Is social media a blessing or a curse when it comes to parenting?
Have you ever found yourself looking towards social media to seek support in your parenting?
Social media can be a blessing when it comes to normalising how we feel as parents. We can see that others are struggling too and that we are not alone.
We can see that others enjoy their children and the journey into parenthood and that all is not bad and difficult. This can be helpful to ground us on those difficult days.
We can connect with like-minded people. Not having a village to raise your children can be hard and we can draw strength from what we see on social media.
Is it all perfect though?
It can also be a curse as with social media comes comparison and the constant relentless stream of information can make us feel overwhelmed. We risk judging ourselves really harshly.
Some of the information out there can be inflammatory and damaging. This is true for mothers and fathers, and particularly for mothers who are prone to judgement and having to live by pre-conceived rules and expectations when it comes to conceiving, being pregnant, giving birth, breastfeeding, raising children and being a mother, in general.
Sleeplessness, high levels of vulnerability, tiredness and general sense of “making it up as we go along” fuel the tendency to compare and judge ourselves. This only leads to increased feelings of inadequacy, and failure and this is often unhelpful.
When we compare ourselves to others, we lose our own sense of compass and it can feel disorientating to know whether we are doing the right thing by our own children or not.
It’s not always what it looks
It’s worth remembering that a lot of the information that is portrayed on social media is very well curated and not always true to the reality of life, which is far more complex and nuanced.
And whilst we know this logically, when we feel vulnerable and exposed, it is hard to remember to cast a critical eye over what we see on social media. We are desperately trying to clutch onto some perfect image and perfect expectations in the hope that it will make the reality of entering parenthood a little less difficult.
And here is the paradox. The more we resist the acceptance that the reality is not always perfect and well curated, the more we miss out on the few moments of calm and contentment.
How can I help myself be more mindful when using social media?
So, how can we be more mindful and only take what we need from the blessing that is social media?
Next time you are looking through social media think about how the posts make you feel.
Do you feel inadequate or a failure? Do they inspire you?
Do they bring the best out of you?
Do you find yourself comparing to them, even when you are offline?
Is it an account that you want to continue to follow?
Mindful scrolling: Before you open the app, consider your intentions.
Think about what you want to do on social media at that time and why.
Is it to see what others are doing? Connect with a friend? Change who you follow? Share your own thoughts? Find out information about a project of yours?
Stick to your intentions by being present. Use the search function as much as you need in order to get your information.
Set some time aside to specifically interact with your friends and family on social media.
If you have nothing to nice to say, say nothing at all. Close the app and move on. It’s a good rule to remember to filter out negative comments. You don’t need to respond to them.
Quite importantly, give yourself time to practice all of the above. You might not be able to achieve all of it at once.
But how do you know if an account you are following is helpful to you?
If you are unsure of whether a message is positive or helpful you can ask yourself these questions:
· Who created this message?
· What is their motivation?
· Who benefits from this message?
· Whose voice is excluded from this message?
These questions are not exclusive but they will help you to think through what is helpful for you or not.
And finally seek out accounts that help to normalise the challenges of parenting or provide information that is up-to-date and accurate. Here is some example Instagram accounts that I think are positive, hopeful, and realistic:
If you are interested in the subject of social media and why it can be so addictive, check out my blog here.
If you would like to get in touch to talk about your feelings and your role as a parent, please get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org