Dear Facebook,

We’ve been together a while, me and you.  A little over five years now at this point.  And you know how I feel about you.  Addicted from the start.  Heck, I wrote about you and it was my first published piece – in The Boston Globe Magazine no less. I’ve tried to quit you but I can’t.  I have too much personally invested in you: time, friends, and relationships.  I can’t walk away.

Professionally, however, you’re making it really hard to stay.

Like many others, I read the article in Ad Age last week and choked a little:

The article states: “If they haven’t already, many marketers will soon see the organic reach of their posts on the social network drop off, and this time Facebook is acknowledging it. In a sales deck obtained by Ad Age that was sent out to partners last month, the company states plainly: “We expect organic distribution of an individual page’s posts to gradually decline over time as we continually work to make sure people have a meaningful experience on the site.””

“A Facebook spokesman confirmed that the overall organic reach of Facebook posts from brands is in slow decline. “We’re getting to a place where because more people are sharing more things, the best way to get your stuff seen if you’re a business is to pay for it,” he said.”

So here’s the thing, Facebook.  I’m a small blogger with a small audience.  I have a fan page with about 700 “likes”.  They are truly mine. I didn’t pay for any of them. These are people who decided that they like what I write about my family and about our journey and they want to read more.  I am incredibly grateful for each and every one of them and they are my online support group and community.  Because of my readers I have learned so much about my children, about autism, about sensory processing disorder, and about being a parent of three boys.  Many of my readers have become my “in real life” friends, without whom I would be lost.  I share my personal blog posts on my blog’s Facebook page for that community.  I also share others’ posts there too – many talented writers who are on the same journey because I love what they have to say and know others would as well.  Not only is it a way to spread awareness, it keeps my personal Facebook page from getting filled with articles that half of my friends don’t care about.

So when I look to see that only 100 of the 707 people who like my page have seen my last post?  I’m at a loss.

Additionally, I’m a small business owner.  Of a small nonprofit.  We serve our local special needs community with our indoor sensory gym.  SenseAbility Gym has a Facebook business page where we have our hours, pictures of our equipment, and a “check-in” feature for families who visit. On that page, we have 872 “fans”.  Many of them are our customers, many of them are also our donors.  We have a very small controlled budget.  We are funded only by donations, grants, and the fees that families pay when they visit us.  We are playing with other people’s money.  We use our Facebook page as it was meant to be : a social media connection to our community.  We share our class offerings and our hours, but also inform people of local sensory friendly movies, plays and activities.  We built this place to connect families in our area.  Because we have little (no) advertising budget, we rely on word of mouth and social media to inform families about us and to stay open.  Additionally, we need that online connection to the local businesses and organizations generous enough to support our mission.

So when I look and see that only 94 people saw our photo about our free yoga classes for kids with special needs and 303 people saw our post thanking families for joining us for our holiday party?  I just don’t get it.

Do photos get more or less visibility?  Do I share a link in the status or the comments?  Do more comments equal more prominence in someone’s newsfeed? Do I write in all caps?

I don’t really know what to do here, Facebook.

I get that you need to make money.  I really do.  You’re a business and you’re not the Facebook of five years ago or even two years ago.  You have investors to answer to.  You have ads to sell.  I get that the point is trying to get us to “boost our posts” by paying for it.

But we’re not Pepsi with 30 million fans.  They have a market they need to target and they have a need to expand their fan base to buy more of their products.  They have the money to do it.  And yes, I get it.  Some bloggers do make money as do some nonprofits.  I know that.

But I use my blog page and our business page in the same way that I use my personal page. Connection.  Community.  Communication.  We’re not looking for inflated fan numbers to spread our brand.  We’re looking to get the information out to the people who chose us and who are truly interested in getting information from us.

I will not pay for my blog posts about my son’s great day at school to be seen by more people.  Additionally, I can’t in good faith use donations and grant money to boost our business’ posts to let people know when we’re closed for a snow day.  I don’t want to pay for our fans’ friends to see our latest piece of equipment when they have no interest in our mission.  I just need to communicate with the people who actively choose to hear from us.  All of the people.

So what do I do, Facebook?  How can I keep using you in the way I need to?  There has to be a way to separate the bloggers from the newspapers, the Wal-Marts from the SenseAbility Gyms.  There has to be a way to categorize us differently.  Share the algorithms for newsfeed visibility so we know what to do. You need to be transparent for your investors.  Be transparent for your users. Help a mom out here, Facebook.

My husband told me the other day that people don’t fear change. They fear the uncertainty that comes with change.

That’s what I have here, Facebook.  I fear losing the community that I worked so hard to build and the business that I have put my heart and soul into creating.  These aren’t just online names to us.  They are our friends.  I need them and they need us.

So what do I do?

Please don’t say Google+.  Please.

In the meantime, I’ll remind people that they can follow me on Twitter at @trydefyinggrav and @SenseAbilityGym.  I’ll let them know about our day or our latest community project in 140 characters or less.

Sincerely,

Alysia

IMG_20130718_175604What would you think if I sang out of tune
Would you stand up and walk out on me?
Lend me your ears and I’ll sing you a song
And I’ll try not to sing out of key
Oh I get by with a little help from my friends
Mm I get high with a little help from my friends
Mm going to try with a little help from my friends” – With A Little Help From My Friends by The Beatles

It started small.

I happened to see a post from a business on Facebook that they had entered a contest.

A grant contest.

A $25,000 grant contest.

From FedEx.

My eyes got big.

Our nonprofit SenseAbility Gym needed that grant.

Our community needed that grant.

I filled out the online forms and told my business partner Tina about it.  I casually mentioned it at our last board of directors meeting.  As an aside.  Like a “Hey, I don’t know how this thing all works, but I filled out the info and we’ll see if we’re accepted.”

On November 14, I saw our logo listed on the site.  My heart jumped.

I shared it with some incredible amazing fantastic wonderful friends.  Seriously.  There aren’t enough superlatives to describe them.

And they got to work.  They instantly started sharing the contest and our link on their Facebook pages and Twitter feeds.

My friend Patty’s husband Bil suggested we create a Facebook event to remind people to vote.  He told me to make it public so everyone could see it in their newsfeeds and anyone could invite people to it.

My friend Lexi blogged about it.  Twice. So did my friend Kristin.

Writing things like “And parents of ALL these children need and deserve a space that provides all of that for their families, and arguably more important, the community that will inherently come with it.” (from Kristin) and ” Even if it’s not set up in your neck of the country, it could be a model of a gym that could one day be set up near you. If this one is successful, more people will see how incredibly necessary they are.” (from Lexi)

And my friend Jess, who has been there with the gym from Day One, wrote about it too.  And tweeted: PLEASE VOTE for @SenseAbilityGym then RT. I’M BEGGING. #fedexgrantcontest http://bit.ly/XqmY3x @trydefyinggrav @diaryofamom #autism

In her post, Jess wrote: “Please vote for them to win the grant. It’s one click, once a day, through Nov 24th. Don’t worry; I’ll remind you. But please start right now. One click to create community. That’s all ya gotta do.”

So…

What happens when over 2400 people are invited to a Facebook event, and over 400 people actively voting on Facebook, and hundreds of people write Facebook posts daily begging friends to vote (under threat of postings of cat pictures all over their timelines)?

What happens when there are many many tweet and retweets,  and more postings in Facebook groups and on blog pages asking people to vote for us?

What happens when people who don’t even know us invite their Facebook friends to vote for us because they have a child with special needs and believe in our idea?

What happens when my son’s first preschool teacher writes to all of her friends: “today is the LAST day to vote for this awesome small business started by a good friend of mine! Her son was one of my very first students and holds a special place in my heart… Just click on the link and vote…thanks!!!!!! :)”

What happens when my husband is voting for something through Facebook for the First. Time. Ever?

What happens when you add one good idea plus hundreds of incredible friends with amazing social media presence plus a special needs community that comes together to support their own?

It equals over 3300 votes for our little nonprofit gym in only ten days.

And then this amazing thing happened…this I-can’t-even-put-my-finger-on-it thing…

This…whole community came together.

Cheering us on.  Joining us as we watched our numbers rise from 500 votes to 1000 votes to 2000 votes to the “holy crap we crossed 3000″ vote tally.

People posting their vote number on our Facebook event page with pride and excitement.

This unbelievably dedicated and supportive community grew up around this voting contest.

And put us in a position to be in the Top 10 of all the businesses entered.

Part of the mission of our business is Community. SenseAbility Gym wants its members to feel welcome, and part of the special needs community.

You’ve done that for us 3300 times over now.

This grant would be a game changer for us.

It would be a game changer for the families in our community.

We want the families around us to feel as supported and loved as we have felt over these past 10 days.

At 11:59pm Eastern time, voting closes.  The contest press release states: “In December, FedEx will review the entries and select and announce the top 100 finalists based on their contest profile and the number of votes they receive from Facebook users. The top six small businesses – including the grand prize winner – will be announced in January.”

Thank you for believing in us and our idea.

Thank you for believing in our children and their potential.

Thank you for being our friends.

Stay tuned.

If you read this before 11:59pm on Nov 24th and want to vote:  CLICK HERE!

What would you think if I sang out of tune
Would you stand up and walk out on me?
Lend me your ears and I’ll sing you a song
And I’ll try not to sing out of key
Oh I get by with a little help from my friends
Mm I get high with a little help from my friends
Mm going to try with a little help from my friends” – With A little Help From My Friends by The Beatles

I had it all planned out for my big November 1st “Autistics Speaking Day” post.

I was writing it in response to the movement by an Australian based organization, trying to get people to stay off Facebook and Twitter for 24 hours today, as a way of showing solidarity and support for those with autism.

I was going to write why I wasn’t going to be silent on this day.  You know, I’m all for awareness of any type, but something about this just didn’t sit right with me.  Part of that was about my ego – I just didn’t think that my Facebook friends and followers on Twitter would notice or even care if I was silent for a day.  Contrary to what my husband thinks, I’m not on there all day long.

Then there was the staying silent part.  My child is quite verbal, and we’ve worked really hard to improve his communication and social speech skills.  Being quiet is contrary to that.  And I’m guessing that my friends with non-verbal children would do anything to hear words.  Any words.  Most of them have moved heaven and earth to help their child communicate.  Why would I stay silent to recognize that?

So I was going to use this space to tell you about my amazing son Howie.  How at age four he looks to the outside world like every other four year old, but he’s not.  We work incredibly hard every hour of every day to help him look that way.  I was going to tell you that his teacher calls it a “dance” – most kids test their boundaries but are able to dance that line and pull back to appropriate behavior.  My kid can’t.  He has to be constantly reminded how to pull back, and if I let up at all, he dances gleefully across that line and we’re done. I was going to write about the hours of behavior therapy and occupational therapy we’ve been through to get us to the point where he can function in an inclusion classroom with an one-on-one aide and can finally draw a picture without a giant meltdown.

I was going to write about what autism is like in my house.

Then…

An e-mail.  From an acquaintance. Her young child had just been diagnosed on the spectrum.  On Wednesday.  She had found my essays online and having nowhere else to turn, got in touch with me.  She was devastated.  Overwhelmed.  Sad, confused, upset, bewildered…you name it.  She had been blindsided.  A routine checkup turned into something else.

I sent her my phone number.  And we talked.

The words she spoke were so familiar.  How did I miss this, she said.  What am I not seeing?  He talks, he makes some eye contact – how is he on the spectrum?  No one sees this in him.  My family and friends think the doctors are crazy.  What did I do to cause this?  Do I change his diet?  Not vaccinate?  Where will he go to school?  How will I deal with therapists in my home all week?  Will he have friends?  What do I tell my other children?  Will he ever be normal?  And what the hell is ABA therapy?

She cried.  I did too.

I know those questions all too well.  We were asking the same ones almost a year ago ourselves.  I know the grief of realizing your child might be different.  I know how it feels when your world feels like it’s falling down around you.

I told her all that.  With my words.

I told her I knew exactly what she was saying.  I have grieved for the life I thought we might have with our son – the preschool class that I thought he’d attend, the family trips I thought we’d make.  I have been in the position of explaining to family and friends why my son is different even though they can’t see it.  I told her that I have been just as overwhelmed and guilt-ridden as she was.  But I also told her that although it might be too soon to hear it, things can get easier.  The earlier the interventions start, the better they work.  I told her that my son has made remarkable improvements in the 8 months since his diagnosis thanks to his amazing teachers and great therapies.

I told her I was here for her whenever she needed to talk.

She said when she read my article it was like hearing her own words in her head.  When she had no one else to turn to, she bravely reached out for a shoulder to cry on.

If I had remained silent, she would be feeling all alone.

So many kids are being diagnosed on the spectrum every day. So many parents are hearing the words “your child is autistic” for the first time. So many parents are feeling like they have no one who knows what they are going through.

If we aren’t talking, if we aren’t sharing OUR stories, how will anyone know that we understand?  How will they know that we get it?

This is why I’m not going to be silent today.  I need to talk.  I need to share my story anywhere I can.

Because I also need to know that I’m not alone as well.

Hush hush, keep it down now, voices carry
Hush hush, keep it down now, voices carry” – Voices Carry by Til Tuesday

Yesterday I received an e-mail from a young man that I’ve never met.

He contacted me through Facebook, and I wanted to share our conversation here.  To protect his privacy, I’m simply going to call him “Jay”.

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

Jay:  I am Jay and I am 19..I have been looking for people on Facebook who know about Autism to chat with as I have Autism myself…it seems you know about Autism. Could we chat? My form of Autism is Asperger Syndrome.

Me: Hi Jay! Thanks for connecting. I’m no expert by any means – my son is 4 and he was diagnosed last Christmas. If you want to check out my blog at http://trydefyinggravity.wordpress.com/ I have a lot of links on there for good information, especially on Asperger’s.
It’s wonderful that you’re reaching out and I would love to talk more.

(yes, I know.  shameless plug, but I didn’t know the kid and didn’t know what he was looking for)

Jay:  I was 6 years old and in Kindergarten when I was diagnosed…I’ve always tried my best to overcome it by working hard and doing what I can to help others and be a good kid. I have been bullied a lot and made fun of for my condition. What do you think some affects can be of bullying on an emotional standpoint? If you were to see me or even your own kid bullied, what would you tell the kids it hurts or affects inside the victim?What emotions you know can be hurt by bullying?

Like what would you teach kids what bullying can hurt inside others

I am taking some online classes on counseling…so obviously stuff like this and your answers would help some.

Me:  I am so sorry for what you went through. No child should have to endure any amount of bullying. You sound like a very strong person.
I want to answer all your questions properly, but I have to put my kids to bed. I will write more tonight.

Me:  Ok, so here goes. I hope I answer all your questions.

I think bullying can have lifelong lasting effects. The fact that even now you remember what happened as a kid is evidence of that. And I think the effects can go one of three ways : 1) the child grows up to be an adult with lasting emotional scars and can’t recover, 2) the child grows up hating people, and could become a bully themselves, or 3) the child grows up to be an incredibly tolerant, sensitive and caring kid (which sounds like what you have become).

I’m in the camp of needing to step in when I see any kids being teased or bullied. I used to step back and wait for the kids’ parents to step in, but that doesn’t happen. Sometimes kids listen better when it’s not their parent talking to them. And sometimes the parents are the ones feeding their bullying tendencies (a vicious cycle). I think you hit on something when you ask about what emotions can be hurt. Instead of the broad “how would you feel if…” question, maybe the right question needs to be “if someone said that to you, would you feel happy? sad?” putting the emotion out there. i think it’s different for different age groups.

My hope is that someday kids won’t be bullied because they are a bit different. It might be me just being a hopeful parent, but because so many more kids are being diagnosed at an early age, the differences might not be so apparent. I’m also hopeful that schools will start to do a better job educating parents and kids about differences in learning styles, appearances, etc. so the differences become “normal”. I know they are doing that at my older kid’s school, and he has no clue which kids in his class are on IEPs or need extra help, because they treat every child as an individual there with individual needs.

I’ll say again how sorry I am for what you went through as a kid. It is every parent’s nightmare when you have a kid on the spectrum. I worry every day about my son – he’s smaller than most kids his age – and I know he won’t understand if someone is making fun of him or being playful. I will teach him right from wrong, and I hope someday he’ll be able to teach his peers the same thing.

Thanks for connecting. I hope that helps a little with your classes. You’ve helped me think a lot about the future and how to talk with my kids about how they are treated.

One more website to look at for good info for your classes: http://endthebullying.wordpress.com/. Great blog written by a mom of a child with autism.

Good luck and feel free to contact me again.

Jay:  The bullying really hurt my feelings, so in that, I’ve learned how important feelings are and that you need to get your feelings out, would you agree? I’ve read a lot of kids have trouble expressing their feelings…so I guess am lucky to get my feelings out. How important do you think feelings are in life and do you take feelings very seriously?
A lot of kids who hurt my feelings and knew they were said they were glad my feelings were hurt and didn’t care about feelings at all and that feelings don’t mean anything. Just hearing this, does it hurt your own feelings?

I think feelings is a great subject to talk about and kind of underated. My family has made a commitment to feelings for years. We have lots of books on feelings that we read. That helped me through the bullying, getting the feelings out, reading about hurt feelings and how to get better from them

I’d love if you can for me, sit down with your child, and have a talk about feelings. help learn about feelings and how important the feelings are and let me know how it goes, can you do that for me please?

Me: (in tears as I write him back): You are wise beyond your years, and it sounds like you have wonderful parents. Those kids didn’t deserve to be anywhere near you.

And yes, for you and for my kids, feelings will be the optic of tonight’s dinner conversation. On behalf of my family, thank you.

would you mind if I wrote about our conversation here? I won’t use your name, but your message is powerful and I’d like to share it. It’s ok if you say no.

Jay:  Yes you can, no problem at all.

—————————————————————————————————————————-

Now, I don’t know who Jay is, and some of you might think  he was making this all up and playing me.  My sense is that he’s not.  I feel like he was just a young man reaching out to someone who might understand him.  I do.  It doesn’t matter though.  His message is what’s important.  His story is what every parent worries about.

He’s right that a lot of kids on the spectrum have a hard time sharing their feelings appropriately.  They have difficulty showing empathy – something we struggle with every day in our house.  But it doesn’t mean that our kids don’t feel.  In many ways, I think they feel even more deeply than the rest of us.  They just can’t express it.

So, for Jay, tonight we’re going to talk about feelings at dinner.  I’ll talk about it different ways with each of my kids.  With Gerry, we can talk about what it feels like when someone doesn’t want to play the same game as he does at recess.  With Howie, I can ask him how it feels when he doesn’t see his favorite activity out at center time.  And with Lewis, even though he’s not quite two, I can still ask him to smile and show me “happy”.  And we can all make that happy face at the table together.

In honor of Spirit Day today, I’m hoping you do the same with your family.  Culture changes have to start at home, with us as parents.  Let’s talk to our children about their feelings, and teach them how to treat others with respect and tolerance, even if they are just a little different. Because we all want our kids to share like Jay did with me.

“Hey baby, there ain’t no easy way out
Hey yeah, I’ll stand my ground
And I won’t back down

Hey baby, there ain’t no easy way out
Hey yeah, I’ll stand my ground
And I won’t back down” – I Won’t Back Down by Tom Petty

I am currently overseeing an epic NASCAR-style race through my house.

I am supposed to be furiously cleaning. Every year for my birthday, my mother gives me the present of  having my house cleaned. And finally, exactly six months after my birthday, I have it scheduled for tomorrow. It is sorely needed, as the house has become a disgusting combination of a movie theater (with those sticky floors) and a public bathroom (I blame that one on the fact that I live with all boys, including one just barely toilet trained).

I just can’t keep up with the dirt and the clutter. My days are filled with refereeing pillow fights or breaking up arguments over Legos and Thomas the Tank Engine trains. If I turn away for a minute to get the vacuum, or clean a toilet, or empty the dishwasher, inevitably the baby climbs onto something he shouldn’t, or Howie is tickling the baby too hard, or Gerry is trying to watch a show but Howie keeps crashing into him. I spend more time as a police officer than a housekeeper.

The “nice ladies” who are coming to clean gave me two weeks notice (we call them the “nice ladies” because they are nice enough to not call social services on us when they see the squalor that the kids live in). The woman in charge told me that should give me enough time to “organize things so I could find them again”. Loosely translated, this means “I’m giving you two weeks so I can find your kids’ bedroom floor”.

Recently, my Facebook friends and I had a discussion about which we’d prefer more – someone to cook for us or someone to clean up after us. For me, that choice is easy. I absolutely hate to cook.  I’m sure some of that has to do with the various food issues in my house. With my husband’s vegan diet and Howie’s food aversions and intolerances, making one meal for the five of us is quite a chore. And I’m not good at it. There’s no satisfaction at all for me in making dinner. Cleaning is something I actually enjoy. Sometimes it’s the one tangible visual accomplishment I have – a clean counter top, a basket of clothes put away in a bureau.  I can look at that and say I got something done.

But now my two weeks have gone by and I haven’t accomplished anything. I just can’t get to it all.

I’m watching the boys run those laps inside our house – all three of them chasing each other at a speed more appropriate for a high school track than a living room floor. Instead of cleaning off my desk so we can tell what color it is, I am yelling things like “That’s too fast!” and “Don’t push your brother out of the way!” and “I’m going to throw the red flag if you don’t slow down on the corners!!”

My husband always reminds me that the only thing that matters is that the kids are happy and healthy and raised in a loving environment.  He tells me that the mess in the house should not be seen as a reflection of the chaos and stress of our everyday lives, but rather as a statement that taking care of our kids’ needs come first above all else.  He reminds me of this most often when the house is at its most catastrophic state, perhaps trying to convince us both that this is true.

So with that in mind, I’m waving the checkered flag at the end of the race. The finish line is that large sticky spot on the kitchen floor.

Clean up, clean up
Everybody everywhere!
Clean up, clean up
Everybody does their share
” – Barney the Purple Dinosaur

On this Mother’s Day eve, I am sitting with Gerry as he watches “Star Wars” for the first time.  As with all holidays, it’s hard not to take this moment to reflect back on the past year since last Mother’s Day.  Seeing as I am distracted by “the Force” and by looking over at Gerry’s face every 5 minutes to make sure he’s not too scared, I’m reduced to writing this as a list.

- I’ve gone from having two boys and a little baby to having three full fledged boys in the house.  There is no “baby” Lewis anymore – now, at 18 months, he’s almost as big as Howie and just as strong.  He sits on Gerry’s lap for a book, he runs screaming with laughter through the house with Howie, and climbs on to the windowsill yelling “Dada Dada!” when Tim’s truck pulls into the driveway.  Best of all, he finally said “Mama”.  It wasn’t to my face, but to others when I left the room.  I’ll take it.

- My vocabulary has expanded in ways that I never expected, and in some ways wish it hadn’t.  I am now intimately familiar with acronyms like “IEP”, “OT” and “ASD”, and with words like “sensory integration disorder”, “stimming”, “proprioceptive”, “perseverate”, “weighted blankets” and “autism”.  However, the more I understand these words, the more I understand Howie.  And I wouldn’t trade that knowledge for anything.

-In this year I have strengthened the incredible friendships I had before, and made some amazing new friends.  At a time when I needed my friends the most, they were there for me and a few went above and beyond the call of duty.  My new friends have come to me through my journey with Howie, and I have come to value their advice, commentary and sense of humor.  We have come to this common place by different paths, but our shared goal is to make our kids the best they can be.  Without them, I would be lost.

-More than ever, I have become acutely aware of how lucky I am to live where I do.   I live in a state that values its citizens by covering many medical procedures that aren’t available in other places.  I live in a town where people care about one another, look out for each other, and bring in their neighbors’ trash cans when they are away.  I live in a school district that puts their students first, so that I am not fighting tooth and nail for the services that my family needs.

-Maybe it’s because for the first time in 4 years I finally had six hours of straight sleep, but I finally decided to start taking care of me and asking for help from others.  I’m trying to run every morning with a goal of running the Flutie Foundation 5K in October, and without my friend pushing me to run to “just one more mailbox”, I’d probably still be on the couch.  I’m taking the 2 hours I get in the middle of the day while Lewis is napping to just relax, read, write and play Facebook Scrabble, and not run around the house obsessing over all the things I can’t accomplish quietly enough to keep Lewis sleeping.  I’m trying to make sure I get out of the house with some friends at least once a month for dinner, drinks and conversation that doesn’t revolve around the last time someone pooped.  And for the first time ever, I’m hiring a babysitter for a couple hours a week in the summer with the hopes that someday Tim and I might actually get out of the house together on a regular basis.

- But most importantly, I have learned a lot about me as a person and a mother.   I have finally made peace with the fact that I am not, and will never be, the world’s most perfect mom.  In fact, I have moments when I’m not sure the title of “world’s most average mother” would fit.   I have lost permission slips, forgotten appointments, sent a certain 2nd grader to school with an expired snack, yelled, screamed, and threatened to just walk away. There are some moments in the day when even “Calgon” couldn’t help take me away.  But I know that at the end of the day I am the “world’s best mom that I can be”.  I will be there for my kids in whatever way needed and will fight for what they need to the end.

Speaking of that, it’s time to say goodnight to Gerry.  We turned the movie off after an hour when I noticed him staring wide-eyed at the TV on the edge of the couch.  It’s a lot of movie for a kid who, at age four, cried at the movie “Cars” because he was sad that Lightening McQueen didn’t get to say goodbye to Mater.  We’ll watch the rest tomorrow night as way to end to Mother’s Day together.

Happy Mother’s Day to me and all the other mothers, mothers-to-be and mothers-should-be out there.

How Facebook Saved My Sanity

Hi. My name is Alysia, and I am addicted to Facebook. I’m not ashamed of it. In fact, I’ll share it with the world. I don’t care what any of you Facebook “haters” think. I am happy that I am celebrating my one year anniversary on the website this week (yes, I know exactly when I joined). I am convinced that Facebook saved my sanity this year.

Like many people, I was a skeptic. A social networking site? Isn’t that for 20 year olds to share pictures of themselves drinking? I was a thirty-six year old stay at home mother of two, seven months pregnant with my third boy. I certainly didn’t fit the profile of what I though a Facebook user was. Do I want the world to know all about me? And do I want to know all about the world? A friend of mine convinced me to check it out. She had just come back from her 20 year high school reunion, and said how amazing it was to have connected with all these people again through Facebook. So online I went. Just to see.

And so began my entry into the world of the Facebook. Status updates, quizzes, profile pictures, “friending” people…it was completely mind-boggling and confusing at first. But I couldn’t turn away. My 20th high school reunion was being planned on Facebook. Over 50 people that I went to high school with (and who I hadn’t spoken to in 20 years) were in this group, and I “friended” them all. Friends of mine from college had profiles, friends I used to work with, members of my family…I couldn’t believe it. I “friended” everyone and e-mailed friends of mine who weren’t on Facebook to tell them they needed to be a part of this. Before long, I fit right in – taking quizzes, posting status updates, and sharing photos of my family with all of my new friends. I was sucked into this new world like a mosquito to a bug zapper.

In late October, about two months after I signed on for the first time, I had my third baby boy. I was not prepared for the complete isolation that having a winter baby in New England would bring. My first two kids were both spring babies, and as hard as those first few months with them were, we were still able to get out and go for walks, or go to the store or just be out and about . It was a particularly cold and miserable winter here in Massachusetts, and if I wasn’t at the bus stop, we didn’t go anywhere. I had groceries delivered so we wouldn’t have to all go out to the store. We didn’t go out for many playdates or have anyone over. It got worse when the baby got sick in February – I was so afraid of his getting any germs that we stayed tied to the house. I was going out of my mind, and so were the kids.

Enter Facebook. My daily “conversations” with my Facebook friends saved me. When I was having a particularly rough day, my friends encouraged me to hang in there, sharing their own stories of a tough winter. When my husband had pneumonia three weeks after the baby was born, they were there with sympathy. When the baby got sick with bronchialitis, they were there to cheer me up. When I had questions about his acid reflux or his continuous ear infections, they were there to remind me it would all be ok. When I was home alone with all three kids while my husband was away on business, they all chimed in with stories of their own about being alone, and how they survived. And I did the same for them. It was my social network – albeit a virtual one – that got me through those tough days. The best part is that most of these “friends” were just that – already friends. They knew me, and I knew them. We were rediscovering each other in a whole new way, helping each other out as if we lived next door. I never would have gotten through the winter and spring without them.

I have friends who live down the street, and friends who live halfway across the world. I have friends who have known me since I was five, and friends who I’ve just met. I have 36 members of my family on Facebook, including my mother, brother, sister, and sister-in-law. Friends I play Scrabble with, friends who I chat with late at night and early in the morning. Friends whose advice I seek out, and friends whose advice makes me laugh. Friends whose successes I help celebrate – new jobs, new marriages, new relationships, new family members – successes that I would not have known about without being on this website.

My brother the psychologist told me that he thought Facebook was the soap opera of our generation. At first I bristled at this – soap opera? What is he talking about? But his point is valid – soap operas provide a daily connection to people’s lives, usually in an exaggerated way that make the viewer feel better about their own (usually more boring) life. The shows give the viewer a story to follow, people to relate to, something to look forward to every day. For me, that was Facebook. It was my connection to other people’s stories, other people’s lives. Before signing on, I had lost my identity as a person. I was Mom to my kids. After Facebook, I was more social then ever. I felt like me again. People cared about my opinions. It felt nice.

It’s the end of summer, and I find myself needing Facebook a little less than I did before. We’re able to get out more, I’m more sure of myself as a mother of three now, and I’m not feeling as needy as I did last year at this time. However, I’m still on several times a day – posting my status update, commenting on my friend’s pictures, losing at Scrabble. With these connections, I’m a much better wife, mother, daughter and friend because I am getting the social outlet I need. I can do it at times when the kids don’t need me and I don’t even have to leave the house. I am looking forward to more years with my “friends” on Facebook, and maybe I can help them in the same way they did for me. I’m hopelessly addicted to it, and I’m a better person because of it.

Just don’t try to get me on Twitter.

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