Since having more time to myself I have found I have developed some bad habits I used to be so proud I didn’t have. But, now I have more time on my hands, sitting around the house on maternity leave waiting for a baby to come, I have realised maybe I need to find a better way to pass the time. Spending more time on my phone browsing social media for entertainment has made me realise, or reminded me of how negative a place it can be. I wonder if it’s the anonymity where people feel the freedom to voice their harsh, judgemental and cruel words? Or is it just that it only takes one person to open up an opportunity to start a negative nancy marathon? And, why are we using it as a display of the perfect people we want everyone to think we have become?
My Outlook & Home Dynamic
As a typical woman I guess I am so used to being busy all the time, I never really take time out for me, and when I do it’s not for very long. I assume this is what makes people appreciate their free time more. I struggle with balance between working a rotating roster/shift work, and managing all the things at home. I assume the role of meal planner, shopper, accountant, and coordinator etc. Don’t get me wrong my husband is great, and he helps out with house work, he will share the load of washing, vacuuming, he takes out the garbage, manages the yard work (not that we have much – but I don’t have to have anything to do with it), he will do basic meal prep/cooking and he often wakes me with a coffee. I think we have a fairly balanced role around the house, and we both have a sense of 50/50 responsibility for everything. We both work, he currently works part time and I have always worked full-time/overtime, but the imbalance has been more about him retraining in a new profession that included some study, and the part time status was inflicted by his employer. (Although I can see the value in a 4 day week – just saying…) However, since being off work I feel as though I can’t expect him to go to work and still share all the things around the house, I’m not saying this is how all households should work, it’s just a feeling I have and it might be due to my upbringing or my usual feeling of always being busy. But, since being on leave I have taken to all the household chores, except yard and bins, which still leaves me with ample time around the house. Ordinarily this would be great, but at 38 weeks pregnant, most of my friends and family working, and with my minimal energy levels I feel as though all I have done is lay around the house in the afternoons, watch tv and spend WAY too much time on my phone and social media. Granted, we don’t have children and this will soon change, I will be happy to welcome his help when I have a baby to care for around the clock, feel tired and struggle to find time to fit in a shower. But, at the moment I feel absorbing the extra work hubby does around the house is only fair since I’m struggling to figure out how to fill my days anyways. This has me wondering about our perceptions of our role as women in 2020, what do we expect of ourselves, what do we expect of each other, and when did women become so judgemental?
The Culture of Social Media
To put this into context I have to get back to the “too much time around the house and bad habits” comment. It has become a habit to browse social media while I watch tv, when I find myself sitting for a moment, sometimes it feels constant. Something I don’t usually do. So with this new found time searching for I guess entertainment, I have had more time to read articles that have popped up in my feed, and even more time to read people’s comments, to the point I actually got annoyingly emotionally invested in one or two conversations and actually left a comment. Something I would normally never do. I guess mostly because I see how other people make seemingly innocent comments and cause an uproar, resulting in people being judgemental, defensive, offensive, rude and just unnecessarily cruel. I understand that written text is often taken out of context, but I feel as though some people are commenting almost just to latch onto one part of something said by someone else and just attack because they can. With all the negativity surfacing from research around social media and the negative effects it has on us individually, I wonder what it’s doing to us as a society.
I guess when you voice a concern, opinion or idea you are being judged, assessed and assumed by others for an array of reasons. On the internet we are interacting with a diverse audience. People of differing cultures, upbringings, values, ethics and opinions. Words are taken out of context as there is no inflection, and there are far too many negative attitudes and opinions out there. The social media platforms are very negative places, something that isn’t a secret anymore, and more research materialises to identify how facebook and instagram are ruining our self-esteem, happiness and self worth. Some of the “discussions” and comments I see literally remind me of the reactions of children, when a comment is made and others go out of their way not to intelligently have a discussion about the comment, but just to abuse and attack the person who they know nothing about. No wonder there are so many issues with kids being bullied via apps and social media when this is the example being left from grown adults and the online community. Readily available for all to see.
The Female Role/Expectation
This gets me back to my initial thought process – the role of women in the household. I read an article this morning about a mother who was discussing the struggle of balancing her family, work and household duties, which included photos of a very untidy laundry. First of all, I used to babysit for a family of 6 kids, I get how quickly laundry can pile up. I know from my own struggles that coordinating work and home is a fine art of balance and planning (as I’m always trying to master it but never seem to have a perfect formula) and I don’t even have kids yet. So I am in no way judging any part of this. But, it was the comments underneath that upset me. There were so many commenters, women with kids, some who worked, some who were stay-at-home-mums, all commenting on their individual work/family/house balance. Two comments were posted about how it was unacceptable to have an untidy house, and continued to identify their own regimes, how they worked, had kids, coordinated said kids after school activities, school drop offs, pick ups, and had perfectly tidy and clean houses. This of course was not well accepted, with an array of comments following that attacked those two mothers, accusing them of not spending enough quality time with their families, how they would rather have an untidy house, and accusing them of bragging and thinking they were better than everyone else. I’m not condoning either behaviours, or making any judgement either way, but what this highlighted for me is the pressure and expectations we feel are being cast upon us. Not just from society, but from our peers and probably the most harsh, from ourselves.
I would have thought in 2020 the role changes women have gone through over the years would have lead to a change of these views, pressures and expectations. We have come from a role of getting married, having babies, raising a family, and taking care of our husbands to having any role we like. We can be the stay-at-home-mum if financial pressures allow, or because of financial pressures and costs of day care etc, we can have jobs because we need to, we can choose to have a career instead, we can even choose to “do it all” or not invest in any of it. I feel as though throughout history women have fought to be equals to men in the workforce, and a shift of the stereotype in the house had shifted to more of a shared role, yet women seem to have become so harshly judged by each other for not taking on everything and winning at it. Even worse, we seem to be so defensive if we are seen to fall short of one or the other, and pull each other down for not reaching our perceived idea of perfection that we think society asks of us. Why is it women will stand together to fight for equal rights and perceptions against traditional roles and expectations, yet pull each other down for sharing the struggle to maintain an idea of who we think we should be seen to be?
I won’t lie. I have my own preconceptions of who I think I should be, and what I think people expect of me. I was raised first by my mother who quit her job when she got married because she wanted to have a family, she was a “stay-at-home-mum” in the traditional sense of the 80’s. But, like women of today she too was judged, not by social media though, just by her mother-in-law. I later went on to live with my grandparents when she passed away, where there was a similar dynamic, my grandmother was the homemaker, and my grandfather was the provider. I was also told during high school by my grandfather that he couldn’t understand why I would worry about getting my HSC, as I would likely marry, have a family and never use it. How I have taken it upon me to prove him wrong. I have my masters degree, we’re about to start a family and I’m planning to balance the lot somehow. I have to say I feel the pressure to balance it all. The career, the household, the family and the newest pressure for me is yet to come… The kids lunch box! This seems to be the new frontier in pressures placed on mothers of today, and a post for another time.
Changing Social Media Culture
I guess my point is that as a society we really need to take a look at what we are creating. We have a culture online of pulling each other down, women have a culture of pulling each other down, and we expect this not to be filtered on to our children and the next generation. My question is “how do we change it”? As grown adults who are relatively anonymous on the internet why do we need a moderator? Why do we not behave like this in a face-to-face setting? And above all, why do we feel the need to spread such negativity? I find it a really different culture between what I see on social media, and what I see in comments from my blog. Two different platforms, used in different ways, yet one is so toxic and the other is so supportive. Makes me wonder, how do we bridge the positivity of the culture here to other social media platforms?