Social media isn’t therapy, but it could be a good place to start…
Since being a parent, have you found yourself spending more time on social media? Especially when you have a newborn, they sleep a lot right?! So, whilst they’re sleeping, we don’t rest because let’s face it we can’t relax, and instead we are desperately figuring out the whole new world that is parenthood. We have a million questions and concerns giving us constant anxiety and stress, so what do we do, we search and scroll!
I was never that heavily into social media before, I only really followed friends, and I didn’t bother with the whole celebrity or influencer thing so much. But I would use it to see what everyone is up to, how they’re looking, what they’re wearing and who was the latest boyfriend or girlfriend on the scene. So pretty much for vanity purposes and to have a good old nose!
But when I became a parent, I started using social media in a completely different way. I was looking at breast pumps, nipple creams, kegel exercises, what to do if this happens, how not to have a meltdown if that happened, sleeping routines, how to dress for your Mum tum, etc. But as I searched more, it got deeper than that. It was the day to day life of other parents that I could relate to, like the actual reality of being a parent and having unwashed hair, black circles around your eyes, wobbly tummies and mountain high piles of washing or wearing the same pair of leggings all week because they are the only damn thing that fits you! It was refreshing to see other parents were in the same boat as me, not always looking and feeling their best, and I found myself comforted and inspired by this. I started to follow more and more parents I didn’t know, which I would never have done before.
This new social media experience took me a step further when I started to discover parents who were openly talking about their mental health and body image post-baby, amongst other things. I thought they were so incredibly brave and wished I could learn to love myself and be more accepting of the feelings I was having. Seeing how open and honest they were got me thinking, I turned to media to do my own research and learnt more about the different types of postnatal mental health than I ever even knew existed. I started to understand my own thoughts and behaviours more than I ever had, and things started to click and make sense. This got me talking to my partner about my feelings more, which I was almost too scared to do before because he had a certain perception of me, and it’s so easy to feel embarrassed or scared of judgment. He never knew just how bad my anxiety could be, until I started to understand it better myself and share this with him.
We always joked during my maternity leave that I should start a blog and social platforms to share some of my experiences of parenthood, but again, this isn’t really something I would do or share with the world. I have always hated getting in front of the camera and have no self-belief in myself when it comes to writing, or most skills to be honest! Why would other people want to hear about me or my stories? Then I realised it’s not about how popular your posts are, it’s how it helps you to share and experience these things with others. So, I started using social media as my own outlet. These parents were portraying such real and positive messages on social media, that it helped and inspired me to feel comfortable enough to start talking openly about mental health and share all aspects of parenthood online.
There is a huge sense of community on social media, especially with parents. I found other parents and health professionals on Twitter especially forthcoming with words of kindness and encouragement, as well as all sorts of useful articles and advice. There are groups on Facebook where you can ask pretty much anything, and you know another parent has experienced the same thing and will respond to help. And then there are influencers and other parent accounts sharing their day to day lives and worries through stories and images on Instagram, but not of their perfect lives, the real-life moments.
This isn’t to say social media is therapy or like going to a support group, but for some, it could be a good place to start. Talking directly to someone’s face, even if they are your partner or closest friend can be really tough, especially if like me, the thought of it just makes you more anxious. You convince yourself there are people in worse situations, which there are, but that doesn’t make your story any less important or worth hearing about.
It is important to address that social media has had a lot of negative press in the news lately, and we are told over and over again how it can be a drain on our mental health, especially amongst the younger generation. I want to make it clear; I am not disputing this, however there are small communities online who are dedicated to changing this. I am talking about a very different way of using social media, especially amongst parents, writers, therapists, counsellors and other mental health professionals who have experienced their own struggles and want to help and guide others, as well as share the more light hearted and funny moments of parenthood.
I should also address I am no influencer, and I know for those that are, they unfortunately still receive negative comments from some. But I also know, the majority of the comments are positive, and they are having a positive impact on their loyal followers. I am one of their loyal followers and I get so much out of knowing I am feeling and experiencing the same things they are, rather than suffering in silence.
There is something so reassuring in knowing you are not alone. It can be hard to find your voice and tell people how you are feeling, but online, you get a sense that we are all in the parenthood and mental health journey together. We have an understanding of each other and a lot of empathy. Even if you don’t actively engage with other parents on social media, perhaps you just watch and listen, this still brings comfort and some great advice.
So, for me, social media can be a hugely positive thing for parents and their mental health. But it’s not just that, by seeing other people’s real and honest messages, my self-belief and confidence is a lot higher than it used to be. I don’t care if I post an image of myself without any makeup and I don’t constantly judge myself in videos, I have found a voice, even if it’s a quiet one for now. Social media can be a great outlet to express how you are feeling, and you can pretty much guarantee someone will respond feeling the same way. It’s exactly what it says, its social, and it’s what you make of it. It can be a network, community, support system and even somewhere you can find friendships you would have never found elsewhere, where you know you can instantly relate and help each other.
I hope other parents can find the inspiration and encouragement they need to help improve their mental wellbeing on social media. Let’s make sure we help that by making our own messages positive and real. Most importantly, remember to unfollow anyone that doesn’t make you feel amazing.
Check in on the Unspoken Parents Instagram where I will be adding inspirational profiles of parents who have inspired and helped me and are working hard to keep parenthood real.