Turning the Screen Off

Disconnecting from social media helped me reconnect with my children.

Being a Stay-at-home Mom can feel isolating, especially if you have young children at home with you.

There was a time, when my youngest was a baby and my other son was no bigger than a grasshopper's hind leg, that I felt alone in a sea of diapers and burp cloths. The days would drag on between naps and nursing and I needed a network of people that I could reach out to.

Enter Facebook.

Social media became a lifeline for me at a time when I needed a connection. Between finding friends from my past, new friends, and eventually blogging friends, I felt a sense of community whenever I logged in.

At first I only checked in when the kids were napping. Grabbing a handful of minutes to read everyone's updates to get a sense that I was an active part of the world outside of my home.

Slowly but surely, I spent more time on the computer and found myself escaping my children to get my Facebook fix. I started looking for validation that I was important to my cyber-friends. I fell into the dreaded trap of leaving a comment then obsessing about checking to see if someone had commented on my comment, so that I could leave another comment about their comment.

It was a pretend conversation in an alternate universe that simply was not tangible, and sometimes my day depended on it. Not to downplay the connections that I've made on Facebook, I've really enjoyed the friendships found and maintained there, yet as time went on, I noticed a shift in how it made me fell about myself and my life.

The truth is that Facebook actually makes me feel kind of lonely. What started out as a place to feel a sense of community often leaves me feeling more alone than ever. You can't reach out and get a hug through the computer screen. Seeing the lives that my friends present on their Timeline can make me feel listless. The funny thing is that I go there searching to feel full but in the end, I am often left feeling empty.

I recently realized a simple truth: what you pay attention to thrives. It's all too easy to look outside for validation, especially if you feel alone in motherhood. Yet, all of the love and attention that I've needed has been right here with me this whole time. I can actually reach out and touch it, hold it, smell it, kiss it.

When I've started to feel the isolation creeping in, I turn off the screen and spend time with my kids.

The results have been amazing. We are playing games, snuggling, reading books, and having a great time together. I still check in with my Facebook friends but I make sure to engage with children first. 

I never anticipated that my life would one day be summed up by the lyrics of a bad country song but it's true. I was looking for love in all the wrong places. I feel that turning the computer off switched on all the love in my life.

Do you use social media? Does it ever get in the way of time you could be spending with your children? Do you feel that you can find real connections online? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

Rebecca McCarthy November 14, 2012 at 02:32 PM
I try to think about what my children will remember when they are grown. I don't remember the messy or neat state of our home....I remember feeling loved and secure, and being happy. I also remember drifting off to sleep at 7:30, which I now know was so my mother and daddy could be alone in the quiet.
Erinbjenkins November 14, 2012 at 07:05 PM
i once thought that facebook was this wonderful place where all my friends were. i felt like they were hanging out there, and i would go to feel that connection that you talk about. then i realized that they were NOT there, they were all at home or work, alone, or at least seperate from those they connect to onthe computer. i realized that we were all missing that connection. and if your child is staring at you, or biting you to connect, then we absolutely need to turn off the computer.
Erinbjenkins November 14, 2012 at 07:06 PM
and one last thing: thank you for this article. it helps me feel a little less dorky for not cyber socializing more.
Jesse November 14, 2012 at 08:31 PM
Honestly, I needed to read this. I am on Facebook way too often and the more I think about it, it does make me feel lonely too. I love the notion that your children can give you validation. Better yet, if I need an adult connection, it would be healthier to pick up the phone and call a friend. Thanks for this!
Caroline U November 20, 2012 at 03:36 AM
Leigh I am late to read your column--but it is one of your best. I too think Facebook makes me feel lonely too. It's a place that I think has shifted overtime (this is just my perception) from a place to connect and network to a place to advertise things from, for example, an insurance business, or local real estate agent or even a blogger's post! I am a member of some FB groups where there are still some great discussions that occur, but it's never like the real thing. Like you, connecting online has been a double-edged sword for me. Good in the way that it sort of connected me to others but also like you, I learned quickly not to rely on it as a source of encouragement or affirmation. I've backed off a TON from my online time and it has really made a difference in my life. Great article! You are a smart cookie!


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