In being part of the generation that is fully immersed in the evolution of social networking, I can say with confidence that having information, in many different forms across many different mediums, readily available at any given second, is a struggle, at least for me.
Parenting, or just living in general, in the age of social media reminds me of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s line from The Great Gatsby, “I like large parties. They are so intimate. At small parties, there isn’t any privacy.” And, this can be interpreted in many ways – all relatable.
When in attendance at a large party, you can sort of mix in and be easily influenced to follow the crowd. You might be swayed into doing something you wouldn’t do if you are alone or in a smaller group. You can be anonymous. You don’t necessarily need to speak, or if you want to speak, you may not be heard. At a small party, you’re exposed. You are forced to be comfortable and confident in yourself. You are known; you can speak and be heard. You may question yourself. We are more vulnerable in smaller groups.
Social media is the large party.
I actually think social platforms are pretty great. I love staying connected with friends and family across the world. I like being up to date on local events, and I am proud when people post about their accomplishments and share photos of their children, pets, and projects they are working on. I have made real-life friends through certain local “mom” groups and have found it comforting to commiserate with fellow moms at different stages of parenting.
Here’s the thing, though: it’s a slippery slope.
It’s easy to question everything you do because of something you see or read on your timeline. It is easy to feel judged in that “large party” space. It is easy to fall down rabbit holes and believe opinions on parenting practices, or anything for that matter, to be facts. We seem to have entered a world where there is no grey area; it’s a lot of, “Well, this is the way I do it, so your way is wrong,” and that is just not how it works. We are so ready to be influenced in the social media realm or influence, probably because we do have that level of anonymity.
Sometimes it is a good idea to step away.
My use of social media is ever-changing. I go through periods where I don’t scroll, and I strictly look at pages that serve me in a positive way. Currently, I keep it light-hearted in terms of what I share: funny stories, joyful pictures, and promoting local businesses. I also like to keep it real; I, in no way, shape or form, have everything figured out, and I never want anyone to get an impression of me on social media that does not accurately represent who I am in real life. There is a fine line between reality and the illusion of reality.
This year, I found on Instagram some amazing educational accounts. Sharon McMahon (@sharonsaysso) has taught me so much. The most important lessons: to have heavy conversations in person, to listen, choose words wisely, how to differentiate between bias and lies, and firmly understanding I will never be an expert on ALL things.
The older I get, the more I learn to trust myself and remember there is always room for growth. Not one of us on this earth knows everything. I trust experts in reality and take a lot of what I read on social media with a grain of salt.
My husband and I always teach our children that the world is theirs to discover. They are not confined to the small space they take up. We encourage them to ask questions, learn as much as possible, and how to use logic. Unlike us, the kids don’t remember a time before social media.