Online parent groups ‘two-dimensional’ compared to friendships built in person

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Posted

December 22, 2018 10:27:37

Social media and online parenting groups have incredible power to connect people but often lead to two-dimensional relationships compared to friendships made in the “real world”, Beyond Blue’s lead clinical adviser Grant Blashki believes.

Key points:

  • New parents face major life adjustments and new stressful situations
  • Online parenting forums can be great for sharing information but can lead to two-dimensional relationships
  • Baby Cino Club founder wants to create a supportive tribe for parents

Becoming a parent is one of life’s major transitions involving new routines, responsibilities, financial pressures and stressful situations with a newborn.

Up to one in six women experience postnatal depression and depression affects one in 10 new dads between the first trimester and the year after the baby’s birth.

Dr Grant Blashki described social media as a “huge social experiment both for the general population and for new parents”.

He said while there were positives in connecting people to active local groups there were negatives to be mindful of.

A few facts:

  • About 50 per cent of mums get the Baby Blues about three to 10 days after the birth of a baby because of hormone levels
  • 50 per cent of dads did not know post-natal depression could affect them
  • There is often an overlap between the symptoms of depression and the reality of becoming a new parent, such as sleep deprivation and increased stress
  • Beyond Blue has checklists for mums and dads as well as other resources online

“I think some of the potential negative things are the quality of the relationships can be quite two-dimensional, so there might be just some superficial commentary but you don’t necessarily get to know people,” Dr Blashki said.

“The other thing to be aware of with social media in general, and I think for parents as well, is that you only see the highlights of people’s lives.

“So people tend to post on their Facebook or social media their happy babies but they are less likely to post their 2:00am changing of a dirty nappy, shattered because they haven’t had enough sleep.”

He said in-person parents groups were useful to create long-term support networks and overcome social isolation because often people did not have the traditional support of extended family.

Adult conversation gives mum chance to breathe

Mum-of-three Samantha Richardson moved to Australia 16 months ago from the United Kingdom and recently joined The Baby Cino Club in Adelaide as one of her last attempts to connect with other parents after failing to set up catch-ups with parents from online groups.

The 30-year-old said she had found it hard to go out to groups since the birth of youngest child Casey, nine months ago, who had been unwell.

“I was getting to the point where I was feeling really lonely and isolated,” she said.

“I was struggling and wondering if I should move back to the UK, despite our amazing life here.”

Ms Richardson tries to attend one of the club’s catch-ups each week.

“We all chat, have a coffee, have a laugh,” she said.

“It’s a chance to talk to other adults for once, although as a mum of a young child you are always with someone. It’s not the same as having an adult conversation, it gives you a chance to breathe.”

She said while the internet, in particular Facebook, had made it easy to parents to find each other, they were not connecting in person.

“I believe social media has made people less social, it is great for sharing and finding information but it can get in the way of real life,” Ms Richardson said.

Creating a supportive tribe

Hannah Dobson, the founder of The Baby Cino Club, which meets twice a week at a Plympton park, is on a mission to create a tribe for parents.

The Adelaide mum-of-two set up the social group after experiencing the isolation of motherhood and finding valuable friendships made through a mother’s group run by a local Child and Family Health Centre (CaHFS).

“When I first had my daughter I didn’t have any friends that had children … so I felt quite secluded. I felt very isolated and like I was in this on my own,” Ms Dobson said.

Her mother’s group bought together “beautiful women” who became “soul sisters”.

“We really, really united and they helped me through those earlier months when you just don’t know what you are doing because you are all kind of going through the same thing.”

A little later while at the park with one of her “soul sisters”, Ms Dobson offered to help another mother who was struggling to breastfeed her baby and stop her toddler from running away.

The mothers later connected on Facebook and Ms Dobson found the woman did not have many mummy friends.

“Because we had so much luck with my mother’s group, I thought I wish I could have this for everyone,” Ms Dobson, mother to Alby and Audrey, said.

“I wish there was this group that united everybody, made a community for mums and dads to support them.”

The Baby Cino Club began in August and is met by a father running a coffee van.

The group, which has a $30 membership, meets twice a week and runs special events.

“I must say it is chaotic but it is fun. The whole idea is that I want them to walk away feeling good about themselves,” Ms Dobson said.

“People say ‘I’m just so isolated. We have the internet which is great but it is not a person’.

“We really need to be surrounded by likeminded people that are going through the same thing. Like is this rash serious? Or should I be worried about this ongoing cough? What’s the best brand of nappies?

“Those things that generally in my grandma’s age that was her neighbour, that was her aunty, that was her sister-in-law — they were all there together in that community. We are really missing that these days.

“We are doing a good job, I think we beat ourselves up a bit much … I want to make a tribe so that people don’t feel so excluded.”

Topics:

babies,

babies—newborns,

family-and-children,

community-and-society,

health,

depression,

adelaide-5000,

plympton-5038,

sa



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