In April 2015, Tom and I met with a social worker at our adoption agency for our very first meeting. By the end of it we had a long list of books to read, forums to join, and the recommendation of a single blog to follow. That blog was Sally Donovan’s.
The post was about self-care and it terrified me. In the first paragraph I read the text: “I collapsed into a mess of shattered nerves, frustration, anger and something like grief”. Oh my goodness! The writer had clearly experienced something terrible but as I read on I noticed a lightness in the writing that was actually full of hope. And it had me transfixed.
It was through reading Sally’s blog that led me to the Adoption Social which led me to all the other blogs I now read on a weekly basis. They often tell of the trials and tribulations of being an adoptive parent but somehow they too are always hopeful.
Reading these blogs is what made me think about writing my own in order to keep track of our adoption journey. And it was at this point that I started using Twitter as a way of connecting with the people whose blogs I was reading but also to let those same people know about mine.
I have used Twitter for work for years but have always kept that account completely professional and tweets were either directly about my work or those in my field. My new account was about me and the adoption process, and if I wanted to bitch about a late train, show off about an event I was at, or just share what I was feeling this was the place to do it. Having said that, I do try to keep those type of tweets to a minimum – who wants to be confronted with my *screaming* tweets at South West trains? And no-one likes a show off. However, over the last eight months, I’ve been continually amazed at how the vast majority of people I follow on Twitter are so open, caring and thoughtful – which in turn has encouraged me to do the same.
At times it’s been a strange experience for me. Complete strangers have tweeted about awful experiences and I have wanted to reach out to them but my natural British reserve has often stopped me. It’s the same if I see someone crying in the street – I want to ask if they’re OK but am worried about how they’ll respond. On the odd occasion when I have offered to help a crying person they’ve looked at me like I was mad. On Twitter, however, when I have offered a comment or thought it’s been greeted with thanks and appreciation, which has enabled me to do it more often.
For all the benefits of social media there are, unfortunately, also many downsides. Tom and I have a ban on using social media when we’re at home together in the evening. It’s all too easy to get carried away whatsapping, tweeting and facebooking and before you realise it, an entire night has gone. There are also the security risks both to ourselves and our future children - one of the reasons I’ve decided to remain anonymous. It’s the anonymity that allows me to be so open but also allows people to think it’s OK to say what they want without impunity.
A few weeks ago someone I follow on Twitter posted a tweet about their yet-to-be adopted child. A flurry of responses followed from people all giving their own points of view, but an hour later it felt like the original tweeter was being ‘attacked’ for a decision she had made, knowing all the facts, and in consultation with her social worker. A very final tweet from her did manage to stop any further comments but you got the sense she was exhausted from it all – I know I was.
It did amuse me that the very next day the same tweeter replied to a post of mine in an incredibly insensitive way. I’m sure she didn’t mean it to sound the way it did, but it just goes to show how careful you have to be when we rattle something off without a second thought.
Our agency recently organised a training event on the theme of social media and adoption, which I attended. It was a really informative night and I came away with some great tips and ideas about how to protect young people from the dangers of social media. These include:
Of course all of this is dependent on the age of your children. What is right for little Johnny isn’t necessarily right for little Tommy too.
So I wonder how I’ll use social media and blogs in the future after our children are placed with us. Will I have the time or inclination to continue my blog? I certainly hope so. Will I ask for advice and guidance on Twitter and Facebook? Almost certainly. Will I tweet every thought and emotion? Who knows.
But what I do know is that social media is here to stay whether we like it or not, and it’s up to each of us to use it as we see fit – both for us individually and for our families.
How do you use social media? Is it a lifeline or a straitjacket?
My husband and I have adopted two wonderful children. Duckling is 5 and Gosling, her little brother, is 3. I'll be keeping track of our journey here...