It was another long weekend. I was trying to shake a cold that the kids and I had been passing back and forth for at least two weeks. They were slap-happy, I was feverish, and we were all going a little stir crazy. We needed an intervention.
And where does the modern mom go when they need support, a sanity check, or new leggings? Facebook.
“What’s on your mind?”
Throwing discretion and propriety pretty much to the wind I wrote: Looking for someone, pretty much anyone, to come amuse the heathens so that I can wash my hair and drink tea while it’s still hot. Local applicants only. –feeling filthy, phlegmy, and mildly pathetic.
Needless to say, the response was underwhelming. A few likes, some loves, a couple of crying faces, and some person who thought I was joking. And the comments: “If only I lived closer.” “Have kids, they said. It’ll be fun, they said.” “Sending thoughts and prayers.”
But, despite the sadness of my plea, no one appeared at my door with a vat of chicken soup, a Nyquil IV, and the contents of the Disney vault.
They saw me, they heard me
Yet, I felt better. No longer was I totally alone on the island of despair, surrounded by two small half-naked, chocolate-smeared cannibals chasing me with empty paper towel rolls. Not anymore.
Everything seemed a little brighter, more hopeful, because I had a tribe of my own. They saw me, they heard me, and even if they were completely powerless to do anything to change my immediate situation, they sent their love. It may be the first and only time where saying “thoughts and prayers” actually did something.
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How Facebook can harm
In recent years, there have been approximately two billion studies done about the potentially harmful effects of social media. Some of the problems have to do with the compulsion to constantly scroll, scroll, scroll. But another major factor, as the Harvard Business Review notes, has to do with how social media makes us feel, especially when we (inevitably) compare ourselves to others in our networks:
“Self-comparison can be a strong influence on human behavior, and because people tend to display the most positive aspects of their lives on social media, it is possible for an individual to believe that their own life compares negatively to what they see presented by others.”
The case for telling the truth on Facebook
This is part of why whenever the almighty Zuckerberg asks me how I’m feeling, I try to tell the truth. Not because his algorithms should see into my very soul, but because those ones and zeros connect me — across time and space — to my people. And sometimes, you may not even fully know who your people are until you’ve opened up.
By sharing what’s really going on, you might also make someone else out there feel a little less alone. Even when it’s ugly. Even when it sucks. Even when it might even seem a little selfish to share the truth.
Okay, maybe not every single truth
Now, I’m not advocating that we all start posting every truth (ugly or other) about ourselves on social media. I don’t need anyone tweeting every single omelette they’ve cooked at me, no matter how proud they are of it. I’m not in the least bit curious about your new rash from biking or whether you made out with that sketchy guy you met swing dancing. (Okay, maybe I do want to know that last one.)
What I am saying is that social media shouldn’t be defined solely by the political rant or the humblebrag. We can go beyond the duck faces and the amazing vacations to plumb the depths of our interpersonal relationships. It doesn’t have to be one or the other.
Why? Because if the people on our friends list really are our friends, they know us well enough to get it. They see us for who we really are — and they love us anyway. Anyone who says otherwise is probably a fake news site.
As for that long weekend? With a little Chinese delivery, a few (dozen) viewings of Moana, and quite possibly all the tea, we made it through. Once the storm had passed, you can bet I was right back on Facebook, sharing uncomfortably funny pieces from McSweeney’s and hilarious quotes from the spawn — who really are much less scary once they’ve had some fruit snacks.
Amelia Cohen-Levy earned her MFA from American University. Her work has appeared in Pathfinder, Moment Magazine, The Nervous Breakdown, and elsewhere. She loves ferns, but is unable to keep them alive.