A couple of days ago I put up the following on FB:
My son is wonderful and amazing and I’m thankful for him every single day, but holy $#!^ he’s exhausting. Seriously, the next few years are going to be loooooong.
I got a few, “the next FEW years?! comments, which I appreciate because I know it’s going to be crazy until… well… forever?, but most of the responses were sacchariney sweet platitudes about how fast this time flies and how soon I won’t be cool so I better savor it and how cute he is (“but he’s always smiling!”).
What I was looking for was a little recognition and validation, for someone to say, “these years are going to be long, and it might really suck, but you’ll make it through.” What I got instead was an admonishment to cherish this time and a reminder of how cute my kid is.
I get it. I really do. Time does fly and someday I won’t be cool and truly, my son really is cute. (And he is always smiling, as far as FB is concerned.) All of this is true. But right now shit is hard. I am exhausted. And sometimes I wonder why it’s so hard and why I’m so exhausted. Sometimes I spend all day asking myself: Am I doing it wrong? Is it harder for us than it is for others? Why am I drowning even though nothing specific is wrong? Is it ever going to get better?
As far as I know, everyone else with two kids is having a great time of it. It’s all laughter and hugs and siblings interacting in adorable ways. That is what I see on social media. That is what I hear about at whatever birthday party we’re attending this weekend. It’s always the same… and it’s always positive.
I’m guilty of it myself. My whole FB wall is a parade of cute pictures of my adorable kids. I recite the same spiel at birthday parties and other events. As far as anyone knows, we’re having a fabulous time as a family of four.
The thing is, I feel like I have to put that kind of stuff up. It’s expected of me. It’s the only thing anyone wants to see.
No one wants to hear that it’s hard. No one wants me to share that most days I go to bed wondering how I’m going to get through the next day. No one wants me to post the truth (unless of course the truth is all unicorn farts and fairy queefs).
If I were to post an unhappy picture of my kids, I would be accused of over-sharing, or disrespecting their future selves. (Ironical unhappy pictures are fine, of course, but those don’t inspire any kind of honest dialogue.) No one wants to see pictures of the truth.
So I participate in all the same ways everyone else does. I put up exactly the kinds of pictures that proliferate the suggestion that “everything is always great” and I probably make other people feel alone in their struggles, just like I feel alone in mine.
I understand why we act this way on social media. I recognize that a place like FB–where hundreds of people you don’t really know have access to your information–is not the appropriate venue for meaningful interactions. But if more and more of our personal exchanges are taking place on social media, and we are forced to present only certain aspects of our experience in those venues, when are we supposed to speak–and hear–the truth?
Maybe this is only a problem for people like me, who don’t have many friend in the area to sit down and really talk to. I don’t have anyone that I see on a regular enough basis to really confide in, so I’m left with FB and this blog. I guess I just don’t know where I’m supposed to work through the complicated feelings. Or at least have them acknowledged.
And I think it really does benefit people to know that others are struggling, that two kids or being a SAHM or working outside the home or maintaining a marriage is really kicking their ass. And they don’t know if they can do it at all, let alone do it well. Maybe these feelings wouldn’t be so hard to process if we knew other people were processing them too.
The day after I put up that status update my husband thanked me for sharing it. “It’s exactly how I feel,” he said. But I know that is how he feels, and he knows that I know–we talk about it all the time–and yet it still meant so much to him that I put it out there. It still took a weight off his shoulders, just the slightest public acknowledgement of our struggle.
In the end I’m not sure what the answer is. I understand why social media isn’t an appropriate place to unload our burdens, but I also know that some of us don’t have anywhere else to unload. And I think we could all benefit from a little more truth and a little less filter. I just wish it were all easier to navigate, because I think we could all benefit from more authentic support and less glossy perfection.
Do you think social media can be a place to give and receive authentic support? Where do you go to feel acknowledged and understood?