Is everyone having more fun than you?
Social media would have you believe they are... but it might be an illusion Is everyone having
Ditch the FOMO for good
It’s the end of year holiday and everyone you know is on a beach having sundowners – except you, that is, because you’ve recently pushed a baby out of your nether bits and now you’ve traded in your exlife for settling down every evening to three hours of rocking, burping, feeding, swaddling and cuddling a screaming, colic riddled infant instead.
But that’s not all. We’re not quite there yet. Oh no, the true inner circle of the pit of despair comes after suicide hour has finally abated, when, with their last few calories of energy for the day, new parents flop onto their couches and reach for their smartphones (knowing full well they shouldn’t), start scrolling, and are confronted with the News Feed of Awesomeness. “Riley turned 12 weeks old today and is FINALLY sleeping through the night #soblessed” on Twitter. “Shout out to my awsum hubster for surprising me and the Snowflake with a trip to Mauritius EEEK” (a gem from grammar-free zone Facebook).
And Instagram’s no better. You’re still soaking maxipads like a beetroot red Highveld thunderstorm but your friend has “finally” lost all her baby weight eight weeks postpartum – picture proof provided, #nofilter, natch.
Social media, huh? When it’s good, it’s great but when it’s bad, it’s terrible. Sure, reaching out to other bleary eyed breastfeeders on Twitter at 4am can keep you sane. But stuck in the drudgery of cleaning poo off bums, not sleeping nearly enough, and the total evisceration of your social life, you can succumb to a serious case of the envies. You see those social snaps of your usual Friday night crowd on their third bottle of champagne at your favourite little bistro bar, and FOMO (fear of missing out) strikes hard. So hard, you conveniently forget the depressed, hungover, self loathing morning after they’re all having, which you’ve replaced with inhaling the scent of your sweetly sleeping baby’s head. Sure, it’s 5.30am, and your buddies will eventually emerge into sunlight at noon, but let’s keep focusing on that silver lining, people.
If it looks like everyone is having a better time than you, they probably are. At that moment. After all, the first rule of social media is you don’t talk about the bad stuff. Everybody shares only their highlights reel. Conversely, even the woe addict with her pathological need to share her sad-sack stories is outdoing herself by never having a merely middlingly bad experience. Everything is horrendous!
But parenting is more of a filter superimposed over your life, long term, than a thrill-a-minute ride right now. Studies that attempt to find out who is happier – parents or non-parents, married people vs singletons, and so on, are all the rage, and their 51/49
sorts of results confirm what we know intuitively: these life statuses are not a reliable indicator of happiness levels. So no, being a parent doesn’t make you more unhappy. You wouldn’t undo the experience of having your child for anything in the world. But second by second, especially in the first few months of your baby’s life, you’re struggling more. Reminding yourself of that simple fact can help you make it through the night. It’s going to get easier.
FOMO hits you harder when you’re down. It’s easier to recover from childfree friends’ postings about long lie-ins on their beach island paradise holiday when you have one or two “I wouldn’t trade this for the world” parenting moments yourself in a day. Actively seek those moments out. Recognise them when they come. Pick up the gem from the sandpit and look at it – and yes, absolutely do post your Fomo-worthy moment on Facebook.
If it feels meanspirited to inspire in your friends exactly the envy you might be feeling, remind yourself you are not responsible for anybody’s reactions to what you post – they are free to unfollow, mute, block or unfriend you.
And secondly, cultivating and practising gratitude may seem very “Oprah” to you at first but it has been proven to increase happiness levels by 25 percent, as reported in the book Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier by Robert Emmons. Acknowledging the good stuff in your life is good for you. Of course, there’s no law saying that it has to happen on social media – a Word document on your desktop works just as well as Twitter, a photo of your smiling kid will make you smile whether it’s on your phone or on Instagram. If FOMO makes you develop one habit, let it be kindness – to yourself. Every day, answer these questions about your life with your child: “What did I get right today? What worked well today?”
Those parenting braggarts on social media – isn’t there a touch of desperation to their constant affirmations that either their lives haven’t changed all that much, or that they’ve changed for the infinitely better? If someone’s spreading the schmaltz a little too thickly on their social media sarmies, look under the layers for the real message: “I’m lonely; I’m insecure; I’m afraid I am not good enough. Parenting is only fun in tiny instalments.” There, between the brown breadcrumbs and the sentiment, empathy lies.
Another – funnier – way of dealing with the insecurity we all feel as parents is to poke fun at it. Do your mood a favour and look on Pinterest under the topic Nailed It – a collection of parents’ hilarious attempts to copy fancy baking and arts and crafts projects from online examples. Change your Facebook profile picture to a coffee mug with “World’s Okayest Mom” on it. When you are able to laugh at yourself, you are on the road to more confident, happier parenting.
And lastly, if a sense of her-life’sbetter-than-mine is still getting you down, ask yourself: What’s worse than FOMO? Not having FOMO! The latest social ill apparently is MOMO, AKA the mystery of missing out – that desolate, neurotic, all-alone feeling you get when your friends run silent and deep, cutting all online comms – and you suspect they are all off doing fun things without you! Thank your lucky stars, in other words, that you can still feel FOMO. YB
BEAT THE SOCIAL
JOIN THE BACKLASH Find a Facebook group dedicated to spotting the parental humblebragger, the sanctimonious, the perpetually depressed and overwhelmed. Name and shame those attempts to drag others down – in a safe, private environment where you won’t hurt anyone, of course. LAUGH AT YOURSELF What you post isn’t a 100 percent accurate reflection of your life either. Recognise that your posts can cause FOMO, too. Then be nice about it. GO REAL LIFE A chat with a friendly face (a real human) can ease your sense of detachment from the rest of the world – whether you end up gossiping about mutual FB friends’ posts or not. There’s a real world out there – spend as much of your time as you can spare actually living in it.