A while ago, I was out running errands when I ran into a guy I used to work with a long ways back. Since I didn’t have my kid with me, we got to talking. When he asked to see a photo of my son, I apologized and said I only had them on my phone. At this he exclaimed that no one ever carries real pictures in their wallet anymore, which turned into a conversation about our reliance on computers and social networking in particular.
My friend had recently heard some comments that bestselling author Jonathan Franzen made against Twitter, calling it “the ultimate irresponsible medium.” He agreed, saying we are so caught up in social networking that we forget to interact with real people. It alienates and separates us, he said, and today’s society is suffering for it.
I disagreed, and still do. Let me tell you why. As a new mother, social networking (especially Facebook) was the glue that held my sleep-deprived, hormone-drenched sanity together. A couple of new mama friends and I would send each other Facebook messages at 2, 3, and 4 in the morning almost every night when our kids were tiny, commiserating about our lack of sleep, trading tips on breastfeeding, and generally providing each other with support.
Once our kids were a few months old and I could think straight again, I decided to create a Facebook group for my new mom friends. It was instantly a big hit, and even now that our kids are toddlers — some of the girls are even on their second babies! — we still post regularly to make plans or just get support when life is not going our way. I’ve even gotten closer to some ladies I barely know in real life, as it has enabled us to bypass the logistical hijinks required by setting up a playdate or even a phone conversation.
Also, Facebook allows me to share photos and anecdotes about my growing boy with friends and family both near and far. My in-laws quickly figured out that this was the best way to see new photos of the kid, and now even my 70-something mother-in-law checks Facebook regularly for new updates. I have people tell me all the time how much they love seeing his pictures on Facebook, and often get compliments on my status updates, too. So rather than alienating me from my loved ones, social networking has brought us much closer during a period in my life where I simply don’t have the time or energy to send out personalized updates to everyone.
Jonathan Franzen notwithstanding, I think social media plays an important role in our society, not only as new parents but as one big widespread family. What do you think? How has social media helped you stay connected during your parenting experience?