Social media can be a wonderful tool for new mothers. From providing parents with a sense of community to staying in contact with distant family members, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds can give mothers the support they need. Unfortunately, social media can also be detrimental, and provide additional (not to mention constant) ways society can be offensive to new mothers.
In fact, the dark side of the Internet isn't lost on many parents, as many caretakers end up banning their kids from social media for fear it will be more hurtful than helpful. So, why don't we do the same thing for ourselves? Why don't we protect our mental, emotional, and even physical wellbeing, and take a break from social media when it is no longer being a supportive tool?
Maybe it's because we have been taught that taking care of ourselves isn't as important as looking the part of someone who has it all together. Nothing says, "I'm not at my best," like ghosting from social media. I'm not saying that backing away isn't very often a sign of actually having great mental health, but to the judgey masses out there, there's something wrong with us — like, how frail and frantic must we be if we can't even deal with Facebook? At least, that's what we're worried people will think if we step away.
Or perhaps we keep engaging online because we are so focused on everyone else (family, friends, acquaintances, etc) that we forget to stop and look inward, to assess if staying in contact with specific people is really beneficial or healthy. Either way, we need to start consistently reminding ourselves that in no way are we obligated to remain in constant contact with the world. Every social media account has an "off" button, so-to-speak, and we all should feel more comfortable using it when we need to.
Here are nine ways social media makes new mothers feel like absolute sh*t, because the internet isn't all rainbows and roses. If you feel like you're social media experience dangerously relates, maybe it's time to take a break.
You're Open To Constant, Unsolicited Advice
It's easy for social media users to consider themselves "experts," even when they're, well, not. Much of the unsolicited advice mothers receive are securely tied to the best of intentions, but it doesn't make that advice any more insensitive, unnecessary, or (sometimes) downright rude. When a new mother is constantly being bombarded with little nuggets of wisdom — usually by multiple people who all have their own ways of parenting — it can be overwhelming. A new mother needs to be supported when she asks for it, but she also needs the room and space to figure out what works best for her and her new family.
You Often See Passive-Aggressive Comments/Posts
Passive-aggressive tendencies rule the internet. The round-about way of dealing with differences can be so damn hurtful. There's really no other way to say it. When you know someone on Facebook or Twitter has an issue with the way you parent or the choices you're making and, instead of speaking with you directly or just remembering that everyone has their own way of doing things, they post or comment something that is aimed at you, but not directed to you, you may or may not want to go slightly insane.
Filters, Filters, Filters
Social media is a filtered version of reality. While I'm not quick to jump on the "social media is completely fake" bandwagon (because I don't think it is) social media can be an altered version of what is really happening. So often, we only see the perfect, blemish-free, completely happy highlight reel of people's lives online. This can leave us feeling less than, because there is no filter for our day-to-day, hour-to-hour lives.
Anonymous Trolls Are Always Waiting
Trolls are everywhere, hiding under their internet bridges, just waiting to make someone feel like dog poo for absolutely no reason, other than (I'd venture to guess) they have a few things missing from their lives. I mean, I don't know their life, but...I'm just sayin'. Sometimes it is easy to ignore them, other times it seems impossible, and no one needs to be dealing with that, let alone a new mom who literally ain't got time for that.
There's A Forced Sense Of Competition/Comparison
Whether we're aware of it or not, constant social media posts can foster a pervasive sense of competition, even among people who love and support each other (in theory). When parents see others consistently post updates on their successes or latest trip or their three storied house or their happy baby who can miraculously walk at five months old, it's difficult not to feel like you're in a race you didn't sign up for.
You Never Get The Entire Picture
Even the perfect, unfiltered picture is just a snapshot of a larger, ongoing masterpiece. One moment in time may appear flawless, but just seconds before the photo was snapped, babies were probably crying and a mother was at her breaking point and someone had just accidentally broken something expensive. But because we don't see those other moments, we start to believe that when we experience them for ourselves, there's something wrong.
It Seems Like Everyone Is Skinny
As long as your body is healthy, it shouldn't matter what it looks like, but it does (for some). When you're recently postpartum and you don't feel like you recognize your body and you're convinced that you'll never fit into a pair of your pants again, it's difficult to look at pictures of your fabulously fit (or expertly angled) friends and not want to drown yourself in a box of Oreos. It can be...very toxic.
Nothing You Do Feels Like Enough
Because everyone is free to share their lives on social media, it's difficult to remember that those lives are very different from yours, with varying circumstances.
So, when you have a great day and you feel accomplished — your babes are still alive and you didn't pull your hair out today! — only to see another mother who went to the grocery store, went to work, had craft time with her children, cleaned, and organized a fundraiser all while making organic baby food and a four-course meal, it's difficult to keep yourself from feeling inferior.
It's Easy To Forget What Really Matters
Social media is an extension and expression of our lives, so I'm not going to sit here and say that it doesn't matter. It's how we connect and communicate with one another, and that can be vital, life-changing and nothing short of wonderful.
But proving that we have it together, know what we're doing, are super happy all the damn time, and that we're the mom everyone assumes we are or thinks we should be, is not what matters. What matters is that we are building the lives we want, for ourselves and for our family, and are happy with the reality we've created. If social media works against that goal, then social media can go kick rocks.