The Positives of Social Media: Niche Groups
October 28, 2013
It’s destroying communication. It’s a kidnapper’s playground. It’s ruining our eyes and thumbs.
Touche, salesman. But social media is not always terrible. It’s not always ruining lives. Sometimes it can be good.
So, over the next several weeks, let’s cover a few things we should be excited about, compliments of social media.
We’ll start with one of my favorites:
(image from Paints & Pistols, the Andrews’ fabulous blog)
Meet the Andrews family.
Christie and I were in college together. We had some mutual friends, but it wasn’t until a few short years later that we really became friends after being pregnant bridesmaids together…8 and 7 months pregnant, respectively. (Way past the looks-cute-in-a-formal stage.) Our friendship continued to grow through the pregnancy, birth, infancy, and the current feral toddler stage of our boys, Knox and Beckett.
Her youngest son, Hayes, was born in November of 2012. His first birthday is next week.
When Hayes was 4 months old, he was diagnosed with something called Optic Nerve Hypoplasia. From what I understand (which isn’t much), ONH in and of itself can range from bad eyesight to legally blind, but it is also often accompanied by other diagnoses. Sometimes mental retardation, sometimes hormonal imbalances, sometime autism, sometimes…a lot of things. And until your child is old enough to communicate well, you often don’t get a full diagnosis. You’re left with a range anywhere from your baby “just needs glasses” to “is legally blind and _____” (fill in the blank with multiple, scary disorders).
So far, everything looks positive for Hayes. He’s developmentally behind, but no glaring syndromes have been identified. He’s hitting his therapy goals, he’s growing…he’s the happiest baby known to man.
As our friendship has grown over the past few years, Christie and I have swapped stories and parenting fails when it comes to Knox and Beckett. We can laugh about how impossible it is to physically control a 2 year old doing the overcooked spaghetti tantrum thing. We can debate whether potty training is essential.
But things have been different with Hayes. Hayes has special needs, and I can’t relate. I can support and pray and encourage, but I can’t relate.
I can’t relate when she tells me he rolled over at 8 months. I’m so very excited, but I’ll never fully understand how huge of a deal that is. Or how hard being the parent of a developmentally delayed child is. Or how scary waiting for a diagnosis is. I haven’t walked that road, but I can imagine it’s lonely.
Enter: social media.
Christie found a support group on Facebook for this very diagnosis. Not a group for “parents of special needs children”, but a group for “parents of children with ONH”.
An entire group of moms and dads who know exactly what it feels like to see your baby hit milestones you weren’t sure he could hit. Parents from all over the country (and world!) that can can rejoice, mourn, encourage, and wait together. They all get it. And they aren’t alone.
And it’s social media.
Niche groups aren’t just for hard parenting journeys.
They might be for your daughter struggling with an eating disorder. They might be for your techy son whose coding skills go completely over your head. They might be for you, an adult, wanting to learn more about social media and how your kids use it. They might be for your 50-something parent whose rare bird photography isn’t fully appreciated by common folk. (If that sounds oddly specific, 3 words: meet my dad.)
Social media can connect people with the same hobbies, same life stages, same struggles, same professions, same….whatever you want, really.
Our world is getting smaller and our search capabilities are getting more specific.
We can tailor our communication and make connections like never before. We can eliminate feelings of loneliness. No more, “Nobody understands.” Because someone, somewhere does, we just haven’t had ways to connect with each other until now.
Niche groups, you guys.
They can be a really, really good thing.