If you’re reading this post, I’m going to make two assumptions about you: you are a mom with access to social media. As such, you have probably read some derivative of the below social media thread. It starts out innocent enough and quickly devolves into something chaotic and ugly.
Linda: Which brand of diapers do y’all recommend?
Jennifer: You really should only use cloth diapers. Any other brand is wasteful to the environment.
Christina: Cloth diapers waste a lot of water. I don’t think they are any more wasteful to the environment than disposable diapers.
Sara: I might have a $5 off coupon for Pampers that you can have for $10. PU in North Carolina.
Jennifer: She asked for opinions and I’m giving mine. I personally don’t feel comfortable putting any chemical next on my dear LO, but maybe you do because you have different standards…
Heather: Have you tried essential oils?
Christina: Nobody needs your judgment, Jennifer! I’m an amazing mother and you’re clearly crazy.
Leslie: Don’t worry, Christina. I just stalked Jennifer’s Facebook profile and she’s a cat lady. Tells you everything right there.
Linda: Ummm….I just wanted some diaper recommendations.
As much fun as that was to write, it’s not fun to read or to be a part of that exchange, and as someone who is part of multiple moms’ groups, both local and national, I see nasty exchanges on a daily basis via social media. Motherhood is hard enough and when well-intentioned people take to social media to ask for advice or recommendations only to be ensnared in a thread of harassment and ridicule, it hurts us all.
Social media bullying amongst our children, particularly our teens and tweens, has garnered considerable national attention over the past few years with good reason. There have been tragic cases of young people taking their lives or resorting to unspeakable retaliation for the harassment that they have experienced online. Yet we, the adults in their lives, often don’t hesitate to berate and to tear each other down in social media forums even as we deride our children for doing the same. We are examples to our children in every way and we need to role model socially responsible behavior in social media forums, as well as in-person.
The ironic thing about many of these exchanges is that I highly doubt that many of these conversations would so quickly turn nasty if they took place in person. It’s easy to hide behind a computer screen and cast judgment, but it’s another thing to look a person in the eye and unleash the torrent of your unbridled, and undeserving, hatred. We are effectively giving voice to our ugly inner dialogue while we sip our morning coffee in the comfort of our kitchens far away from the person we are hurting.
Setting aside the fact that we shouldn’t be mean to each other – a lesson that we all really should have learned many years ago – we must also remember that there may be a person in that social media group who truly needs the support and advice of the group, and is now scared to ask for that advice or assistance for fear of how it will be perceived. For example, perinatal disorders, including postpartum depression and anxiety, are a reality for many women and these mom forums may be the only place where a woman may feel comfortable reaching out to ask for help. Additionally, I have seen threads where women have asked for assistance in escaping a bad domestic situation only to have another woman attack her on her marital status. I have yet to meet a perfect person who has never made a mistake, so I’m not sure why so many people adopt a holier than thou approach to their social media interactions.
I personally want to be the light in another woman’s life, not the darkness that drags her down, and I would guess that most of you reading this post also wish to leave this earth remembered as someone who helped rather than hindered other women. Can we all agree that motherhood – and life! – can be challenging enough without dumping on someone else? Can we embrace the old adage, ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you?’ and give each other a break in life and on social media?
Sanctimony and bullying is not a good look on anyone, so simmer down Sancti-Mommy and let us give you a hug.