I first got on the social media train when my oldest child joined, with the goal of stalking her account and guiding her with my great maternal wisdom. I expanded my presence on other platforms when I started writing the blog a year ago.
I was anti-social media for years. I was happy with the number of people in my life and didn’t really need to drum up more social interaction for myself with people outside my circle.
I admit that I now see the value of social media and have seen articles, quotes, and hilarious videos I would not have seen without it. I also see the danger in social media, for mental health and for getting news from an echochamber, where the algorithms are set to send you more of what you like and you’re rarely exposed to contrary opinions or thoughts. (I highly recommend watching The Social Dilemma if you haven’t).
With regard to parenting, social media offers opportunities to feel heard, to have community, to get advice and ask for guidance. It’s a bottomless pit of information that can help inspire you to be a better parent or to realize “at least I’m not that bad of a parent!”
Just like people in every other stage of life, however, social media can give whitewashed, airbrushed images of our parenting lives. On my personal page, I never post photos of my children stomping off in anger, fighting with each other, struggling to find their footing. It’s cute to post those photos of toddlers tantruming because we all know toddlers tantrum. But teenagers tantruming? Adults tantruming? That’s not so cute.
I have been thinking lately that working in healthcare is like the opposite of social media. Instead of seeing people in their finest moments, healthcare workers often see people when they’re not at their best. Sometimes patients come in because of a simple sore throat or easily fixed medical issue. But daily we also see the common thread of human vulnerability, and it weighs heavily.
People post beautiful newborn photos as they become parents. But I have yet to meet a parent who brings home a newborn and feels 100% confident in their new role. And no parenting journey is completely smooth. The bumps in the road and backsteps are all part of the journey. Parenting is not for the weak-hearted. We are all struggling at times and praying we don’t screw up these young humans in our care.
We all know how to smile and present our best selves to the world. We wake up, shower, brush our hair and put on clean clothes. We pass people in the grocery store and, in response to their asking how we are, respond “fine,” or “pretty good.” But people are struggling this year. So if you are struggling, know that you are not alone.
People are dealing with difficulties with learning, family relationships, illness, death, and despair. We are all vulnerable and susceptible to hard times. So be kind to each other. Know that the person smiling on social media with her perfect family is also hurting or will be hurting at some point.
The same day this week that one of my friends told me, “I feel like we’re the only family falling apart,” I got in my car to drive home and heard an old R.E.M. tune from 1992, the year I graduated from high school and stumbled into adulthood. At 18 years old, this wasn’t my favorite song from R.E.M. But with almost 30 more years of life experience, the lyrics get to me. Remember this one? “Everybody Hurts.”
When your day is long
And the night, the night is yours alone
When you’re sure you’ve had enough
Of this life, well hang on
Don’t let yourself go
‘Cause everybody cries
Everybody hurts sometimes
Sometimes everything is wrong
Now it’s time to sing along
When your day is night alone (hold on, hold on)
If you feel like letting go (hold on)
If you think you’ve had too much
Of this life, well hang on
‘Cause everybody hurts
Take comfort in your friends
Don’t throw your hand, oh no
Don’t throw your hand
If you feel like you’re alone
No, no, no, you are not alone
If you’re on your own in this life
The days and nights are long
When you think you’ve had too much
Of this life to hang on
Well, everybody hurts sometimes
Everybody hurts, sometimes
And everybody hurts sometimes
So hold on, hold on
Hold on, hold on, hold on,
Hold on, hold on, hold on