Who Decides When It's Oversharing?
The other day, I did something really, really stupid.
I watched a video simply because I knew it was going to piss me off. It was suggested to me after I read Keeping It Real, an article reminding us that if we want our kids to love themselves for who they are, we have to start with ourselves and our parenting aspirations. I really liked that article, especially the photo with the kid in the clown wig. Hit all the good feels; I'll be on my way.
Except, on my way meant on my way through a "you might also like" rabbit hole that hit all of my indignant mom buttons. And even though I knew better just by the title alone, I watched it - probably because Iliana was in daycare and I could do frivolous things like piss myself off with videos I know will make me mad. Because I hate myself, apparently.
Let me sum up the points made in the video so I can tell you exactly why I think it is a prime example of the insidious advice we need to quit giving to new mothers. Well, the kind of advice that all of us need to quit giving to each other full stop, but quit giving to new moms in particular.
Don't make a separate profile for your baby.
The first point she brings up is great: it's against FB's terms of service. Fantastic. Good to know. But then she moves along to say that it's "kinda weird" because a baby can't talk or type. Right, because anybody following a baby's account actually thinks that the baby is making the updates. And Cooper the photography cat totally types all of his own status updates while licking his ass on the keyboard.
Lady, I bet you have a dog-in-a-purse. I think that shit is creepy and weird, but I'm not going to tell you not to do it just to satisfy my concept of normal. Besides, maybe I'm the jerk not considering why you need your dog in a purse. What do I know? I'm not you, and I shouldn't tell you what to do.
Don't make graphic updates.
"I do not want to know what you did with your placenta, or what your face looks like when you're pushing." Do post the cute shots of you and your baby, but for the love of all that is holy, don't show anything that involves blood or poop.
This is where we get into insidious advice territory. By telling moms that only the happy, pleasant parts of motherhood are appropriate to share, we are letting them know that they are alone in dealing with the blood and poop and messy humanity of child bearing and rearing. Life is messy, filled with poop and gore; babies are beautiful, disgusting little life factories. The better we prepare new moms for the reality that parenthood is both disgusting and beautiful, the easier it'll be do deal with the third epic blowout in forty-five minutes. Because babies are beautiful treasures. Beautiful treasures who also happen to make previously articulate college graduates spend whole evenings discussing the wildly varying properties of shit.
Don't ask questions. Instead, ask a close friend or a doctor if you need anything.
While, sure, there are a lot of times on social media where I've seen people ask questions that they need to bring to a health care professional STAT, for the most part new parents want to make sure that their babies are being normal babies. Is she pooping / eating / sleeping too much / too little / too whatever? Hey giant group of moms that I know on FaceBook, does this sound normal to you?
Social media is a fantastic way for folks to reach out to their wide global village over those first house-bound weeks, and we should be encouraging these kinds of interactions. We should want our new parents to have as much support as possible, and if FaceBook can help fill that need in even the smallest way, then let's let it do that.
Which brings us to the final and most Hulk smashing point in that infuriating video:
Enjoy your time with baby. Get off FaceBook!
Um. What? I didn't know that enjoying life and being on FaceBook were mutually exclusive. I mean, sure, FaceBook can be a time suck and a brain melt, but for the most part aren't we on FB to share updates with our friends? To get the attention that we biologically crave as social animals? To give uncles and cousins and great aunts overseas the proof that life does march on in those first fleeting smiles of a six week old baby?
But more importantly, this statement tells new parents that if they're not completely focused on their child at all times, they're doing it wrong.
You had your chance to be a person, but you decided to have children instead. So put away your social (media) self and burrow deep into the cave of motherhood.
Mothers need more social support during the critical days of transition from pregnant to parenting, not less. If a mom is sharing nothing but poop and gore, maybe it's because she's feeling like her life is nothing but poop and gore. If she's sharing photos of her baby breastfeeding maybe it's that's the only thing her baby ever seems to do. This is her life now, and she's trying to settle into it. How about we not tell her all the ways her new life is disruptive to ours. I mean, I know nobody wants to read about baby shit right after seeing a a recipe for chili con carne, but how exactly is the strange timing of your FaceBook timeline New Mom's fault?
With that being said, it's important to remember that not everyone does want to talk about the buttermilk smell of your breastfed baby's butt slurry, or the way your nipples ache after the third straight hour of cluster feeding. Facebook filters are magic weapons for both sides of the oversharing equation. We oversharers can filter our posts to include only certain supportive (and strong stomached) friends in our rawest and grossest baby updates. And while we're certainly not obligated to filter ourselves for public consumption, we absolutely must allow our friends (or otherwise) the room to hide our updates without going crazy about it.
The same can be said for those disinterested in my daughter's potty training or my son's fascinating first crop of zits.
I have no way of knowing where your threshold is. Mine is pretty high; right where people usually cry TMI is where I tend to start getting interested. Me talking about...whatever I'm talking about does not equal you being forced to listen. And I am not in charge of where you choose to land your gaze. All I can do is live my life, both online and off, and let you decide how much of the ride you are willing to share.
It's Not All Fun and Games (But We Love It Anyway)