Online networking for moms is growing at rocket speeds! I haven’t been on the sidelines observing, either. I have a Myspace and a Facebook account. I am obviously very active at The Mom Crowd and also maintain two personal blogs. I have been very involved in a forum for parents of children with Down syndrome and am a regular lurker on four (ok, like 5 or 6 or 7 or 8…I refuse to count!) other forums. I have a long list of yahoo groups to which I belong to. My extended family has a private online forum to stay connected. I read a few billion personal blogs regularly. I even have started connecting with God online by reading bible passages online and following a daily devotional blog for moms. I check my email way too many times during the day and have an ridiculous feeling of sadness when there are no new messages. Instant messaging is about the only thing I’ve not become addicted to in this online networking world. In fact, the whole reason I started thinking about my online networking is from a daily devotional I read nowhere else but ONLINE!
Why do I love online networking? Online networking doesn’t require a clean shirt or make-up, it doesn’t interrupt nap time like face-to-face visiting or phone calls do, you can connect with someone at any hour of the day, you can screen potential friends and avoid taking the relationship to the next level if you don’t feel an instant connection, it’s a great way to keep in touch with friends, and an even greater way to meet new friends who have similar journeys as yourself.
Moms are so busy taking care of their families that finding time for themselves is nearly impossible. Having children has isolated me physically, mentally, and spiritually. There will be spans of time that go by where the only other adults I’ve seen are the occupational therapist, physical therapist, speech therapist, a couple doctors, and my husband. When I’m in waiting rooms or check-out lines I have caught myself trying to become B.F.F. with the clerk or receptionist because I’ve been so starved for adult face-to-face interaction. I rarely have energy to go through all the steps involved to leave the house to grab a diet coke and planning a playdate or moms night out requires brain cells that I lost during childbirth. Blogging, chatting, and online networking is such a great way for me to not feel isolated.
The problem with online networking becomes when friendships and interactions are limited to the computer. While online buddies can provide so much, there is nothing like a friend who is “real.” By real, I mean someone you can call on the phone or swing by and have a cup of coffee with or ask to pick up a diet coke for you while they’re out getting their’s. I have made some of my very close friends via the internet, specifically through the forum for parents of children with Down syndrome. Through that online group, I was able to find moms close in age to me, who had a child with Down syndrome close in age to Darah, and who had similar backgrounds and beliefs. Finding local moms who fit all those criteria has been difficult for me, so I am so incredibly thankful for this online forum. However, my local Down Syndrome Association (which of course also has its own yahoo group) has given me much needed support and encouragement, just in a different way.
Here are some things I’ve learned about my online networking:
- I am always on the look-out for ways to make my internet time more productive and efficient. I discovered GoogleReader which notifies me when one of my favorite blogs has been updated. This saves me time from visiting my whole list of blogs only to see that I’ve already read the most recent entry.
- I try to keep a “quality vs. quantity” perspective and have slowed down on making new friends online and have focused on investing in the friendships I’ve already made online.
- I recognize my need for local friendships. I’m a very busy person (aren’t all moms?), but spending that face-to-face time with another friend is something that should not be at the bottom of my list of priorities. I recently signed my children up for Kindermusik and gymnastics which keeps me regularly connected with a group of moms each week.
What about you? How has online networking helped you as a mom? Has it hindered you in any way? Do you have any tricks to keep your online addiction under control?