Baby-photo backlash on social media has snowballed into an online war on parents. Moms and dads need to fight back, one unbearably cute status update at a time.
The perennially popular site STFU, Parents was immortalized in dead trees last month with the publication of its first book mocking “The Jaw-Dropping, Self-Indulgent, and Occasionally Rage-Inducing World of Parent Overshare.”
Now, I find the status updates—involving bodily fluids, obsessive/sanctimonious parenting, spoiled brats ormommyjacking— that site creator Blair Koenig is mocking to be as egregious as anyone. But those stem from the types of extreme people who also overshare about other things, make everything about themselves, and just generally act awful.
Yet parent-shaming sites likes these tar us all with the same crazy brush.
Take the unbaby.me app, which replaces photos of children in Facebook feeds with pictures of cats or dogs or bacon—“REJOICE: Now you don’t have to look at all your friends’ annoying kids.” I don’t care about pets (though I do care about bacon), but why would I be bothered by all the pet pics on Facebook? The site exists to document one’s life, whether that life involves spending time with cats or kids or going out to brunch.
The Guardian recently ran a story called “The pros and cons of ‘sharenting’” pondering the future harm social-media moms and dads are causing their kids. I largely meet their definition of a sharent: “Mostly aged 35 and upwards, they were early adopters of social media who quickly became comfortable sharing their thoughts with strangers. Now, as they enter parenthood, it seems natural to take everyone along with them, every step of the way.”
Thanks to this column, I actually go well beyond. I’ve been writing it for a couple years now, covering everything from my now-preschool-age son Emile’s febrile seizure and subsequent surgeries to his first trip to the Pride Parade and obsession with superheroes and ukuleles.
It’s hard to remember details as a parent because so much happens so often and changes so quickly. The density of experiences can be overwhelming, and the lack of sleep doesn’t help. I already occasionally go back to old columns to remember various stages and look forward to reading this collection of memories when he’s all grown.
Less publicly, my Facebook feed is filled with photographs of Emile and status updates about his amusing bon mots and our weekend family adventures. My page is also filled with status updates and photos from concerts and interviews and thoughts on videogames and politics.
Nobody complains about those sorts of posts, though, because those things are “cool.” Parenting, on the other hand, is considered hopelessly lame. Take STFU’s barely kidding slogan: “You used to be fun. Now you have a baby.”
I’ve been writing about my own life professionally since I graduated journalism school and was hired to pen a couple of columns. I initially wrote about raving and then later funded two years of backpacking through Asia by writing first-person travel articles about riding the Trans-Siberian Railway or living under a holy banyan tree in Goa.
When social media emerged, I continued to cover my own my life in smaller but more frequent bursts. That life, however, continued to consist of socially acceptable stuff.
I was admittedly a little embarrassed about being a dad at first, concerned about how I would be treated differently because of it. Any parent knows that mentioning this fact can immediately affect someone’s opinion of you and alter a group dynamic. This happens online, too. But it didn’t make sense to edit out part of my life. So I started writing about Emile and what I was going through, first on Facebook then also for The Grid. Shamelessly.
In a Daily Mail article on the subject, the author wrote, “it is perplexing to see how parents are using their children’s lives as the new currency on social media. Where kudos once came from competing for the most perfect beach holiday, the challenge seems worryingly to have moved on to who has the cutest baby.”
The problem here, though, is the use of social media as currency rather than documentary, which has little to do with parenting, per se. You should post pictures of your beach holiday because you had a nice holiday and took nice pictures, not to compete with your friends. Same goes for posting about parenting.
I write this column for the public in hopes that it is interesting and helpful, but my Facebook posts are only seen by people who know me personally, and my admittedly plentiful photos of Emile are primarily uploaded for the benefit of my family who live in Vancouver and Boston and Los Angeles and aren’t around to see E grow up.
Before I became a dad, I worried that my life would become like the sort that those STFU parents document. But here’s the thing: it didn’t. It’s better than it was before, even if I don’t get to sleep in or spend Sunday afternoons gaming. I still get to do a lot of the cool stuff I used to, like taking Emile to the Field Trip music festival, and I think that’s as worth Facebooking about as anything.
So don’t be shamed—be a sharent. Write about your personal parenting experiences because they are as valid as stories about partying. In fact, the process normalizes being a parent, and the more that regular folks do it, the less the idea of parenting will be dominated by the extremists who post about poop and placentas.