Today was an interesting day.
Today I learned about a website/blog that basically calls people out for "oversharing". It's an interesting, and obviously very popular, concept. Regular people like you and me can send in Facebook Statuses/Twitter/social media submissions written by other people who have 'overshared' with respect to their parenting. They are then, often times unbeknownst to the original author, posted on the website along with a commentary about why this stuff shouldn't be shared. The purpose is to make parents aware that the general population does not need to know everything about what is happening in your family/day and therefore prevent future breaches of self restraint. Every effort is made to remove any identifying information in order to maintain some anonymity.
This is big - the creator of the blog had remained anonymous for a number of years; however revealed herself as she's recently gotten a book deal. The site gets a crazy number of views per day, and from what I understand, people are constantly sending in new material. And, let's be real - there is a great deal of 'oversharing' going on - not just with parenting, but with other situations that are best left private too. I've looked at the blog. I've read a number of posts. There are some really funny things that people post (and totally gross things too, ewwww). People like to read this stuff - otherwise the blog wouldn't be as popular as it is.
Why is it that we feel we can share our (or our children's) most intimate moments with everyone? I'm guilty of this - I can look back on my blog and identify a few posts that probably should not have been published. I think sometimes, I might see the situation as quite funny - whereas other people may not really appreciate the humor. I would hope that if they found it to be too much, they would talk to me directly vs. send a link or email to a website where my silliness can be shared with 1.5 million people.
I think that in the age of social media it is sometimes too easy to forget that I shouldn't post anything that I wouldn't actually say (or show) to my friends. Those who know me are aware that I often make light of the strange situations I encounter with my children on a regular basis - it's my way of trying to stay somewhat sane as a parent. Yes, in our house, we do sometimes get excited about things that come out of our bodies - and I do sometimes tell people about it. If you have the misfortune of being in our house at one of these times (sorry Mom!), I do actually feel bad for you. That being said, for any parent who has a child who has struggled and struggled and struggled to have clean underwear, you will know how important these celebrations are. Not to us - but to our children. I'm hoping I didn't post anything on Facebook - but I might have - and if I did, I apologize.
In addition, I think a lot of times I post things on Facebook, Twitter, or write on my blog in a simple effort to try and engage with my friends/family. Yes, I talk to my friends. Yes, I see my family. Yes, I get out of my house and do things with other people. But on a crazy day, when I can't even see which way is up, and the kids have turned into weapons of mass destruction that are defeating me faster than a stealth bomber, and all my friends and family are at work and/or busy, my social media accounts are all I have. Is this right? Probably not. It certainly isn't engaging in a meaningful interaction with someone - like an adult ;) But it does allow me to temporarily disengage from what is happening in my house and feel like someone else cares (even though they probably don't). It allows me to step back, try to find the humor in the situation, and then go on with my day, children intact. If this bothers you, please tell me - don't copy and paste my stuff into an e-mail and send it to a website for all to see.
There are two things that bother me about the premise of this website:
I don't believe that it is respectful to post someone else's stuff (even if it is disturbing, gross, or just plain weird) without their knowledge. The posts that end up on the website in question are sent in by fans - sometimes those who are 'friends' with the perpetrator of oversharing on Facebook or Twitter. I suppose some random stuff can be found on the internet too - I haven't taken the time to google it specifically, but judging from other things I've seen, it does exist. This bothers me greatly. Why oh why, if you are someone's friend, would you violate their privacy for the sake of a laugh? Is it that important to have them called out on their inappropriateness? Do you really think that by pointing out their post to millions of people is really going to help them share less - especially when they aren't aware of it? Or help the readers of the blog share less? Realistically, probably not. Wouldn't there be greater success by actually communicating with your friend about what is bothering you? I have tried my best to make it my personal policy to not post any material that is going to be demeaning for my children later on. I've probably not been entirely successful with this - but the intention is there nonetheless. If I'm choosing to write about my older daughter, or plan to include something from someone else, I first ask permission. I wouldn't want someone to open my blog and find out that I have written about something funny they have done or said - it's kind of like a virtual 'stab in the back', and I don't want to be a part of it. Perhaps if they contacted the author prior to posting it might be different. Yeah, a lot of people would probably say no way - but dollars to donuts, many more would say yes. At least then the owner of the content would be aware of and have consented to public ridicule. Yes, it's fine to say that if the owner requests that content be removed then it will be removed - but what if the owner doesn't even know it's there?
Which leads me to the next thing that leaves a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. There is A LOT of funny stuff on this website. I look at the stuff that people share, and I think to myself, why? Why would you say/do/share that? I don't know the person - I likely never will, so I can't take it in the context of their personality. I don't know whether they had to wait for years and years and years to have a child, and are so struck as parents that they wish to share everything! I don't know if the person writing is a teenager - because if they are, well, we all know what comes out of a teenagers brain. I don't know how many 'friends' they have on Facebook - or what their privacy settings are. I don't know these people. What I do know is this . . . the more I read the blog - particularly the Woe is Mom section, the more I felt like I was back in Junior High, snickering at the 'new kid' while they tried to get their books opened. Or whispering to my friends in the bathroom, mocking how so and so couldn't even do a cartwheel right. Or gossiping about how person A slept with person B while they were dating person C and so on and so forth. Or being the one in the bathroom stall and hearing what everyone else was saying about me. And I couldn't read anymore. It just isn't a fit for me. And it doesn't have to be. That's the beauty of being able to choose.
So even though this isn't a website for me, I will give it props for offering up some pretty clear examples of what I should and should not be writing about. And please - if something I write bothers you, I would prefer you let me know rather than stop reading my stuff, hiding my status updates, unfriending me, or offering it up to the internet gods. If you feel it is that necessary to show people how crazy I am, send them to my blog. They'll get the point. And I'll get the page views - it's a win-win.
What are your thoughts? Sound off below to tell me what you think.