IS SOCIAL MEDIA ENOUGH SOCIAL SUPPORT?

January 2017 we had a posting on working moms. Recently I saw a piece in the local paper dealing with this issue, but the article also got me to thinking about some other things. The article was written by Jennifer Sugarman, President and CEO of the Cocoa Beach Regional Chamber of Commerce. She is a new mom and wanted to share some of the personal issues she faced about motherhood and career. What do you do when these life paths collide?

Sugarman notes how new moms face a full spectrum of emotions about being a new mom: “Pure love, terror, apprehension, victory, elation, joy, and anxiety.” That last one can come from several directions, including post-partum mood complications sprinkled with some guilt about being absent from work.

With the right strategy, Sugarman says new moms can cope with those negative moods and emotions and steadily return to an adjustment equilibrium and back to their former selves. How? She mentions staying busy, getting out of the house into the fresh air, exercising, watching the diet, joining post-partum support groups on social media, and reaching out to family and friends for support in all those activities.

The last two items caught my eye because they stress the need for support from others. Do you want your post-delivery strategy to succeed? Well, you must enlist other people to help you do so. That social support also extends to a new guilt feeling once returning to work. Now it’s guilt over leaving your child. Sugarman felt it, but imagine how she felt when she walked into her office and discovered her co-workers had built a nursery in her office. Talk about social support!

Sugarman ended her piece with a challenge to women in her community to support each other in the area of maternal leave. Sharing experiences and mentoring can go a long way to helping new moms and women who want to go down that road. Men can also be a part of the equation by providing a work environment “conducive to career-driven mothers.”

Sugarman’s advice is fantastic and is largely based on social support. Whether we’re talking about a stay-at-home mom or a career-driven one, providing support to them as human beings will bring us all a sense of “coping fulfillment.”

But again, as I said at the beginning of this post, Sugarman’s comments got me to thinking in a broader context. Specifically, how much social support can be provided through social media? Can Tweets, Facebook, etc. do it all, or is face-to-face, touch-to-touch interaction essential? Can Skyping with a friend work just as well as having that friend stop by your house?

Did you see the recent story of the teenage girl on trial for sending Tweets to the teenage boyfriend encouraging him to follow through with killing himself? This was not a one-time Tweet, but a series that went on and on over a period of time. The boy eventually killed himself. The girl was put on trial and found guilty of manslaughter.

The merits of the case will be debated, of course, but that’s not my point. My question is this: “Is social media so powerful that it can substitute for good old-fashioned human contact?” I mean, after all, the girl didn’t have to be physically present to drive the kid to kill himself. Well, if that’s the case, why would a friend have to come over to your house to help you adjust to the issues of being a new mom? Let’s just Skype or meet on Facebook.

You know those birthday greetings we send out on Facebook? The platform, of course, lets us know it’s a “friend’s” birthday, so we dutifully send out one of many electronic birthday wishes. Tell me, is there something a little artificial about this? Do you feel the same whether someone you know sends you a Facebook greeting, or calls you on the phone and you hear their voice say (or sing!), “Happy Birthday”? Does seeing a birthday wish on Facebook have the same effect on you as receiving a card in the mail with a note attached?

Social media is certainly our new reality. Do we, however, sacrifice a bit of social support for each other when we rely on it? Should we go out of our way to call or visit someone, or can the Facebook post have the same supportive effect? I don’t know the answers to those questions, but I would like to hear others’ opinions.

2 thoughts on “”

  1. In response to this question I am reminded of a sign I once saw hanging on the front of a wise professors desk: “It depends.” It depends on the person, and it depends on the situation. Social media certainly has its pitfalls, but any positive comment is going to help someone feel better, whether it be a like or a nice comment wishing that person well. This being said, someone genuinely struggling in life is going to need more support than just likes and comments from friends & family members closest to that person. Social media will never be an adequate substitute for face-to-face personal interaction.

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