Social Networking Sites and Motherhood

The modern world that we live has come up with a new way for mothers to judge each other and to inflict pain on couples struggling on the road to baby; the social networking site, more commonly known as Facebook to you and me.

Don’t get me wrong, I am an avid user of Facebook, and that is the problem. I fell into the social network trap along with the rest of society, hook, line and sinker. I recently read a newspaper article about women and the phenomenon known as FOMO, or the fear of missing out. Facebook is the ultimate culprit contributing to FOMO, with everyone showcasing how perfect their lives are, and everyone else avidly logging on to check them out and make themselves feel inadequate.

When it comes to pregnancy, conception, giving birth and raising children, Facebook and other similar sites enable women to compare themselves to others like never before. It starts with conception, or the struggle to do so. I personally have been knocked sideways by these pregnancy announcements whilst I struggled to conceive, with each ‘friend’ of mine who posted their news feeling like they were sticking the knife in and twisting it that bit further. Of course, I was happy for them, and everyone should be free to share their news in the manner that they wish. But true friends broke their happy news a bit more gently and a lot more personally than on a social networking site for the world to see with no soft edges or prior warning. Needless to say, some friendships suffered greatly as a result.

Then there is pregnancy. Every picture of burgeoning baby bumps reminded me of my bump that would not grow, of my miscarriages and of our loss. Again, everyone should feel free to share their happiness how they wish, and in hindsight with a rational mind, I should have simply stopped looking. This was my responsibility and I should have taken control. But in my traumatised state of manic anxiety to conceive again, a slightly sado masochistic tendency took over and I could not seem to stop torturing myself with news of my former friends happiness. During my third pregnancy, we did not announce anything on Facebook, partly due to the paralysing fear that it would not work out this time either, and partly as my Facebook account has many ‘friends’ whom I do not even really know anymore, and I didn’t want to share this personal news with every random acquaintance I had. I told those in my life that mattered until it became obvious and impossible to hide, and the news only made it to Facebook when friends and family posted photos or made comments during my third trimester.

Birth and child rearing seemed to be another mine field altogether. Women cannot help comparing themselves to other women and being self critical in response. The status updates and photos of seemingly perfect births did little to improve my self esteem while hobbling around after my c section, hooked up to a catheter for days and unable to even shower myself. Again, why did I keep looking at the site? A modern addiction perhaps, or maybe I really am a fan of torturing myself, but I know I am not alone. Photos of contented, joyous mothers enjoying days out with their off spring do little to assuage the guilt of a mother soon to be returning to work, and force the neurotic side of ourselves to ask; am I spending enough time with my child?

Of course, none of these issues are really the fault of Facebook, I could always stop looking. But I am afraid I am a product of the technology savvy age we live in and have been suckered in along with the majority of the rest of the population. I don’t have the will power to stop checking out other people’s lives and I don’t have the ability yet to stop comparing myself to others. I guess if we all had that ability, Facebook wouldn’t have over 900 million active monthly users and Mark Zuckerberg wouldn’t be worth billions of dollars, would he?

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