As a long-time subscriber to the Huffington Post and mom of two, I’m a big fan of their parenting section, with contributors like Glennon Doyle Melton of Momastery and Jill Smokler of Scary Mommy. With each click, I’ve always felt confident I’d be reading something interesting, thought provoking, or, at the very least, having a good laugh. I’ve therefore come to consider Huff Post Parents a reliable and professional source of information. That is, until yesterday.
A post entitled “Parents ‘Demanding’ Invitation to Baby’s First Birthday Goes Viral” popped up on my Facebook feed. It seemed to be getting a lot of attention so I clicked in because, admittedly, I’m human and immature, and sometimes enjoy laughing at stupid shit like this. The article highlighted an email sent by an anonymous parent who’s planning her 1 year-old’s birthday. She apparently emailed some family and friends with some birthday gift edicts. I use the term “friends” loosely, as clearly she has some frenemies – you know, those people you thought were your friends but clearly they can’t stand you – as one of the recipients passed the email around at work and it went viral. The result: the writer of the email is now the subject of mockery and scorn.
As I scrolled through the contents of the email, I didn’t see the big deal. So the mom made some strong suggestions about gifts for her baby. What’s the big fuss? As I read on, I hoped the author of the article might provide some humorous analysis or thoughtful discussion, but instead she simply quoted the most controversial segments and ended with the comment “Best of luck to the party attendees.”
I was instantly surprised, and disappointed, that a news organization like the Huffington Post would post such an irresponsible, uninteresting and downright nasty article. I then foolishly scrolled through the comments, hoping someone would come to the defense of this poor soul. Instead I saw gems like these:
“The best gift for this child would be to set up a trust fund that people could donate to for the counseling this poor kid will require when he’s older. I’ve met some controlling parents in my life, but this one might just be the new standard by which all other arrogant, self-absorbed, overly controlling parents are judged.”
“Seriously, how do people like this even have friends, let alone someone to breed with?’
“This parent has pathological need for control; I feel sorry for the baby. No wonder he ‘hates to be read to’…it’s more likely his parent that he can’t stand…”
Mind you, the authors of these comments know nothing about this family, other than what they read in this limited article. Also remember that this person didn’t make her email go viral; she didn’t post a video of her demands on YouTube or share her list on Facebook. She assumed her words would be for the eyes of friends and family only.
This felt all too eerily familiar to me, as it reminded me of that day in sixth grade when the note I wrote to a supposed friend about my crush got passed around the entire class and I became persona non grata for two painful weeks. They have a term for that type of conduct and it’s called “bullying” – in this case, more specifically “cyber-bullying” – something that is sadly all-too prevalent online, especially when it comes to parenting. It needs to end.
I’m not suggesting that we ditch our computers or unsubscribe from the Huffington Post or other parenting blogs– most of the stuff out there is great and well worth our time. I’m also not suggesting that we pretend to be Pollyanna and erase all judgment and mockery from our inner dialogue. That’s not realistic either. Sometimes we revel in poking fun at others; sometimes we simply want to feel better about ourselves. We’re imperfectly human, and when we make snide comments about others to ourselves or to a close friend, it’s relatively harmless. But, when we take it to the next level by vocalizing our judgments or mockery online, our actions become harmful, to both the intended recipient and society as a whole, as we perpetuate the culture of “I can say anything because I’m anonymous and therefore unaccountable.”
You’re better than that, and so am I. And, like the parent in this email, we’ve all done or said things that don’t put us in our best light. Think of yourself at your douchiest parenting moment (and new moms have many of them). We’ve ALL been there. The only difference is that our douche-baggery doesn’t get spread around the Internet for the entire world to see and mock. Thank God, right?
So what am I suggesting? If you agree with what I’ve written, take some action today. First, you could start by contacting the Huffington Post and suggest they delete this article and all the comments. Second, if you want to continue on a path of non-judgment, take our pledge and join our movement. It’s time to put an end to the cyber-bullying and trend toward acceptance and friendship. Who’s with me?