Brain Leaks: Parenthood On Facebook — Pt 1 — Free Therapy
I bet you $10 that today you saw a “cute baby” photo or a parenting-related status update on your Facebook News Feed wall. Maybe your old friend from High School was posing with her newborn in the hospital, or her status update revealed her interest in cloth diapers.
Parents these days think nothing of sharing the most intimate details from their home life with their wide network of friends. Estranged pals who haven’t seen each other in years will know what each other’s kids had for breakfast this morning. And we’re all OK with that; it feels totally normal, doesn’t it?
This post isn’t about privacy — if you’re not familiar with your Facebook privacy settings by now, God help you. No, this post is about being on Facebook and being a parent. The question I’m presenting isn’t if one is affecting the other — they most definitely are. My question is, beyond the statistics, how is Facebook tangibly changing parent behavior and why?
Over the next few days, I’ll be releasing a series of posts on the ways that the construct of Parenthood is being affected by living life on Facebook.
1. Misery Loves Company: Free “Bebe’s Kids” Therapy
Don’t front — sometimes your little one acts like an obnoxious hellion. Thirty years ago, mothers didn’t have a place to vent where they could receive instant feedback and support, wherever they happened to be. They had to suck it up and take lots of valium.
True, they could meet up with friends for lunch or call someone, but sometimes (especially in today’s uber-connected world) you DON’T WANT physical human interaction to get through a bad head space. You want validation & empathy, yes — having to actually go meet someone, no. Unlike the oppressed/Internet-lacking moms of yesteryear, today’s parents can go to Facebook for all the unlicensed counseling they could ever want.
Facebook gives you free reign to spill any grievance, anytime, and then check back later for any kind words or “Likes.”
Facebook as free therapy in the battle of the (very much loved) brats seems to be a crucial tool in many a parent’s arsenal.
Parents have been using the internet as a forum for commiserating and knowledge-sharing long before Facebook came along; there are LiveJournal communities, private Nings and Yahoo groups — all devoted to the topic of discipline.
What Facebook offers that these old school networks did not was that “instant/everywhere” factor, along with the ability to scan and receive multiple doses of input all at once. Sometimes a “Like” feels just as good as a comment, doesn’t it?
So what happens on the days when Facebook is down, or you can’t access it for whatever reason? How does it affect you to not be able to diffuse your “kid’s acting up again” stress through status updates or wall distractions?
How much do you miss your friends’ relatively instant advice and words of encouragement through your phone/home computer?
I think that ultimately only you really know yourself, and if you feel really freaked out when you can’t run to Facebook to vent about a discipline issue, what does that mean for you? What does it mean for your kids and partner?
CHALLENGE: Try to spend one week off of Facebook. Keep a diary of each day and the amount of times you wanted to post something about your child’s behavior and what you did instead to deal with the stress. Write down how you felt not being able to post, and how you felt using your alternative method to reduce stress. It’s your mind and body — you should be aware of how technology (and reducing access to it) affects your mental state.
What’s the point? Control over your own mind.
How many times could you have dealt with the situation directly instead of complaining about it on Facebook? Did complaining about it on FB actually make the problem go away, or did it just temporarily set your mind at ease when someone posted sympathy in return?
What could come out of this is an opportunity to teach yourself a NEW way to connect with your kids and your partner, working together on resolving the issue, rather than just venting about it over and over again. The worst that could happen out of this experiment is you get really stressed out and nothing changes.
BUT… then, at least you would know how much you rely on Facebook for your parenthood piece of mind, and perhaps this could be the key to identifying what triggers you at home.
Acknowledging repeating issues is the first step to resolving them, right?
Share your thoughts in the comments.
This is the first in a series of posts on how Facebook is changing the way that new parents share information about their experience and how Facebook is changing the way people parent.
Disclosure: I am not a licensed therapist or “Parenting Expert.” I am a transmedia professional and I observe human nature. Most importantly (to me), I plan on having a child next year and am sharing my thoughts as part of my journey.