There’s been a lot of buzz lately about how social media connections are a lousy replacement for “real life” friendships. People argue that texting has become a cop-out for high-quality, face-to-face interactions. It has been said that too many people are opting to email instead of talk, send Facebook messages instead of getting together, and spend more time in front of a screen than in the physical company of friends and loved ones.
Well. We’re here today to say — get real, folks. In the world of potty training, temper tantrums, the ever-sacred naptime, and power struggles — over everything from the lumpy socks to the request for one more episode of Dora to the refusal to eat anything that isn’t beige — that’s easier said than done for most moms.
Enter online friendships. Yeah, yeah, we know — chatting online is no replacement for actual time spent with friends. But as motherhood has proven to both of us time and time again, you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit. Some connections — even the so-called “not real life” internet ones — are better than none. We’d all love to have harmonious playdates at Starbucks while our well-behaved offspring sit politely in their chairs, daintily eating their petite vanilla scones while their mamas gab over lattes. We’d give anything for those daily, weekly, or hell, we’d take monthly at this point, Happy Hours with girlfriends. But let’s be honest — many days we’re unshowered, in our sweat pants, and a small person has just used our hair in lieu of a tissue. Ain’t nobody got time for mom-dates! But that doesn’t mean moms don’t get lonely or crave connection.
The world of social media and blogs has made it easer than ever for isolated moms to reach out. In fact, there are some ways in which online friendships are even better than real life ones, in addition to the obvious convenience factor. For one, you never meet her kid(s), so there’s no way they can annoy the crap out of you. Come on, admit it, we all have that friend whose kid is totally annoying. Online friends are also great at assuming the best and stroking our fragile, self-doubting mom-egos. They’re quick to point out your cleverness and how stunning you look in your profile picture. (Online friends never have to behold the wonder of PigPen Mommy.)
But there are certain DOs and DON’Ts to making online mom friends. Because we have so much experience in this area, thanks to our own online camaraderie, we thought we’d share our wisdom with you:
DO become a mini-stalker. If she has a blog (doesn’t everyone?) make sure and peruse her “Favorite Books” page and comment enthusiastically on her great taste. Or like her Facebook updates, chiming in with your own similar woes/triumphs.
But DON’T go crazy with it. Nothing says “creepy” like the same person liking all your photos from two years ago the day after you friend them.
DO let her see who you are. Moms love commiserating over shared parenting fails, so knock off the bragging and tell her what your life is really like. Not the Pinterest one — the meltdown, missed the bus, made mac and cheese again one.
But DON’T forget to pay attention to subtle cues. If you share the fact that your toddler pooped repeatedly during nap time, wait for a reply. If you’re met with awkward silence and a swift subject change, retreat! If, however, she responds with, “OMG! Mine smeared poop all over the crib today!” then you’re golden. Feel free to commence with future bodily waste disaster tales. If you comment that your child was a “stinker” today and she says, “Yes, but aren’t they such blessings?” proceed with caution. You can decide whether this mom is your kind of uplifting, gratitude-minded gal or if it’s time to jump ship. If she says, “Stinker? I’ve got a better word for it,” congratulations. You’ve found a soulmate with whom you can officially complain about your bad parenting moments. You may even be able to use your favorite profanities to refer to your children’s abhorrent behavior. Score!
DO seek out mothers who are going through the same thing you are. Sometimes our IRL (that’s “in real life” for those not up on their online vernacular) friends are at different stages than we are. They may not have kids yet, or they may have older kids. Maybe they work and you stay home. It’s always helpful to find another like-minded mama dealing with sleep deprivation or preschool drama.
But DON’T rule out friendships because of differences. No need to perpetuate the mommy wars by only befriending other breastfeeders if you are nursing, or by judging working moms if you stay home. Rich relationships can develop in spite of, and sometimes because of, differences.
Online friendships can be extremely rewarding. You can connect with women you might otherwise have never met, sometimes even as your “old” self — you know, the one whose job description doesn’t include wiping someone. We bonded over a shared blog project that later turned into a book. It’s always nice to be able to use your non-mom brain when connecting with other women. Online friends can remind you that you’re more than just a parent, and you might be able to dust off some old skills and discuss common interests that don’t include verbally eviscerating Caillou. (Not that that’s not awesome, because it totally is.)
Even though the two of us have a lot of differences — from our educational backgrounds to our writing style to some parenting choices — we’ve found that our connection is real, validating, and uplifting, even though we’ve never met IRL.
So the next time you find yourself feeling lonely but getting out of the house isn’t happening — open up your laptop and open yourself up to the possibility of making a new friend.