Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Social Media: The New Baby Monitor

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on August 5, 2013

Understanding the impact of new technology on mental states grabs me. Shelby, fifty-one, explains to me how her life has improved substantially because as she has been included in her adult  children’s social media, she is reassured that they are safe. Prior to facebook and twitter, Shelby had significant anxiety about the physical safety of her children. One might think Shelby suffers from an anxiety disorder, and maybe she does, but she also suffers from a history of trauma where she witnessed the death of her sister as her four-year old sister, when Shelby was six, stepped off a curb,  and Shelby watched as a car hit and killed her sister. This memory, etched in her brain, has trailed off in her brain with an intense anxiety about the safety of her progeny. Then, with Facebook, Shelby’s life instantly improved. Every time she saw a posting from one of her children, she reasonably assumed that her child was breathing. As she says, “facebook  is better than a baby monitor.” Her children are aware of this dynamic, and for them too, according to Shelby, it is a lot simpler than calling to check in. Her children know what happened to Shelby’s sister, but Shelby is not sure that they connect the dots. “They don’t have to,” she says with firmness. “I am just so happy that they post, because I just cannot describe the relief I feel.” Shelby says with a power of someone who has lived through an overwhelming trauma. “I am happy for you that social media has improved your anxiety. I do not think that I would have ever seen social media in that way before, but now I do. ” I say, describing how Shelby no longer needs medication to deal with her anxiety, as social media has served the same function. Upon reflection, I can see how social media might improve the anxiety for so many, beyond those with Shelby’s history. Feeling the “touch” from a posting, can feel warm and cuddly. Global warming  has a new meaning to me.

2 Responses to “Social Media: The New Baby Monitor”

  1. Shelly said

    I understand Shelby and the allure of social media being a stand-in for the mom’s phone call to her progeny to check if they are still alive. Does Shelby realize that one can control what one writes on FB so that while her kids may indeed be “alive,” they may not be “well?” Or that they might be living lives entirely off the grid that she will never know about? Is she able to live with that knowledge?

    • Yes, Shelly, you are speaking to another level of concern, which Shelby does understand, but where there is life, there is hope, and as such, the “baby monitor” is immensely reassuring.

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