What If Facebook Makes Me a Better Mom?

Facebook gets a lot of bad rap. It’s a time sucker, they say, and screen time is no substitute for face time. “Liking” a status doesn’t mean we have talked. Social media is a poor substitute for social life, yadda yadda.

I feel the danger of Facebook. I know it is easier to sometimes watch my screen refresh than to watch my kids build towers. Handsfree Mama is quick to point out how social media is making me a worse Mom.

But on most days, with a little responsibility and care taken not to spend too much time on there, I think I’m a better Mom because I’m on Facebook. Not because of Facebook per se, but because online I belong to a community of encouraging, funny, wise friends – who commiserate, advise, cheer and laugh me through this journey.

I spend most of my day in the presence of three small kids, with no adults around. Facebook gives me another adult to share moments of eye-rolling hilarity:

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See those ‘likes’ and ‘comments’? They made this stay-at-home mama feel she was in the company of friends. I enjoyed my daughters’ wisecrack more for having laughed with others.

On the days when I fail my attempts to scale Laundry Mountain, Facebook allows me to relish the silliness of my vocation:

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On days when we’re quarantined by strep throat and I’m at my wits’s end, Facebook funnels the voice of my resourceful Pinteresty friends right into my kitchen, brimming with great ideas and encouraging words:

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My FB community saved that day. And the day after it. And the day after that: with creative ideas and prayers for health and words of encouragement – they send reinforcements of the very best kind.

Facebook has been a lifeline to stay in touch with people I love. It allows me to share proud mommy moments with my family abroad. It has been the means for finding last minute baby-sitters, new homes for less-loved toys and clothes, a reference for a new pediatrician.

In a world where I seldom get to talk to friends for long enough to find out what they’re reading and thinking, Facebook is a medium where friends post articles that keep me afloat as a Mommy: things that remind me we’re not alone, pieces with tips on colicky babies, posts that remind me that breastfeeding needs to be encouraged.

In an insular world where the immediate needs of my children often eclipse the urgent needs of justice, broader-minded friends on FB post links to articles that remind me to pray, to think, to give, to show mercy.

I believe I am a better Mommy because of the community of wise and wonderful people whose presence online is a representation of their presence in my life. Their thoughts, links, comments and prayers shape and encourage me in the long days of parenting.

Being a Mom can be lonely work. I sometimes need to be heard. I sometimes need to listen. Facebook brings a listening ear and words of perspective, council, reflection and humor from every corner of my world right into my living room – and I’m thankful for the “village”. We help each other keep things in perspective.

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A wise man once said that there was a time for every activity under heaven. A time to gather sticks, and a time to scatter them. A time to mourn and to dance.

I think when it comes to Mommying, for me there’s a time for both: a time to switch off the screens and look my children in the eye and snuggle and read books and play baseball. But there’s also time for that community of friends whose company and counsel is virtually indispensible. And yes, pun intended.

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Three cheers for the sisterhood.
Three cheers for sharing life.
And three cheers for Facebook, if you ask me.

This post is day 25 of my 31 Days of Belonging writing challenge – another crazy community of bloggers I electively BELONG to 🙂 For a complete list of posts (with my favorites marked), click here.

Share your story. Change the world.

I am a small-time writer with a small-time blog, but recently I posted a piece that got really big really fast. I had been scared to post it. I was scared because it was personal. I was scared because it was political.

I posted it anyway, thinking “well, it won’t make much difference anyway. It’s just my little story,” but I could not have been more wrong. People responded to my story with comment after comment and email after email about how hearing an individual’s story had helped theme to see “the other side” of the debate for the first time, how the personal had cut through the rhetoric. My story encouraged others in turn to write and tell me their stories of how they have suffered under immigration laws. Hearing my story apparently opened up compassion in people who had not ever thought compassionately on the topic before. Sharing my story put a social justice issue on people’s hearts in a way that it had not been before.

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Story telling has great power to effect change – great change – far beyond what politics or philosophy could possibly do. I think stories are powerful for three reasons in particular:

1. Stories are disarming.

In a world where opinions are thrown at us day in and day out, our natural tendency

is to keep ourselves braced against the onslaught of ideas and words. We read the news with our defenses at the ready. We listen to speeches with our BS-meters finely tuned.

A story, however, does not demand our attention or allegiance. It is an offering of one person’s life and point of view: it does not threaten, it does not demand change. It simply tells. Our generation values being heard, and so when people speak from the heart – we listen. A story can reach the places of the heart, places we generally keep shielded from politicians and activists.

 

  1. Stories cut through bias.

Our natural tendency is to sort people into categories: like us, and not like us. Our inherent bias finds it easy to regard those in our camp as being individuals, unique and distinct. On the flipside of that coin, we tend to believe that all those “in that camp” are all one way. We make these generalizations because it helps us sort through issues of identity, it is our natural sorting hat for classifying, understanding and articulating difference in the world. However, the dangerous side of our natural coping mechanism is that we always carry a set of beliefs about what “they” are like.

The power of the story of just one person is that it breaks open the “they” category, and reminds us of all the individuals in “that camp”. It allows us to feel compassion and empathy for those who are “not like us”, because for the first time the story reminds us that in some way, that person is a lot like us.

3. Stories allow us to choose our response.

In their ground-breaking book “Half the Sky”, Nicholas D Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn challenged readers to respond to three specific social justice issues which affect women world wide. They had an armory of statistics and facts at their disposal, yet they chose to make their appeal by telling specific stories about individual women impacted by each plight.

Our brains cannot process facts like “there are 2 million sex slaves in the world right now”. We can, however, hear and understand the story of Suryesh, kidnapped from her family at 10, beaten by thugs and raped repeatedly each day until she submitted to the brothel owner. Big campaigns and huge numbers overwhelm us. We become immobilized by the enormity of the task, and change seems impossible. However, the story of one gives us a non-threatened space to respond: I cannot save 2 million, but I can make a difference to Suryesh.

Stories have the power to reach and to mobilize people far beyond the reach of politicians and power-mongers. In the quest for social justice then, here are two very powerful things you can do:

 

First: Share Your Story

The personal is political. If you have a story to tell, be brave and tell it. Tell your story of how your friend’s family got deported. Tell the story about the high school kids you work with and the things they go through. Tell your story about the poverty you’ve seen, the prejudices you’ve suffered, the abortion you went through. Share your story of loss, of mistakes made, of learning to hope through adversity. There is healing in the telling, and there is also healing for the hearers. Sharing your thoughts, your fears, your hurts can do far more to reach hearts than you might imagine.

 

Second: Share Someone Else’s Story.

By “share” here I don’t mean tell someone else’s secrets, I mean “share” in the internet sense of the word. I have a few dozen readers of my blog, a relatively small group of people who could hear my story. What made the story BIG was not so much my sharing, but that readers shared the story again and again. Every “like”, every “tweet”, every link emailed across the globe passed the story further and further. I shared my story with 200 people. A week later, it had been read by thousands.

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Social media (used well) can allow us to do impactful work for for building bridges, for bringing understanding, for furthering social justice. Every click of a mouse sends a story’s ripple a little further into the pond, and allows that story to do it’s disarming, awareness-raising, compassion-building, change-bringing work.

Of course, the power of stories should not come as a surprise to us. The Great Storyteller Himself chose stories to teach, to rebuke, to illustrate, to challenge. He chose the gospels, four stories of His life, to be the means by which we see the face of the eternal and invisible God. And he chose us to tell His story, a story which, once heard, shapes people’s eternal destinies.

Share a story. Change the world.

 

You might also like this story: The pair at the door….