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De-Facing the Social Network

Studies show that Facebook boosts self-esteem. Deleting your profile has surprisingly the same result.

I have just deleted Facebook from my friends list. The relationship we have is torrid. And the impact it’s having on my parenting confidence is disastrous.

According to Cornell University researchers, Facebook makes you happier...or, at least, it raises your self esteem. The idea is that, through Facebook, you can create an idealized self by posting self-edited updates, profile pictures that show your best side, and, of course, your friends roster is hundreds deep. For me, though, Facebook was just the opposite. As a parent, it made me feel kind of yucky.

To me, Facebook represented an illusion. When I logged on, I always wondered if I should post what was real in my world. And, in the world of mothering a child on the Autisim Spectrum, real can be pretty crazy.

While the other mothers were posting updates like: “Here’s a picture of Janie at her dance recital. She didn’t miss a beat.” I was more apt to want to post things like: “Today my son went completely postal because I made him oatmeal instead of pancakes for breakfast…and here’s a picture of my battle wounds.” And very few people care to hear that your son is writing math problems and solving them for entertainment sake. Math doesn’t make for a very interesting post.

So when it came to Facebook, I faked it. I posted clever messages and a few profile pictures. But I left my kids out of my online social network.

Still, Facebook sucked me in. I was caught in the online soap opera of everyone else’s lives. What their kids were doing. Where they ate dinner. Who knew whom. Which mom from school was online. Ironically, I stayed on Facebook, because I thought my Facebook mom connections might help make arranging social situations for my son a bit easier.

My oldest doesn’t understand the reindeer games of childhood, and social situations are tough for him. Asperger’s Syndrome primarily affects a child’s social skills, and my son tends to view himself more as an adult than a child. To him, friends are people you talk to at school. He doesn’t request play dates unless we arrange them. For his birthday party, he has requested only adults.

As a parent, I find myself toeing the line between my own needs to socialize with other parents and the need to socialize my son. When he started school, I felt that if I could be friends with some of the parents, then my friendships might make friendships easier for him. Maybe I viewed the other mothers as a key into the doorway of a normal childhood for my son. And that’s about the point where Facebook became more of a nightmare than a self-esteem boost.

With Facebook, you have a window into the lives of your friends. And sometimes you see too much. Sometimes you see things and learn things that you wouldn’t have known had Facebook posts and pictures not existed, had you not invited them in.

For me, the breaking point was when I began to take Facebook personally. When I started looking at the posts about Little League and worrying about how I could get my son to participate in team sports willingly. Or the sadness I felt looking at birthday party pictures, because I knew there was no way my son would want a typical kid-centric party. I logged on to Facebook and saw nothing that resembled my reality, and it made me depressed.

For me, it became all or nothing. What I decided was that I am a person who overthinks every word way too much. And in Facebook that leaves you silent and miserable.

In the end, Facebook just wasn’t worth it for me. So I defaced my social network. I deleted my profile, and logged off for the last time. And my self-esteem couldn’t be better.

Dawn A. Baggett June 29, 2011 at 11:26 PM
Julie: Social media didn't work for you and your family and you logged off. Good for you! I have a Facebook account which I haven't visited in months. My life isn't interesting enough to broadcast to the world. And you know what? I like it that way. And I enjoy the privacy. Staying in touch the old fashioned way, by telephone,raises my self-esteem and my happiness. A long conversation with a best friend---or your mom---is the best medicine.

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