It's such a common phrase now. "Social Network". We all know what it means. Whether it's Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, Google + (and the list is constantly growing), email groups, chat rooms, blogs....it's everywhere. It's become a defining part of our culture. We all have a whole lot of information about one another then we ever had before. We know what our cousins across the country did this weekend and what our friend across the street had for breakfast. We see pictures of an event as it's still going on. We know international news in seconds. We get all this information as an "alert" in the palm of our hands.
It seems so intrusive at times. It seems as though everyone thinks that every thought that crosses his or her mind mind needs to be typed out, posted for the world to see. It seems as though nothing is private anymore.
And what is the benefit?
Is there one?
I can't speak for everyone but I know what I'm finding here. I'm seeing the way all this connectivity can be good. It can be more than good, it can be soul nourishing. People have found they don't have to be alone with what they are going through: someone, somewhere has endured the same thing. In our individual, secluded society where "the village" doesn't do anything together, let alone raise a child, a mother can find others who are in her same stage of life who can relate, or those who have come out the other side and can find encouragement. There is a Yahoo group for anything you can think of...and if there isn't you can create one.
I felt so alone as I ventured into homeschooling. None of my friends were doing it. I had no idea how to get connected to people or activities...then I found a Yahoo group. It was my first link into a huge community of people. I continued to to feel crazy and inadequate and a hopeless failure at motherhood and teaching and life. I have made some amazing homeschool mama friends and I couldn't imagine doing all this without them, but really, they can be very busy. They're homechooling and mothering and trying to not fail at life as well. So when there isn't a live body to act as cheerleader or shoulder there is this special online community. There are blogs I read, Facebook friends I have, tweets that come to my BlackBerry. I can carry around my own little support group. It's amazing how many times a blog post will get sent to my email that is EXACTLY what I needed to read at that moment.
Of course as with all technology there are many ways to abuse social media. Limits should be set in the amount of time and information spent with screens instead of flesh and blood people. But I can see that REAL community can be found here. And I am so grateful for the mamas I've come to "know", for theses women who share their experiences, their lives: successes and failures, all so others can feel a little less alone.