Social media etiquette is a hot topic of conversation these days, and can be especially poignant for split households. With current and future court proceedings (and your family’s privacy!) at stake, what and where you post can be critical. A stepmom friend’s recent experience illustrates this perfectly: her young stepson saw her working on the computer one evening and told her how cool it was that her name popped up in the search engine. My friend wasn’t following, so he explained that he was playing on his mom’s laptop during the last visitation weekend, and when he started to type the name of an online game with the same first letter, her name populated in the search field. My friend hadn’t given much thought to her online presence and privacy settings, but you better believe she started doing her research!
Closed groups aren’t quite as closed as you might think. This type of support group is trending on a variety of platforms, including Facebook. Group admins are able to ask questions and check out profiles before approving new members, leaving participants with a false sense of security. What many stepmoms don’t realize is that individuals can circumvent the approval process by creating a fake profile or getting a friend to join that meets the criteria…and then taking screenshots of posts. Remember: once your words are out there, you can’t take them back…the internet has a long memory, and so does your stepkid’s mom.
Your words matter. The best compliment I personally receive as a blogger is when someone tells me that I write exactly how I speak. Words matter, and in the age of email, texting, and online community, it’s far too easy to misunderstand or misconstrue the message when you can’t hear the heart behind the words. The biggest offender in blended families is when a stepparent shares a picture or post with the caption “my” or “our” kids. I will be the first say that although I’m very conscious about not doing this in the presence of either of my stepkid’s moms, I didn’t think about the impact this could have online. Strangely enough, it wasn’t either of the moms who “corrected” me, but extended family and friends who found my familiarity disrespectful. Let me be clear: I’m certainly not telling you to stop using these phrases, but just to be conscious that although my heart (and probably yours!) is to embrace those kiddos regardless of biology, the world isn’t quite on our level yet.
Think twice before accepting that friend request. Several of my stepmom friends have been torn after receiving a friend request from their stepkids’ mom. The reasons ranged from “We’re really trying to co-parent with her…” to “I don’t want her to think I don’t like her!” Can I gently tell you that she may not be under the same moral dilemma? I’m all about believing the best when it comes to other people’s intentions…but with boundaries. I make a point of keeping my home life and my work life separate, and that starts with not being friends with my coworkers on social media. The same goes with my stepkids’ moms: I value my privacy, and I want to honor theirs. If you genuinely want to share pictures or info with your stepkid’s other home, try a private sharing platform like Shutterfly Share Sites or simply text and email. You never know how your social media presence can affect your relationship with your stepkids…until it does.
Block, for your sake if no one else’s. Even if your relationship isn’t high conflict, I’m all for blocking the other home on social media. Hear me out: have you ever questioned how your stepkids’ mom spends her time? Her money? Social media amplifies that by like a million percent (ahem, think vacation pics from Mexico and a Pinterest kitchen). It goes both ways: even if you’re not “friends” on social media, your privacy settings or mutual connections could give the other parent a proverbial window into your life. When the relationship with her stepkid’s mom went inexplicably downhill, one of my friends confronted her and found out that her activity had been popping up on the other women’s newsfeed. While her stepkid’s mom was battling homework and softball games, my friend was sharing photos from date nights, mini vacays, and girls’ weekends. Comparison breeds jealousy and contempt, both of which can damage a coparenting relationship. If you’re asking me, stepmomma, keep that door firmly closed.
You must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak. The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you. – Matthew 12:36-37
You are responsible for what you post. You have a voice, stepmomma, and you don’t need a platform to make an impact. But in the wise words of The Joyful Stepmom, pray before you post. As a blogger, I have the unique opportunity to minister to stepmoms and stepfamilies – but my words have consequences. There is a fine line between being authentic and being ugly when sharing about the challenges of stepfamily life…and I have failed miserably at times. These days, I stop check my heart at the door before posting: am I encouraging stepmoms by relating to their experiences, or are my words self-serving?
I will close by saying that I absolutely love the fact that we can share, connect, and support each other through social media. As a stepmom who knows loneliness firsthand, who felt like no one could possibly understand what I was going through, this is a new season for stepmoms. You are never alone! You are loved, and prayed for, and thought of, and fought for. Let’s not waste this opportunity to encourage and empower women on the go by tearing others down when we should be building them up.