I find myself on Facebook more often than I like to admit. When I’m looking for a distraction at work, a break after a hard day, on my phone after the toddler has fallen asleep and my arm has been commissioned as the pillow. Although I could stand to limit my social media time more, I have found great value in Facebook: it led me to the group of people I lovingly call my ‘village’, who hold similar parenting values and are truly there to support each other through anything and everything. I would not have found this network without the power of the internet, and for that I am grateful.
I am part of many groups on Facebook, some of which have a few thousand members. As such, my Facebook name is a pseudonym. I’ve been surprised quite often at how many people take offense to this and think I’m disingenuous. The thing is, if you meet me in person I immediately tell you my name. My posts and advice and commiseration are as real as it gets. I’m simply just not comfortable in groups of thousands of strangers to post private matters attached to my real identity, lest a coworker discover I’m having period troubles, an acquaintance read about my marital challenges or a distant relative see me vent about family. Of course, I could choose to simply not post about these things at all, but the reality is that there’s a ton of wisdom that can be gleaned from these communities, many times things I would never think of or consider, and I feel restricting myself in this way would be a huge disservice.
Anyway, last week on a mom’s board that I am (was) a part of, a discussion came up around the members’ desires for anonymous posting and why it may be they don’t feel comfortable asking questions. Many people pointed out exactly what I just said: you simply can’t know your audience in a group of that size and so sometimes posting in anonymity allows you to ask the questions you need without the worry of repercussions from your peers. And, as social media threads often do, the post turned into a bit of a heated discussion around how threads were often responded to with negativity and judgement, throwing in a ton of negativity and judgement just for irony’s sake. I contributed that I understood exactly the need for privacy, and then linked my World War Mommy post because it fit with what others were trying to convey. The post was promptly deleted, citing a violation of the terms of the group. When I challenged that because the terms state you can’t self-promote your own business from which you profit and I get absolutely no monetary reward from sharing my blog, I was told I was in multiple violations on the board and promptly removed from the group.
At first, it was a bit of a shock and yes, I was angry. I had indeed shared my blog posts there many times, but had never considered it to be a violation of the terms. I had also never been notified before that day that it was considered a violation anyway (a rule which I likely would’ve disagreed with but still would’ve respected).
Today, I realize it was a blessing. The group didn’t serve me anymore, and hadn’t for a long time. It was the gate way for me finding my village and held some nostalgia for that reason, but I rarely felt nourished from spending time reading the threads. Many, many conversations went sideways there, and I would either get sucked in to constantly refreshing the page to see what had been added or felt so stressed from the tension that I would need to walk away. The group took so much of my time, but almost never in a positive light and had become quite toxic to my soul.
Although it sounds like it, this is truly not a knock against this particular group. Granted, I feel they could benefit from some better communication strategies around their rules and the violations of them, but as a whole they provide a space for mothers to get support and ask questions they might not otherwise have. The problem for me was that it was general parenting group with no specific parenting style focus, which meant that anything goes. My issues with some of the harsher advice were my own. My reaction to the snarkier comments was my own. I can’t blame anyone else for that – I chose to read, I chose to participate and I chose to hang around when I wasn’t gaining anything positive from the experience. I chose to be affected. I chose poorly.
Being kicked out was the best thing that could’ve happened. I was stuck in a rut that I should’ve pulled myself out of long ago. There is little time for negativity and energy-sucks in life, and why I chose to spend so much of it engulfed in that world is beyond me. Time that could’ve been spent in an environment that nurtured my soul, with people that get me and my style of parenting and offer advice in support of that.
The truth is, it’s easy to get distracted by the drama and negativity that is prevalent on the internet. It’s easy to let emotions fly and to spend precious minutes (hours…) arguing with perfect strangers. But where does it get you? Do you walk away from those moments feeling satisfied? And if not (which I suspect is the answer), why do you continue to engage? I couldn’t answer those questions and that should’ve been the first sign that something needed to change.
My village may not be your village. What works for me may not work for you. Maybe the very group I left is the same one that you find great value in. I did once, too. The important thing is that you find that niche that compliments your soul and spend time on that, discarding the rest. Don’t be like me and waste too much precious time focusing on things that no longer work for your life. It detracts from the things that do. It’s okay to acknowledge that something had a time and place in your world, but that time has passed. It’s okay to move on. For your sanity and your well-being, do so. You’ll thank me later.