Dear Moms, Don’t Hate Yourself for Liking Social Media

Share on FacebookPin on PinterestTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someoneShare on Google+

Dear Moms, Don't Hate Yourself for Liking Social Media.jpg

We’re always hearing about the dangers of being plugged in. It’s so easy to get too attached to our screens. To be looking down at our phones when we should be looking up at our children. I get it. It’s so hard to have a healthy balance and not let the internet and social media take over our lives. It’s a very real danger to be, in the words of T.S. Eliot “Distracted from distraction by distraction.” Facebooking our lives away instead of living them. I’m not proposing that we should ignore that danger. By no means.

But, the internet isn’t all bad. And for some forms of community, it can be an amazing thing. I think this is particularly true for mothers of small children. Never before have women been so isolated during the day-to-day of caring for their kids.

Most of us don’t live with extended family, or in small towns where you can walk to your best friend’s house. Cities aren’t set up to encourage community and that’s particularly hard on moms. For the first time in history, it’s not unusual for a mom of infants and toddlers (or older kids if she’s homeschooling) to see no other grown-ups all day long.  And no matter how much we love being with our kids, being the only adult in sight can make us feel a little crazy.

So we need community. And building that community takes serious effort and planning. Setting up times to meet with friends, playing at the park, stopping over for afternoon coffee, bringing or receiving a meal. It’s worth the effort, of course, absolutely worth it. We should nurture face-to-face friendships, in fact, we must if we want to stay sane.

But I don’t think the importance of face-to-face friendship makes online community worthless. It’s easy to dismiss social media friendship because the dangers of obsessing over virtual life are so obvious. But, I think online community can be incredibly valuable.

Because what’s a mama to do during those times when pursuing face-to-face community is nearly impossible? Your kids have been sick for two weeks so you’re stuck at home. You live in a rural area and can’t make it into town daily. You’re on the couch with morning sickness. Your days are filled with medical appointments for a child who needs extra care due to health issues. You’re recovering from a miscarriage. You’re having difficulty finding friends who understand your lifestyle or faith? What do you do then when you need community more than ever but can’t just hop over to a girlfriend’s house for a heart-to-heart?

I think that’s when online community really can be wonderful. Both to connect us to our established relationships with real life friends and to connect us to like-minded women all over the world who are willing to share life together despite never meeting in person.

My community of friends in our town is truly amazing. We get together once a week to let the kids run around while we sip on coffee, then we finish the morning with prayer. And do we ever need that time to encourage, open our hearts, or just chat and laugh with other humans over 4ft high! These women bring meals when we’re sick and the household is falling apart. They throw precious baby showers. They send prayers and food and request Masses to be said when someone loses a sweet baby. We see each other face-to-face often, but what helps us stay connected is sharing a FB thread to throw out prayers or plans to meet up. Social media helps connect us, not drive us apart.

And then there’s my friends I know from across the great big internet. We may not get to sit down and drink a cup of coffee at our dining room tables, but we do video hangouts and text messages and send baby gifts and sympathy cards. My family knows their names and we pray for their intentions during family Rosary. They are friends and their friendship is valuable and precious.

When I first was considering converting to Catholicism I started reading Catholic mom blogs because I just wanted to know what it looked like to be a Catholic woman. I wanted to know if these women were a lot like me. And they were, and those snippets into their lives were invaluable to my journey. Just knowing that there are so many women out there who are committed to their faith and their families is meaningful. My local community is wonderful, but not unique. We’re part of something much bigger.

So, I don’t want to trade out my real life friendships for a world of detached social media. I need my local community of friends. But my online friendships have been such a source of grace for me. When I post to Instagram that the baby has a fever and women all over the world start praying for her, that is a beautiful thing. When I can ask parenting advice from a mama-friend of kids older than my own in a Facebook group, it’s a huge encouragement.

If we use social media, our blogs, and our online interactions to encourage, love, challenge, and cherish each other, we can more deeply connect with the friends we have and be part of an inspiring community that lets us know we are not alone. So don’t hate yourself for liking social media. Just use it well.

 

And speaking of social media friends, some of my blogging friends are also sharing their thoughts on online community and the good side of the internet today (because we’re friends and we like to discuss ideas!). Check it out! 

Catholic All Year: If My Social Media Friends Had to Do This in Real Life, a screenplay in five acts

Molly Makes Do: One Is Silver and the Other Is Gold

Messy Wife, Blessed Life: What the Internet Gave Me, and a few tips on how to make the internet work for good

Fountains of Home: Life Online Is Part of Your Life, Too

A Knotted Life: The Shortcut to Friendship

blog carnival

Share on FacebookPin on PinterestTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someoneShare on Google+

Comments

  1. says

    I think this is a great post.

    If it were not for the online world I would not have been able to connect with my local group. I found them via the internet.

    As I dig deeper into my faith I can see why there is such a division of arms on the subject. IF you do not use social media carefully it is very easy to fall into the trap of envy, greed, jealousy, and all of the ugly sides of it.

    But if you distance yourself from the unhealthy side of it what a great tool it can be. It has allowed me to have my eyes opened to the beautiful Catholic bloggers our there, their caring nature and the awesomeness that is a Catholic woman!

  2. says

    Hey Haley, I’ve been reading your blog for over a year now, but don’t often find time to comment. I wrote about something like this on my (tiny) blog a few months ago. I just wanted to share it with you and thank you for being part of my online community without even knowing me.
    http://mamatwomey.blogspot.com/2013/11/ode-to-mommy-blogs.html?m=1

    Megan
    P.s. I went to school with Julie from Corner with a View and saw the pics of you guys in NOLA. I was so jealous.

    • Haley says

      I love that post, Megan! Thanks for sharing. And how crazy that you know Julie! It was so fun to meet her family.

  3. says

    I definitely agree! I think what you said about balance is important. As someone who finds myself reaching for my phone way.too.often, balance and giving myself space to pray and ruminate and have time with my own thoughts is something that I easily neglect in favor of checking all the things! It’s a learning process anyways to be a SAHM of a little one…this is just another aspect that I know I need time to figure out. I am so SO grateful for the catholic mom bloggers I’ve found and really feel like this community has helped put so many things into perspective!

  4. Serena says

    I agree 100%!

    I’m not a mama yet, but I love reading the blogs of Catholic mothers sharing their struggles and joys. It’s so beautiful to see the many different ways that faith can be lived out. I think of a literary critic I once read who was talking about Dante’s paradise. He was responding to the idea that heaven must be boring, since everyone is perfect and kind of the same, just sitting there looking at God. On the contrary, he said, beatitude does not involve the eradication of individual personality, but its fullest and most perfect expression. I feel like loving communities on earth (especially communities made up of people really trying to live out their faith) give us a glimpse of that.

    Anyway, thanks for the great reflection! I also wrote an article about online community recently that you might like. It’s here if you’d like to check it out: http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2014/04/13011/

    • Haley says

      Oh! I read that article when it came out! Somebody shared it on my FB feed. I thought it was great. Well done!

  5. says

    I had an experience this week that really reinforced this. I was stressed and very emotional when I found out that my newborn isn’t gaining well, the pediatrician thinks I’m not producing enough milk, we need to start giving him formula, etc – to the point that I was avoiding phone calls from my mom because I knew talking about it would just make me cry – and talking to her might just stress me out. Instead, I sent e-mails to a bunch of local moms’ list servs I’m on and got lots of support from moms who had been there (and more recently than 25 years ago) and good, practical advice. (Mom says, “What about La Leche League?” List serv says, “La Leche League meets on the second floor of the library this Monday at 11.”) Not currently having many IRL friends in the same stage of life that I’m in, I don’t know how I would have gotten through the past 48 hours without the internet!

    • Haley says

      Oh Kathleen! I feel for you! It’s so hard when you’re struggling with a nursing complications! I’m glad you found some support and I hope everything gets easier soon. <3

  6. says

    Yes! Yes! Hearing others talk about giving up the distraction, I realized I couldn’t. Aside from using Facebook as a way to connect with my customers, I just this year discovered your blog & the network if Catholic Moms out there. You are all so inspiring & reading your thoughts on the faith & motherhood has made me feel not so alone. We’re a single-car family with four kids (so far), and getting out is a HUGE effort. So being able to keep up with my pals via the Internet is invaluable to me!

  7. says

    Haley, I love this. Reading Catholic moms’ blogs has been a great encouragement to me since my son was born in November, since I don’t have a real-life community of similar women around me. I’m working on being more disciplined in my use of social media — I got my first smartphone this week, and man! Instagram is way too much fun — but it’s nice to have a reminder of all the good that social media can do in our lives.

    • Haley says

      Yes! I had exactly ZERO close friends with kids when Benjamin was born. Blogs really helped me feel not so isolated.

  8. says

    I love this.

    I think that people are so worked up about social media “overtaking” everything because it’s so accessible to us. And yes, it is sometimes abused or used in unwise ways. But our ancestors had “social media,” too! They wrote letters- lots of letters- chain letters and personal letters that shared daily life and updates, prayers and praises. We’re still doing that- just in a different way.

    I see the blogs I read in that way- as letters. Sure, they aren’t addressed right to me, but openly sharing updates and news and glimpses of life and things on our minds— that’s a letter. And we so desperately need that community, as well as those face-to-face connections!

  9. says

    I love this and agree 100%. Right now, we are going through a very difficult time and have very little real-life support so the support I’ve botten via the internet has been absolutely priceless. We’ve moved so much and right now we really have no community, no roots…but the great things about online friends is that you can take them anywhere. They don’t replace local friends, but are good in their own way.

  10. says

    Hi Haley! I’m so glad that you posted this. I’ve been struggling with this conflict for a few months now and have swung back and forth between extremes: one day I swear off all social media and the next day indulging in way too much. This winter has been especially hard for me because it was long, super cold (broke some records here in Canada for sure!) and I was stuck in the house with newborn twins and my two year old. I think I would have gone crazy if not for Facebook and the blogs that I read! I really felt part of a bigger, greater community (even though I don’t often get a chance to comment). Thanks to you (and the other amazing bloggers) for letting me be a part of your online family of friends!

    • Haley says

      Oh Michelle, I truly can only imagine what it must be like to survive a Canadian winter. Mamas like you and Christy from fountains of home are like super stars to me, haha!

  11. says

    Love this post and loved Bonnie’s as well! It’s important to find community where we can. Many of us Catholic moms who use NFP have found most of our support through online means. When I lost my baby over a year ago, I received so much support and prayer from people I’ve never met face-to-face, but it brought me such comfort.

    • Haley says

      Thanks, Michelle. I wouldn’t have pursued Marquette if you hadn’t shared about your experience! I’m so glad you were surrounded with love and prayer after losing your little one. <3

  12. says

    “Maybe I should get off of Instagram/Twitter/Facebook/Bloglovin,” I tell myself. “But I’m using it for good!” This short conversation enters my head often, especially around Lent. I honestly don’t know what I would do without the Catholic community I encounter through social media. I ask questions, discover traditions, remember the Liturgy of Hours and am constantly encouraged by faithful Catholics I have met online. Social media is so helpful in this respect when I have very few ‘real life’ Catholic friends (#convertproblems).

    Thank you for this excellent reminder! You were the first Catholic momma blog I read and your words have been so helpful the last couple of years. :)

  13. says

    Thanks to you (and all the rest) for these posts. I couldn’t agree more. I’m still fairly new to the blogging world, but I do feel a connection to other mom bloggers out there. It is so nice to know, when I take a minute to open my blog feed, that I may not be the only one with an extra fussy baby. Or covered in spit up. Etc, etc. I value the online connections I have made so far, and look forward to those I make in the future.

  14. says

    I’m a 60 year old grandmother, and I still remember very clearly the feeling of being extremely isolated as a young mother of two. We lived several miles out of town and there were no young mothers or extended family nearby. How I wish we’d had social media in the early eighties! All of you moms will know when you need to back off the internet and when your families need your undivided attention, but don’t be afraid to develop those online friendships, and extend yourself to other moms who are feeling a bit alone. I think it’s quite possible to be an attentive wife and mother and still have these online friendships. It’s all about balance and prayerful attention to your vocation.

  15. says

    I really love this post, Haley. I have local Catholic mom friends but we are all so busy we don’t get to see each other face to face as often as we’d like. Plus, they aren’t social media happy/crazy the way I am so we don’t have that daily contact. My online friends understand the bond you can have with a person without meeting them. (Heck, I fell in love with my husband before seeing him in person!) So it is nice to know that they, and so many others, share that bond and understand how important it is in our lives. :-)

  16. says

    Absolutely! My family prays each night for my online friends as much as they pray for our real life friends. Whether or lives are intertwined through a computer screen or a park date, they are still connected. Thanks be to God for a literally Universal Church body.

  17. says

    Totes agreed. My life is greatly enhanced by blogging & sharing & meeting likeminded and different minded friends online. It can be abused, and when I find myself staring at my screen instead of my kids at breakfast, yes, stop it. But for the most part, it’s my outlet as an at home mom.

    Great thoughts!!

  18. says

    It’s so cool that you read Catholic mom blogs when you were considering converting. What a great testament to the power of blogging about faith.

    For me, Facebook (in particular) has been very helpful at growing my relationship with certain family members (anyone beyond a first cousin, say). My mom’s family is a big one, with lots of second-cousins and first-cousins-once-removed. We all get together every summer for a big reunion, but that’s the only time I see most of them. FB has allowed me to get to know them throughout the year, in a day-to-day way. That’s certainly a blessing I didn’t expect.

  19. says

    Love this post, Haley! There are blessings to be found everywhere if we seek them and nourish them! Especially love how you and your friends pray after getting together. I have an amazing group of friends here that I know would love to do that too, we’ve just never thought to do it! Looking forward to continuing to nourish online friendships as well as in person :) Hugs!

  20. says

    I blogged about this very same thing a year ago, over here: http://everythingtosomeone.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/blogging-as-community.html

    Great minds, right?

    And a slightly different perspective that still makes the same conclusion:
    http://everythingtosomeone.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/facebook-youre-just-doing-it-wrong.html

    Some of my best friends have been made on the internet, before and after marriage and motherhood, and I have met most all of them in person since and because of the net, so the naysayers can shush!

  21. says

    So true…I’m an extrovert with a special needs little one and a very fun 5 year old, many days SM is my community! Thanks for the encouragement ;)

  22. Kate says

    Thank you for saying this. I always see write ups on the horrors of social media’s effects on society, but the truth is that I wouldn’t talk to hardly any adults at all if it weren’t for the net. I am horribly, painfully shy and suffer from anxiety and other mental problem that keep me from making friends in the “real world” or even keeping in touch with family. There’s so much I would like to say about how great social media has been for my life that was once spent in unbearable isolation, but you’ve already said it so well!

  23. Kristen says

    I really loved this post, as it was something I’ve been thinking about quite a bit, and discerning if I should use social media more, or at least more effectively. RIght now I just use Facebook, mostly to keep up with extended family, and read Catholic mom blogs for insight and inspiration on how to pull this gig off, but I don’t think I’ve ever commented one one, so I’m commenting now. In the limited way that use social media, it has been invaluable, not only for sound advise from other moms but it is also wonderful to know that we aren’t the only family that is trying to raise our kids in an authentically Catholic home. That being said, I feel distracted enough, and worry that computer time might take me away from my kids (don’t want to be the mom on Facebook while pushing the kid on the swing). This post is spot on. I’d say more, but my children are stirring. Also Haley, I felt crazy guilty this winter when I parked my children in front of Daniel Tiger for hours while I was pregnancy sick and tired on the couch (oh, no! their brains will turn to mush; i’m the worst!) until I read your post on the subject (yea! not a big deal because they get a little brother!) Thank you for putting that issue in perspective :)

Trackbacks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>