When this middle-aged mom of four teenage girls wants to stay in bed just a few minutes longer, I unlock the screen to my phone and automatically tap the Facebook icon. It doesn’t matter that it’s located on one of the five pages of widgets, I subconsciously know exactly where it is. I scroll through friends’ posts and pictures and stop to read the strange comments on a political post. Scrolling through social media is entertaining informative and somewhat addictive. Soon 30 minutes have passed and my time before work has dwindled.
At first, I was reluctant to join any social media platform. I never had a My Space account and got Facebook to follow an old friend I was curious about. But it didn’t take long, and I was all in, posting pictures of my husband and kids and sharing a parenting hiccup, baking fail or funny quote from one of my kids. For an attention seeker like me, Facebook is my jam.
Finding community on Facebook
Social media is where I connect with parents who have children with the same disabilities as my children. My oldest has dyslexia and the Facebook group I joined has become not only a support group to help me when I’m discouraged but also a place where we share resource ideas and tips for working with educators and administers. Another daughter has an executive function brain disorder that causes behavioral and learning issues.
One day when I had reached the end of my sanity, lost my temper and was feeling incredibly guilty, I instantly felt a bond to these complete strangers as I read their posts. They understood. When I courageously posted my own struggles, the replies I received instantly encouraged me and calmed my anger, which often stems from fear. Their helpful suggestions have helped change how I parent and made our home a happy place again.
Social media has shaped the current culture in ways I never could have imagined as a child whose major form of communicating with my friends was through creatively folded notes.
As an author of women’s fiction, I found a Facebook group where we swap books to share in our newsletters and even market each other’s work. I’m a part of another group where we pose questions about publishing and marketing and even ask for content ideas.
Then there’s the Facebook groups I’ve created for my church. In one group we advertise our annual daddy/daughter banquet and ball and connect with past attendees. Another group for the women in our church keeps us connected and is a place to share prayer requests. We also promote our events for women.
My husband is a state trooper, and 10 years ago I started a Facebook group to connect trooper spouses. It is difficult to meet each other since we’re spread across the state. Because of this group, we know each other and can support each other. It’s an amazing tool for communicating when troopers are injured, family members become seriously sick and in times of crisis, such as a devastating house fire. Law enforcement families deal with pressure and isolation, and with social media we can encourage each other even from miles away.
According to my oldest daughter, I like Facebook because I’m old. She’s probably right, as most of my “friends” are close to my age. When she turned 18, we let her get TikTok. I also joined, to see what she’s posting and as a different way to market my books. Instead of being embarrassed to have her aging mom on TikTok, she spent at least an hour liking posts so that the algorithm would connect me to #christiantok and #booktok and of course her page. Now we share videos back and forth. Most of them are funny—some only funny to her as I don’t always understand her Gen Z humor.
Recently, she approached me about some thought-provoking videos I sent her that dig into political, cultural and biblical issues. Politics and even certain biblical issues are usually off limits because she doesn’t like to argue, and I apparently do. But this time we had amazing conversations. Sometimes children view their parents’ “old fashion” ideas as judgmental and black and white, but when I share the testimony of someone who has left a life of bondage for one of freedom, it speaks volumes to her.
The stories impact me as well, softening my heart to those who are hurting. For example, I watched a video series about a woman who felt called to care for her husband’s ex-wife, who had Multiple Sclerosis and was neglected by her family. This woman bathed, fed and pampered a woman who many times scorned her very existence. Their friendship grew as she cared for the ex-wife and mother of her stepchildren. For three years she daily cared for this woman, forming a bond with her that only God could have fostered. Talk about being the hands and feet of Christ. This story inspired me to serve with a better attitude the tasks God has given me.
I’m always looking for unique plot lines for my books and the various characters that roam around in my mind. TikTok offers a wide range of personal stories and testimonies of good overcoming evil, personal triumph and working through struggles.
Social media cautions
As a law enforcement family, we’re aware of the pitfalls of social media. My husband and I have heavy restrictions and parental controls on all electronics in our home. Our teenagers and their preteen sister have no access to social media. They watch YouTube videos only when we are in the same room. They share a cell phone that has no access to the internet, although we turn off parental controls for homework. In fact, they share an Apply ID with my husband so we can monitor the texts they send and the pictures they take.
We are stricter than most parents, but we have seen how easily kids can fall into bad situations because of technology. Kids bully, predators groom and the malevolent influence the innocent through social media and texting.
I’ve gotten sucked into arguments that end up hurting my feelings, make me angry or damage relationships in real life. I’ve learned to carefully choose who sees my posts. If people consistently post content that hurts me or disrespects my family, I feel no guilt “unfriending” or “hiding” them. The same is true if they argue with everything that I post or highjack my posts. I want to enjoy social media, and I can’t do that if I’m anxious about what I’ll see every time I login or post.
A friend once told me that no one ever changes their mind because of a social media argument. I’ve taken this to heart. If you want to know what I believe, let’s get coffee and talk face to face. It takes a lot more courage to be combatant and hurtful when you see the other person’s reaction.
Social media has shaped the current culture in ways I never could have imagined as a child whose major form of communicating with my friends was through creatively folded notes. Although I hesitantly joined the various platforms, I am blessed by this new way of connecting with old and new friends, strangers and most importantly my own children. As long as I don’t fall into the trap of comparing my worst days to others’ best, social media will remain one of my favorite hobbies.