Despite the fact that I can go days without the words from my lips connecting to another adult’s ears (save my husband’s), I consider myself to have a very rich and fulfilling social life. What’s the catch? My friends are social media friends. In my phone.
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With the rise of technology, and social media in particular, there’s been a lot of research published that predominantly skews negative. Multiple studies coming to the same conclusion: we are more connected than ever, and it’s tearing us apart.
Cursed with a burdensome case of social anxiety, I’ve been told that my resting bitch face and aloof demeanor make me appear less than friendly in person.
A natural introvert, I crave connection and social interaction yet I struggle to hold up my end of the bargain when it comes to “people-ing”.
I moved around a fair amount in my youth so I have no lifelong friends, and had my first baby so young that I have no mom friends. Now, in my thirties, I have 3 kids and a job. There’s little time left for coffee and catch-ups.
I’ve never had one of those “OMG goals” types of supportive female friendships that normal women seem to have, and the truth is I don’t think I would know how to maintain them if I did.
After my daughter was born, I sucked up my fears of technology and the looming presence of social media and began blogging.
I found the Internet to be the perfect place to hide in plain sight, to see and be seen with very few strings attached. In the depths of postpartum depression at the time, I started connecting with other mothers who became my lifeline in the lonely and cloistered world of stay at home momming.
It was here that I found those female friendships that are the fodder of Lifetime Movies and Reader’s Digest essays. My social media friends, really are my friends.
I’ve met women who’ve cried with me, laughed with me and fretted over my kid’s lingering colds.
I’ve met women who’ve lent support during 3am sleep regressions, and women who’ve given their time, energy and resources for the sake of someone they are unlikely to ever meet in person.
Many of us identify as introverts, and even more of us struggle with anxiety.
A lot of us have trouble making those elusive “mom friends”, yet what we all have in common is the community we’ve found online.
My anxiety and introversion have been a constant third wheel in my real life friendships. I worry about disappointing people to the point where I withdraw completely. I feel the need to censor myself to be accepted so that I’ll be invited to things that I’ll bail out of anyways. I constantly wonder whether people actually like me or if they are just trying to rack up Karma by showing kindness to the poor lonely misfit.
On the Internet, things are different. I can pick up conversations when I have the emotional resources to do so, and I can put them down when I don’t.
I have less stress about disappointing someone or not “being there” enough, since the physical distance in terms of miles and oceans to cross takes that pressure off. I can freely be my authentic self, the me that my anxiety keeps gagged and bound in the corner in the real world.
So the next time you see an article bashing social media or advising unplugging as the magic bullet for your mental health, keep in mind that this isn’t the case for all people. For some of us, having a social life that can fit in the palm of your hand is just what we need.