Keyboard power.

by michelle on February 9, 2013 · 5 comments

I read this post on Vanderbilt Wife earlier this week about how judgey and unsupportive comments on the internet seem to be, especially regarding parenting. And it resonated.

It really does seem to me that the internet has conflated our own opinions of our selves. We are suddenly, because we’ve read tons of blogs by child psyhchologists, or nutritionists, or ” parenting experts”, experts our selves on all subjects, ranging from the mundane (goldfish crackers are the devil!) to more serious subjects (vaccinations are the devil!).

I belong to a mom’s group on facebook, started by a woman whom I’ve known on the internet for many years. The group has many women who I’ve known, in various degrees of familiarity, through various internet forums for almost a decade now. It also has plenty of other women whom I’m just starting to get to know through the group. Some I think have great insight and advice on many of the questions asked in the group. Some, on the other hand, are so quick to discount what you’re saying or completely derail the conversation with ridiculous comments.

For example, I asked awhile back about families who felt complete with only one child because that’s how we’re starting to feel. I asked what their reasoning process was, and why they felt that way because I’m working through my own feelings on this subject and I wanted to hear other’s perspectives to see if they resonated with how I was feeling. I had one or two helpful comments of “If it feels right, it probably is.” and “We didn’t feel complete with one, but did with two. So if you feel like your family is complete now, you’re doing the right thing for your family.” But the comments section quickly took off with “I would NEVER just have one child! How lonely and spoiled he will be if he doesn’t have a sibling.” Basically, it spiraled quickly into “OMG, one child is NOT OK. You’re ruining your little boy by not adding to your family.” I’m paraphrasing 30 or so comments here. But they all boiled down to that sentiment, and it was truly frustrating.

I’ve seen vitriol about vaccinations, and organic food, and circumcision, and oh my holy hell you’d better not turn your car seat around until that child 8, FTLOG. Last week, someone asked a question about formula feeding, and someone wrote “I never fed my children that formula, so I have no idea what to tell you. :)”. I kid you not. With the smiley face and everything. It was so smug, and righteous I almost exploded a comment back to that person how completely useless and unhelpful she was being. Anyway. Those types of comments pop up frequently in that mom’s group (which is generally helpful! Ask a question and get several helpful answers from rationally thinking and supportive moms from all over!) and all over Facebook.

I see situations like Vanderbilt Wife described frequently. Thankfully, my twitter feed is devoid of that useless crap. But it makes me wonder about adding my opinion in most online situations. Should I just leave my opinion at the virtual door in all cases? What if what I have to add to the conversation is something I find helpful, but that the person asking will find completely counter to what they need? I find myself asking these questions regularly, and I think that this line of thinking keeps me from posting most of the time.

I find that when I think I have something to say, I find that someone else has already said it. Does that mean that I shouldn’t write about it? Probably not, but somehow my thought processes lead me back to the conclusion that perhaps my point of view doesn’t need to be added. But, hell, it’s my blog!

I’ve had a post started for quite a while about why I haven’t written much lately – at first I just thought I lost my voice, and I guess that I did, but maybe not for the reasons that I thought I had. I think maybe I’m just concerned that what I have to add to the internet isn’t actually helpful or worthwhile to anyway. But honestly, that’s not why I started blogging in the first place, so why am I so concerned about that now? I’m not so sure.

What I am sure is that the internet has definitely given us a “grandiose” complex of sorts. That, though the pen (keyboard) actually IS mightier than the sword, perhaps we shouldn’t be so quick to wield that power. Perhaps with great power comes with great responsibility, and that responsibility isn’t to preach your brand of crazy on Facebook and cut down others (I find this is much more true in women’s circles, sadly), but that responsibility is to be kind to others and build them up, regardless of how your feelings differ.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Anna February 10, 2013 at 12:53 pm

This post is awesome! We need to find some way of fomenting respect and basic etiquette on the Internet again. Somehow.

courtney February 10, 2013 at 1:23 pm

Barf. I hate this stuff. I think it’s hard for people to remember that it’s okay for others to not make the same choices that you do and that it doesn’t mean you are wrong or bad. I honestly think that’s where a lot of this comes from – people are afraid of their own decisions about parenting and so it makes them feel better to point a finger of blame at someone else. But, honestly, there’s such a wide range of things that all fall under the category of “good parenting choices.” There are certainly ways to parent that are NOT okay because they endanger children mentally or physically. But it makes me crazy how we respect differences of opinions in so many other areas of our life but can be so cruel about one that should really bind us together. Parenting is hard! Let’s have some solidarity about how hard it is and how we’re all just muddling through the best we can.

p.s. Have we talked about this before? http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2002530-1,00.html

Zoot February 11, 2013 at 8:55 am

I see this SO OFTEN in SO MANY PLACES and it always reminds me how grateful I am for the kind little supportive community on my blog. I posted about physically restraining Wes during a tantrum once and everyone discussed it supportively and kindly. I saw a similar post on another blog once and the comment section just turn AWFUL. People were telling her she should be arrested etc.

It just always makes me grateful for the places I’ve found online. We’re all just trying to do our best, right?

OH, and the snide self-righteous “I never fed my children that formula, so I have no idea what to tell you. :)” comments to me are WAY WORSE than the ones that come out and say, “You suck for giving your child formula.” In MY opinion, anyway! 🙂

Laurie February 11, 2013 at 10:22 am

I agree with your post 100%.

I know you weren’t talking about the “only child” thing in this post, but I just wanted to share something with you. I have the unique experience of knowing what it is like to have an only child AND multiple children. I had my oldest daughter at a very young age and raised her by myself until she was around 11 – when my now husband entered the picture. We didn’t have children together until she was 15. So, for the most part, she was an only child.

I loved having an only child. Especially since I was a single mom, certainly wasn’t well off, I was able to provide her the experiences that I wanted to give her, and focus my attention on her the way that I wanted. Contrary to what some believe it is possible to raise an only child who isn’t a spoiled brat. If people have a problem with you wanting to give your child things and experiences that maybe they can’t give because they have too many kids, that is their problem not yours and doesn’t make your child “spoiled”. I dealt with that SO much. (sorry, that “spoiled” comment touched a nerve! haha!)

On the other hand, I love having my two that are close together. I love seeing the sibling dynamic, watching them interact and play together. I look forward to seeing how their relationship develops as they get older and I hope that I can nurture a close sibling relationship between them.

If you are happy with your one, there is nothing wrong with that. Having an only child definitely has it’s benefits! And while I am sure that there were moments where my teenager felt “lonely”, kids do develop this thing called “friendships” that work out pretty well too. She does not resent me for not having a sibling close in age, hahaha!
He will not “suffer” or “lack” or “be spoiled” because you decide not to give him a sibling. : )

I wrote that fast so I hope that it all made sense!

Anyway, great post! I wish we could all be more supportive of each other. We are all doing our best, and not all parenting battles are the same!

Ashley // Our Little Apartment February 11, 2013 at 3:54 pm

You know, I’ve come to realized that the internet seems to be FAR more dichotomous and judgmental than the moms I’ve encountered in “real life” are. I belong to a local mom’s group with about 30ish moms and there are daily emails for advice and not once has anyone ever replied with any iota of judgement. Even when moms are confessing that they are fed up or frustrated with their children.

It was so…refreshing to meet all these women who were unequivocally REAL and not trying to impress each other or win awards or tear each other down. It’s sort of sad how refreshing it was!

And I don’t think only children are spoiled and I REALLY don’t think people who stop after one are selfish (being in Catholic circles, I hear that A LOT and it drives me crazy – a choice different than our own isn’t automatically selfish!). I think that we’d like to have another, but I also know that I love how much time I get to spend with Gabe. The relationship an only child has with his or her parents is really special.

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