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.