I’ll admit it, I am a bit of facebook addict. I probably over use it. I am an over-sharer. By personality I am somewhat of an extrovert and I thrive from interaction with others, so facebook is too tempting a place for me not to be. That was especially true during those lonely maternity leave days when I just craved adult interaction. As a Mum it has been a great place, but also occasionally a source of confidence sapping depression, guilt and frustration.
When we are feeling fragile and insecure social media has the ability to lift us up, make us feel comfortable, supported, and happy that we are not alone. But if we are not careful it can also bite, knock us down and make us feel like a kid, bruised and injured in the playground. When we are feeling vulnerable and tired, and let’s face it that happens a lot as a parent, it’s really important we use it in a way that is healthy and productive. I have a few tips about social media in general, which are basically rules I’ve made up for myself. I try to follow them, but admit I do still slip up, despite knowing what is best for me!
- Don’t believe the hype! You know what it’s like…you hop on to check out your timeline and you see so and so having an educational craft morning with little Johnny (craft morning, eek!), or someone else taking their kids on a beautiful walk amongst nature in their new Boden snow suits, or that girl from blah with her son having a home cooked healthy meal they’ve made together, and suddenly you feel rubbish. All you have achieved so far is avoided the older one whacking the little one round the head with a wooden spoon, watched CBeebies solidly for 4 hours straight, avoided a tantrum about a bit of toast being cut the wrong way, and eaten a ready meal pizza….which the kids all hated. What we MUST remember is that these snap shots do not replicate real life. They represent a brief moment in time. 5 mins later they, like you, were probably doing something mind numbingly boring or disgusting, like cleaning sick from the cracks of the car seat, or arguing with their other half. Life is not perfect and social media profiles are usually far off from reality. I know mine is, and I even try to mix up the good with the bad.
- No more late night facebooking/tweeting/researching! My youngest daughter was a TERRIBLE sleeper for the first 18 months of her life. If you watched my recent live chat about it you'll know how bleak it was. She is still not great. During that awful period of no sleep I blamed her (the poor thing!) for my terrible lack of rest. I spent many an evening (when she did finally sleep!) researching all the things that could be wrong with her, or chatting with people online about what it could be. This always happened just before bed. I was so tired I always believed I’d drop off straight away. Wrong! I’d lie awake, thoughts rushing through my mind full of anxiety and stress. She would wake any minute anyway, what is the point of sleeping? It was a horrible, anxiety filled state of mind to be in. What I didn’t attribute to really hindering my sleep was that before bed screen time. It played havoc with my shutting down systems. These days I have a cut off of no screen time 1 or 2 hours before bed, and try to be as strict as I can about it. That includes the TV too! It really has worked wonders in helping me drop off.
- Find the right tribe for you. There are so many groups and forums you can join these days. There will be one (or a few) that is a supportive and healthy environment to be in, but it’s important to find the right one, as many are not. Some can simply make you feel like s**t. I remember reading some posts on social media in some forums from mums having trouble with their baby, who was waking once a night at 8 months old, for example. This was when my baby was 10 months old and waking hourly screaming blue murder. I wanted to strangle the poster. What I’d give to have ONE GODDAM WAKE UP! But I did find a tribe for me. The Sleep Thief Victim Support group, started by “Sleep is for the Weak” blogger Emily-Jane Clark. Here were women with babies of all ages in sleep deprivation hell. I made many friends in that group. We laughed together, cried together, and generally supported each other. It was a group not for advice or judgement, but a group purely for support. It helped me a lot. Another group I joined was ‘The Motherload’. A group for non-judgemental women, supporting each other through the highs and lows of motherhood. Both groups have clear rules and admin will step in if anyone is not following the #dontbeadick ethos (which I LOVE). Research the group before you join, look at the “about” page and check it really is the right group before joining. If you join and it’s not, quietly leave, no harm done. You need to do this to protect your sanity.
- If you don’t agree, scroll on by. Oh my goodness, the number of times I’ve become horribly embroiled in one of those awful facebook “debates” with people you either hardly know or do not know at all. Someone writes something you don’t agree with. You’re exhausted and feeling fed up. You give them your opinon. They write back. It’s begun. Everyone wants the last word. It gets personal. That little notification symbol gives you a little shudder and your heart goes a bit faster each time you see it. Urgh. I’ve been there and done that. I’ve said things I regret. I’m sure I’ve come across as a dick . You write things that can’t easily be taken back. It’s SO NOT HEALTHY! Try not to get involved in things like this, and try not to say anything online that you wouldn’t say to someone in real life, while out in the pub for example….or more likely, at a baby group!
- People don’t post photos of loneliness. Ok that might be a bit dramatic, but it’s true. When you scroll through twitter or facebook or instagram and see all those pictures of friends and acquaintances out partying, or having big family meals, or having play dates with their kids together, all probably through a beautiful filter (who doesn’t love a filter?!) it is easy to think you are missing out. I have done it myself. You start to dwell on how rubbish your social life is. How little you see your extended family. How you never get invited anywhere. But I bet if you have a look at your profile, it tells a different story. People don’t post photos of themselves shoving hobnobs down their neck having FINALLY got the kids to sleep at 9pm on a Saturday night. Or photos of them worrying about how they haven’t spoken to their best friend in weeks, but are feeling too tired to even move to get the remote control for the telly, let alone pick up a phone. But that kind of thing is more often that not going to be the reality.
- Take a break. Social media can be a pretty consuming place. All that information. All those articles to read. So many notifications to respond to. But if we didn’t, just for a weekend for example, would the world fall apart? No. In fact, regular breaks from it are more than likely going to make us feel much healthier and happier. Scientific studies (From The Happiness Research Institute for example) have proven that people who take breaks from social media, or disengage all together are happier. For me, I think the benefits outweigh the negatives. I have met some really good friends on social media, found out about some excellent events and activities, read some really thought provoking articles, and reconnected with some old friends I probably wouldn’t have without it. However, breaks are definitely important. I now try to turn off notifications and log out for a set period of time a week and stick to it. I try and live in the now a little more. It works and the more I do it, the less I miss it.
This blog was written by Sally Bunkham. Founder Mum’s Back, who provide gift hampers for new mums full of (but not exclusively) all the yummy things you’ve not been allowed whilst pregnant. £1 from every hamper goes to PANDAS Foundation to help in their important work supporting families going through perinatal mental health issues. To take advantage of our launch offer click here. We are also running a COMPETITION to win a classic Mum’s Back hamper. UK entries only.