It’s ironic that in this day and age of insta-communication, we crazy human beings are lonelier than ever. And nothing is lonelier than being a new mom, at home with your new bundle(s) of joy. I know this isn’t a popular thing to say, but being home with babes can be kind of mind-numbing. Feed, change, gaze into your babies eyes. Rinse and repeat. I was blessed to have three months at home with the boys before I went back to work. The last month of my maternity leave, Steph went back to work and I stayed home with the boys.
Here’s me, trying my best to look lonely and pensive:
What did I do during that last month, in between spending meaningful time with my boys? I organized my pantry and watched all of Game of Thrones.
Oh yeah, and I became unceremoniously addicted to Facebook. As in, it was embarrassing. I would press refresh again and again to see if any of my friends had posted a new status update, and would throw the phone down dramatically if it didn’t have anything new for me. I commented on hundreds of photos, sent lots of personal messages, and forged fast friendships with perfect strangers. My friend list may or may not have grown to 500+. It’s a good thing, too, because I know for certain that I was unfriended, demoted, broken up with, and otherwise got eyes rolled at me for my voluminous presence on Facebook. I’m sorry, I was lonely! (Refer to picture above)
Addictions are usually a stand-in for something you’re missing. What was I missing? Authentic communication with others. Though I very much loved the time I spent at home with the boys, that shit was hard. I’m an off-the-charts introvert, but I need to have meaningful interactions with others. Social media became my lifeline.
So, how to use social media for good and not for evil?
(Hint the one on the right is a BAD BAD man-child.)
Here are some things you can do to create meaningful connections online:
1. Search and join Facebook groups based on your interests. Labels are often tiresome. But when creating community, it’s time to make them work. The totality of humanity is a bit tiresome to connect with, so break it down. Are you a young professional, stay-at-home mom, gay/lesbian, special needs parent, military family? Do a search on Facebook with those key words and your city.
I’ve joined a half dozen Facebook groups. When we got the diagnosis of Down syndrome for August, I immediately connected with a Facebook group for DS families. Within minutes, I was connected to hundreds of other families who were able to tell me that it would all be ok….I also am a member of groups for Lesbian mommas, cloth diapering mommas, and moms of multiples groups. (Dude, cloth diapering mommas are PASSIONATE!) One of my favorites is the October 2012 Moms of Twins and Multiples group. It’s a wonderful group of extremely tired women!
2. Can’t find anything that you like? Create your own group! It’s not that hard. I’ve created a good handful. Some have failed and some have just not taken off yet 😉 You have nothing to lose. Starting a group on Facebook is free and easy! Promote to your network and ask others to share to theirs. Look for other social communities that already exist to reach others. I’ve started a Down syndrome group for babies born in 2012 called Designer Genes, a group for gay and lesbian parents in Jacksonville, and a Jacksonville mom group.
3. Be diligent about responding to posts. People love comments. We are hard-wired to want to be understood and heard. Take a second to respond to someone’s question, photo, or update, and you’re a step ahead in connecting online.
4. When joining online groups, make a point to ask where people are from. Organize an event/gathering for those who live close. Meet in a public place, and don’t feel obligated to meet someone again who you don’t feel a connection with. No hard feelings. Life’s too short! We’ve met a great couple with triplet boys who live an hour away. We have plans this year in our travels to meet several other Facebook friends.
5. Here’s a specific recommendation for parents. Start a monthly clothes and toy swap. Kids are money pits! Post on Facebook what you’re doing and start a group. Ask your friends to invite other moms to the group. I started a group for this and we’ve met twice now. In addition to free clothes, we get to drink mimosas and hang out with other mommas. Sign me up!
So, yes, I was addicted to Facebook, but lots of good has come out of it! These days, I’m back at work, and my Facebook antics are down to a dull roar. But, I still find time to keep connecting in my groups, and continue to share way too many photos of the cutest pair of 7-month-old twins you ever did see.
What have I missed? Tell me about how you’ve found community online.
PS. Are you a lonely momma? The smart peeps at UCLA can tell you now with this short quiz. I’m a sucker for a quiz.