Facebook ‘support’ groups, how supportive are they?

by Ohoud Saad

Facebook was a tool to connect with friends and family, to reconnect with people you haven’t seen in a while, to share your life updates and to hear from others. Posting funny statuses, engaging in serious debates, discussing politics, laughing about a meme or two. Lately, it’s become a tool for finding things, at least that’s what I’m seeing from behind my screen (and to be honest, kind of how I’m currently using it as well!) Whenever I open Facebook, more than half of the content I’m seeing is people asking for recommendations, stores they need, doctors to go to, best restaurants, visa processes, and the like. 

On many women’s only groups, there’s much of the same. Recommendations for different things and the women of the group come to aid and reply. Women supporting women, always a wonderful thing to see. But the content takes a bit of a turn and we’re not just asking for hairdressers, we’re posting a photo of our latest haircut and asking if it works for us. Instead of asking where we can find a trusted doctor, we’re posting a picture of our daughter’s bruised arm and asking what we should do. Instead of asking where to buy a bag, we’re checking in to see if it’s trendy and hip first. Instead of asking for general recommendations we’re asking people on a social media platform to tell us which of two or three names we should call our child, which of two colors look better on us, or which of three eyebrow shapes suit us best.

Mind you, it’s great to seek opinions and to hear from others. It’s great to seek support whenever we can. But, I feel compelled a bit to share an unpopular opinion: is this the healthy kind of support we need or is this a form of validation, indecisiveness, and approval seeking? I personally found myself going from responding to people’s questions, to yelling out at the screen that it’s common sense to go see a doctor, from helping with my recommendations to feel the need to shout “Do what you want! Anything will look good on you if it makes YOU feel good!” And that got me thinking about this kind of support. And why we seek it in the first place.

And believe me, I understand that the woman posting a picture of her daughter’s bruised hand just needs someone to comfort her and tell her that everything will be alright. And, I understand that the girl posting about which bag to buy just wants encouragement on what she should get. But that’s another one of my problems. We seem to be going to social media first. For anything. And everything. Where are the people in our lives? Where’s our actual support system? More importantly, where’s our self-confidence, our critical thinking, and our decisiveness? Where’s our own personal sense of style? Where’s our belief that the only validation we need comes from within?

We need to be more comfortable in our own skin, and social media doesn’t make this easy. Because as I argue the above, I know that we open social media and as women especially, we’re bombarded with ads, with beauty standards, with moneymakers we don’t know telling us how we should think, feel and act. No wonder we can no longer do just that for ourselves. No wonder we constantly need the approval of others. The digital world since forever has been telling us that we’re not enough; that we definitely need this or that, that we need to look like this and definitely not like that. 

Well, it’s time to come into our own. We need to make use of social media in a way that suits us, benefits us, and serves us. And only that. So, next time you’re about to post and take the opinion of people you don’t know and who don’t know you about what to buy or how to look, think again. What makes you feel good? Why do you need validation? You can think for yourself. You can act for yourself. You are you. You are beautiful. You are definitely enough.

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