that’s the angle I’m seeing it from. I’m lucky that I have a wonderful family and some very good friends, but sometimes, just sometimes, being a mummy in the presence of two fabulously fun princesses 24 hours a day, can be a lonely place.
And while social media is fantastic and helps us stay in touch, it isn’t real.
So if you know someone; a mummy or daddy, or friend or cousin, who you have to really think about the last time you actually spoke to them, do you and them a favour.
Pick up the phone and say hi.
Or call to visit and actually hold the baby, while she makes you a coffee.
Rather than sharing sentimental quotations or memories on our friends’ pages, we really need to try to make more of our reality… not our virtual reality.
So there you go.
Social media is fabulous. I get it. I enjoy it.
But sometimes, it just isn’t enough.
But nothing beats real life contact and actual conversation. It’s a two way street however, so if you’re sitting wallowing that Nancy never calls or that Jacinta never makes time for you, have you picked up the phone to them recently?