Last week I broke my own rule and engaged in a controversial topic on social media. And I immediately regretted it and remembered why I had that rule in the first place.
The topic was how much screen time for preschoolers is okay. The commenters ran the full gamut from “screen time all day, every day” to “zero screen time and we don’t even own a TV.” I jumped in to comment that different amounts of screen time may be best at different seasons of life.
Although I tried to be as agreeable and supportive as possible, the damage was done. I felt so stressed about my comment for the rest of the day.
I kept checking my phone for responses and re-reading my comment, inwardly terrified that somebody would take offense at it and start a fight with me.
Have you ever been in this situation? If you’ve ever gotten into a disagreement on social media, you know how incredibly stressful it can be. It truly sucks away not only your peace of mind but also valuable time that could be spent on your work, children and home instead.
I learned this lesson the hard way, to be honest. Now I try to stick to my rule of never engaging in controversial topics on social media.
Nine years ago, when I was a new mom, I joined dozens of Facebook mom groups. I thought it was a good way to connect with women in the same season of life, especially as I had very few friends who were moms at the time.
It turned out that a lot of interactions in the mom groups were pretty negative.
In some groups, women bashed their husbands and children for really minor and silly reasons, seeming to try to outdo each other in who could complain the most about their families.
In many groups, women were quick to shame and criticize each other. Parenting decisions are very personal, so many moms seem to take any difference of opinion as a vicious personal attack.
In some groups, I saw women perpetuate actual fraud, lying about who they were and their personal situations, often in order to convince other members to donate money to them. Later on, the truth would come out, and the group admins would have to post and explain to everyone why So-and-so had been booted from the group.
And in literally every group, people gave each other really questionable advice, such as telling women to go against their doctor’s specific instructions or telling them they weren’t “holy enough” if they were having a hard time in any way.
As a naive young mom, I used to engage in these conversations, trying to be a voice for truth and reason. But the longer I spent on social media, the more I saw how pointless it was.
Many people do not want to hear truth or reason on the internet. And my efforts were doing nothing but bringing me stress and taking away time from my family.
So I instituted my policy of never arguing with anyone on social media, and resolved that I would immediately step away from any conversation that looked as though it might go south. This rule has brought me so much peace. Since following my rule, I haven’t had any problems on social media.
With all this in mind, I was not the least bit surprised when Pepperdine University researchers found that the more time women spend in mom-focused social media groups, the higher their cortisol, or stress levels, are. I read that and thought, “No kidding.”
But at the same time, mom groups don’t have to cause drama and stress. They can be super helpful for things like ideas for gifts, meal planning and recipes, and yes, even advice on many parenting situations. The key is to avoid arguments and take everything with a huge grain of salt, remembering that your situation is unique and what works for others may not work for you.
The group itself also makes a huge difference. I’ve found much more reasonable and positive interactions in smaller groups where the members have in-real-life connections.
I polled a few friends for this article, and they all said that the group makes a huge difference. They also have seen toxic interactions in huge groups, but said that their own experiences in mom groups have been really positive since they focused on smaller groups where they knew members offline. And we all agreed that it’s best to steer clear of the controversial topics, especially if things get heated!
Mom groups have their place, but I try to tread with caution to make sure they don’t steal my peace of mind. When in doubt, I say a prayer for those involved and keep quiet, remembering that no one’s mind was ever changed by an angry argument on social media.