It’s easy to brush off Facebook as being a silly time-waster that fills one’s mind with inane details about other people’s lives that nobody needs to know. However, I’ve noticed that Facebook has something else going on, beyond its distractions and gossip. I think it is satisfying a hunger for community in stay-at-home mothers. Perhaps it does the same for other people, too, but moms are the crowd I hang out with, so they are the ones who have caught my attention.
Stay-at-home moms are by far the most active of my Facebook friends. (I must include myself in that group, since I’m constantly sending out blog updates.) After all, we’re at home all day with our kids running around, so logging onto Facebook is a welcome escape from reality. There’s nothing like hanging out with kids for hours on end to make one crave interaction with other adults, and Facebook is a quick and easy way to feel connected.
Lately I’ve been noticing how Facebook is used as a forum for advice among mothers. No longer do I turn to the white pages, or even Google, to look for the services I need; instead, I post to Facebook, presenting the question to my network of local friends. A few months ago, when I asked, “Can anyone recommend a good dentist in the area?”, I received many responses as friends shared their experiences with various dentists in the area. I ended up contacting the one who was mentioned most often and am very happy with my choice.
My friends constantly share tips, tricks, deals, requests, and reviews on Facebook: “Where’s the best place to get passport pictures taken?” “If anyone needs amazing family photos, you should try So-and-So Photography.” “Should I buy a Kindle e-reader or an Android tablet? Thoughts, anyone?” “Come out and join the breast cancer fundraiser this weekend.” Combined, they probably create a real powerhouse of influence on the local economy. If one person says they had a bad experience at a certain place, I’ll think twice before going there. If two or three people say the same thing, it’s off my list for good. The same goes for positive reviews; I always keep them in mind.
My advice to business owners would be, “Get on the good side of the Facebook mamas!” One woman obviously has this figured out. She’s opening a new baby store in town this fall and, a few months ago, asked local moms via Facebook what products we’d like to see in her new store. The resulting list was vast and varied. It was a clever move, not only since moms are the best people to say what they want to buy, but also because it gives us a sense of involvement in the store that makes us want to shop there.
Naomi Wolf (in “Vagina: A New Biography”) writes about how women in Western society don’t spend a lot of time together throughout the day. We hole up at home because we don’t run food markets, as women do in Africa, or wash laundry together in an Indian river, or congregate on doorsteps to watch kids play in the street, as they do in Brazil. As a result, when our husbands come home from work, we stay-at-home moms are exploding with the need to talk, to process the day, to connect with another adult.
While I believe Wolf’s theory is bang on, I wonder if Facebook is doing anything to alleviate that sense of loneliness. We may still spend hours alone at home, but there is now a place where we can turn to ask questions, seek advice, share humour. The darker flipside of that is that Facebook (and other technology addictions) could be exacerbating the problem of female solitariness and perhaps we would return to a healthier communal and social way of living if we didn’t have technology that kept us distracted at home – but that’s a debate for another day.
What do you think? Has Facebook made your life as a stay-at-home mom easier?