My kids were born right around the time social media exploded on the scene. I remember threatening my husband that he’d be a dead man if he posted sweaty pictures of me panting on the birthing table. However, after we brought our babies home, Facebook became a lifesaver.
It was so easy to post pictures of my son’s first genuine smile or videos of his silly giggle to all of my friends and family at once. It didn’t require a million individual texts, and their instant feedback really kept me going those first few sleepless months. When I got up to nurse my babies in the middle of the night, Facebook kept me entertained. I loved being able to connect with other new moms going through the same experiences. In fact, I was grateful to connect with anyone at all.
See, I live 1,000 miles from my family. Facebook really helped to shrink the distance between us, and I didn’t feel so far away. My parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins, and friends told me often that they appreciated the pictures and videos of my kids on Facebook because they felt like they could still watch them grow up, despite the distance. Knowing that made my heart happy and I continued to be diligent about posting pictures of my kids.
I remember visiting my in-laws one weekend and raving about how convenient social media was for exhausted new mothers. Babies aren’t the greatest at keeping quiet, so meaningful phone calls were rare. While texting was nice and easy, not too many people appreciated a 3:00 a.m. text.
I offered to help my mother-in-law set up an account so that she would be able to see and hear about her grandkids on a more regular basis. She frowned and told me she wasn’t interested in Facebook. She didn’t want the whole world knowing her business. I explained the privacy options, and that she could set up her account in a way that only certain people had access to her page. I told her she didn’t have to answer any of the questions about demographics and that she didn’t have to post any pictures. She didn’t have to post updates or comment on other people’s statuses if she didn’t want to. She could use Facebook solely as a way to view pictures and videos of her grandkids.
Sadly, her answer was still no. She said it shouldn’t be that hard for me to pick up the phone and call or send texts to keep in touch. My spirits were a bit crushed.
Fast-forward 12 years and my kids are tweens now. I am still on Facebook, and post regularly. I still have family and friends who thank me for allowing them to watch my kids grow up from a distance. When we get together, it doesn’t seem like much time has passed because they’ve been in the loop the whole time. When they call my kids to chat, they are able to ask about soccer, scouts, piano, art club, or the most recent trip we’ve taken. They are connected and Facebook has played a big role in that.
When we visit my in-laws, the connection is noticeably different. Something is missing. They don’t know about the day-in, day-out details of my kids’ lives. They know the big things, of course, but it’s the little events that reveal the bigger picture. I’ve asked if they would like to join Facebook but their answer is still no. I’ve tried to accept this, but it disappoints me because I feel like they have chosen to miss out on so much regarding their grandkids.
I have tried, repeatedly, to put myself in their shoes as grandparents. Would I create a Facebook account if it meant being able to see pictures of my grandkids on a regular basis? In a heartbeat. Would I put aside my own feelings about social media and oblige because I didn’t want to miss out? Absolutely. I can’t think of a reason not to. At the end of the day, social media isn’t without its drawbacks, but it’s been what’s helped me keep in touch with my friends and (most of) my family despite the 1,000 miles between us.
I just wish my in-laws felt the same way.