Moving away can feel like such a liberating experience, but what about the parent’s perspective?

First of all, Happy New Year! I hope you’ve all had a lovely Christmas break.

Throughout this blog, I’ve spoken plenty about long-distance relationships and how social media is really helping to bridge the gap that distance creates. What I haven’t spoken about enough, though, is the effect that a child moving away might have on a parent.

With Christmas being over and the January term coming up, I decided to do something a bit different for this post. I interviewed my mum to see what she has to say about having a child leave home to go to university, and how she may think that social media helps (or whether it is any help at all.)

A photo of me and my mum that we took in Bournemouth when she came to visit in November 2018

This is how our conversation went:
I’m looking for a parent’s perspective on what it’s like to have a child move away in this very digitally focused world. Speaking generally, what’s your overall opinion on social media and developing technology?

“I like it because it cures my curiosity. It keeps me in touch with the people I care about, and it means that I can talk to people all across the world. It also helps me with my work, since I can keep in touch with customers using WhatsApp and Messenger to get immediate answers.

Using social media also makes the world feel like a smaller place. Plus, I can use it to research holidays. I like to watch vlogs from other people who have done the holiday that you want to do and look at guides. (TimTracker, for example.) Somehow, on the internet, content creators can feel more approachable than those on TV – it feels like you know them.”
Any negative opinions towards the internet and social media in a general sense?

“It does sometimes make you feel that other people’s lives may be better than yours. I don’t actually feel that way though.”

“For Facebook in particular – community forum pages. People feel as though they have the right to say whatever they want, and its very rarely positive. It’s unsettling to see how people can jump on a negative belief so quickly as soon as it’s published online.

The jump towards violent language online scares me – that people believe in what they’re saying without question and without thought towards those that they are attacking.”
Did you think it would be more difficult when your children went to uni than it’s turned out to be?

“It was more difficult when your brother went to uni. I didn’t know as much about social media and I wasn’t a frequent user, but within 3-4 years it’s become so prominent in everybody’s lives and its at the tips of your fingers now. Your brother communicated less and we left him to settle in more.”
With that, would you say that social media was the main reason why it was easier with me?

“Yes, you’re more active on social media – I know who your friends are at university and can see how they’re getting on. We always say good morning and goodnight which also helps.”
How do you use social media to check up or keep in contact?

“I use messenger to ask questions and ask how you are. We send photos to each other so that we’re both still involved in each other’s lives and can see what we’re doing. I also use Instagram which is how I can see who you’re with, and can follow your friends from home to see how they’re doing. Instagram also lets me compare people’s lives with each other, see how similar the uni life is.

I also use social media to keep updated with family in New Zealand – we used to have to write letters to each other, but now we can message and have full conversations where it is instant. I can watch their children grow up and I felt like I knew them when really, I only met them this summer.”

Are there any negative aspects of social media, as a parent whose children are away?

“No, on the whole I think it’s a very positive experience. I think I would be more concerned if I didn’t see anything from you at all on social media, as it feels more like open and honest communication, where you’re still sharing things with me. It means that I don’t have to question you loads as I already know.”
How different do you think everything would be without technology, as a parent?

“In general, I wouldn’t really know anything about what was going on in the world. However, I wouldn’t be seeing what everyone else was doing with their lives, so I’d probably just believe that you were living the same sort of life as at home.”

“There’d be no option to look at whether it was a bad area, or look at crime rates, or see what’s going on in a nightclub.”
So, are you saying that without social media, you might actually feel more relaxed about me being away?

“Only if there was completely no social media.”

Without social media, since everyone would be less informed, we’d all be a lot less anxious and preoccupied with other people’s actions and what was about to happen next, since there would be no way to find out until it happened.

Saying that, there’s no denying that social media and technology has made making and maintaining relationships infinitely easier.

Personally, despite the fact that it can make me feel a bit isolated and lonely sometimes, I’m so grateful for it and I’m not sure whether I’d have the same friends and relationships that I have today without it.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments below!

– Chloe