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Who Needs Friends When You Have Facebook?

Motherhood can be a lonely road. New moms often find themselves, once the fanfare of the baby’s arrival subsides, isolated at home with a very needy little person as their only companion for most of the day.

How do these moms keep from going mad? As my colleague Danielle writes, friendships keep us sane.

But new moms often have trouble making friends, especially with other busy, tired moms. Yet those are the very people new moms need to connect with: each other.

Increasingly, they’re turning to Facebook and Twitter for connection. In a recent British poll, almost a third of new moms said it wasn’t important to them to maintain face to face friendships. Nearly a quarter said they don’t know any other new parents in their area. These moms are finding friends on Twitter instead of at the playground.

The survey authors described this idea as “incredibly worrying” but I think it’s just a sign of the times.

I’ll even go so far as to say today’s moms are lucky to have the connections Facebook and Twitter offer. When I had my first baby, back in the dark ages of 2004, I quickly found myself alone in a rambling suburban house with only my baby and Livejournal for company. I was a happy new mom, but a lonely one. I’m afraid my isolation may have turned me into a blogger, as I posted every adorable or frustrating thing my kids ever did to the Internet.

I posted, but it wasn’t always clear who was listening. Blog posts are, at their best, starting points for conversations, but they’re not as conversational as the quick back-and-forth of Twitter. Which honestly reminds me of old IRC chat rooms more than anything, but I won’t turn this into a post about how IRC is still awesome. Moving on.

Today, I chatter with other moms all day long on Twitter. We talk about kids and we also talk about the news and the weather and books we like and TV shows we’re obsessed with and what our husbands are up to and how our jobs are going. We talk about all the stuff of our days.

Some of the people I keep in touch with via Twitter or Facebook live in my neighborhood, some live in other time zones. Some are friends I’ve known in real life for years, others are people I met on the Internet but have grown to know over time. I feel like I’m part of communities that exist entirely on the web: communities of writers, of parents, of bloggers, of feminists and political activists.

These tools really do help us connect and communicate. In some ways, they’re better than playgrounds as places to pick up mom friends. How many awkward conversations have I had in the sandbox with moms who shared nothing in common with me but a child roughly the same age? Too many to count. Online I find myself connecting with moms who are also writers and feminists, who share my views on parenting and who will still be there – albiet virtually – on rainy days and late at night and all the times a mom might need someone to talk to.

I’ll say this for the playground playmates: there are some things you can’t replace with an online friendship. A Facebook friend will never change a diaper for you, or hold the baby while you fix yourself a snack. You’ll never get to kick back and watch as your kids tear across the park together, leaving you a moment of much-needed grown-up conversation.

All the social media in the world can’t replace the value of having mom friends close at hand. But it can open up new kinds of friendships, and strengthen old ones. I don’t find moms’ reliance on social media alarming. I find it resourceful.

What do you think? Are Facebook friendships the real deal? Or maybe better?

Photo: liewcf

Parents, Facebook, and Google: My Mom’s Secret Life

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