STFU Parents: How (Not) To Talk About The Boston Bombings On Facebook

This week, much of the discussion online (and around the world) has been about the Boston Marathon bombings, and specifically the ways that news gets reported and distributed in the social media age. Many news outlets and websites have been criticized for speaking too soon and pointing fingers at the wrong people. But as a blogger who writes about overshare, the thing I’ve noticed is how average people tend to use social media during a tragedy or crisis.

This subject has been gnawing at social media users for some time, evident whenever there’s a mass shooting, terrorist act, or even a natural disaster.

When I go on Facebook or Twitter (which I’m typically glued to regardless of the news of the day), I’ll admit I anticipate every tweet or status update to be about the big news item that I’m hoping to learn more details about within the second that they emerge. And I would probably rather read an update about current events than an update about virtually anything else. But that doesn’t erase the uncomfortable feelings I have when I see people using tragedy to get attention online.

Don’t get me wrong, a part of me understands it. One reason people overshare is because they’re eager to get out their thoughts and be part of the conversation. But sometimes, it can be better to keep thoughts on certain subjects separate. For instance, every year on the anniversary of the September 11th attacks, STFU, Parents receives a series of submissions that say things like, “9/11. Never forget. Oh yeah, and Ella crawled today!”, which sort of reduce patriotic sentiments into sound bites. And every time something awful happens, instead of just saying, “My thoughts are with the victims and their families,” some parents include additional information about their kids that seems to divert the attention from the news item to little Braedyn being a cutie pie. And I guess I just don’t get that.

Why combine events in status updates when they’re not related? I can only assume it’s because parents feel the need to add to the larger conversation even if what they really want to talk about is their kid.

But I’m here to say, parents, please don’t do this.

You can write about Ella and Braedyn in an independent update and no one will think you’re an asshole. In fact, it appears douchier when you do include a blurb about current events, especially when that blurb comes off as an afterthought. What’s really on your mind? Your baby eating solids or a guy whose legs just got blown off? Make up your mind, and only post what’s appropriate. Otherwise, you appear to just be including “key words” to increase your update’s visibility, even if that isn’t your intention. Here are a few examples of what I’m talking about:

 1. Prayers 

STFU Parents

Sorry, Alicia, but unless you’re talking about dew and fog, the word is “midst.” And while the conversation you describe sounds charming and adorable, it also sounds a little self-involved presented like this. “Prayers to Boston” isn’t the focus of this post; children are. Why not focus on the real heroes, the ones who saved hundreds of lives? Or hold onto that story for a conversation at another time? When people’s limbs are being amputated after a domestic attack, I don’t really give a shit about your son’s heroic fantasies, sweet as they may be.

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    • faifai

      “It’s all about perspective”??? YES, it IS. And your kid’s pee means nothing next to people dying violently for no reason at all. Have some %&$#ing perspective.

      • CrazyFor Kate

        Perspective, it does not mean what he thinks it does.

    • smishsmash

      I dunno, call me crazy, but I actually think the story about the little kid saying they’d protect their sibling from “bad guys” is pretty charming.

      • chewie402

        I’m gonna have to disagree with you…to me it was one of the most obnoxious posts on this entry. It the “mist” of tragedy, this parent decides to make everyone focus their attention on how perfect, sweet, and charming their child is…and in turn now perfect he must have been raised.

      • http://fairlyoddmedia.com/ Frances Locke

        Meh, I will agree to disagree and I think the “mist” thing could easily be a real typo. I always have crumbs on my keyboard and miss letters all the time. It wasn’t a blatant misspelling like a lot of the ones I see on STFU Parents.

        I literally had to press the period key four times to get it to work on that last sentence. I am officially a pig for eating over my laptop, lol!

      • Lawcat

        I agree. While 2-4 were pretty standard batshit crazy STFUP submittals, 1 irks me the most.

        I have a feeling she’s not all that concerned about the events of Boston. She was looking for an excuse to tell a “cute” story about her kids. Most people could give a shit about what your kid has to say, and those that do, you can pick up a phone and call. Re-telling a conversation you had with someone isn’t as cute or funny or interesting the second or third time around…

      • LiteBrite

        Actually I post conversations I have with my kid all the time because some of the stuff kids say is just straight-up hilarious. Judging by comments my friends make those seem to be the most popular of my status “updates.”

        However, I’m on the fence about #1. When I first read it, my thought was “What a cute story! This isn’t STFU-worthy.” But then I read STFU Parent’s comment and some of the others, and….I don’t know anymore. It seems rather gratuitous to use a national tragedy as a way to tell a cute story about your kid, so I see that point too.

        The others though…ugh.

      • Lawcat

        I don’t know. Maybe I just find it annoying because my SiL does this all the time….And her kids probably arent as hilarious as yours (although she obviously thinks they are).

    • whiteroses

      Either don’t say anything about your kids in the status update, or if you absolutely must talk about your kids, ignore the event entirely. Not that hard.
      It’s been a rough week for all of us. I don’t really care about Sophia’s pee.

    • Jezzer

      I don’t have a problem with the first status, because it was on topic and was about the children processing the stories coming out of Boston.

      2-4, however, can go straight to hell.

      • Jessie

        Agreed, the first one wasn’t so bad. The others though… Ugh. That’s all I can say.

      • http://fairlyoddmedia.com/ Frances Locke

        I just commented something similar! I agree, the first one is topical and kind of sweet, the rest can suck it

      • http://www.facebook.com/paul.white.3532507 Paul White

        Yeah, I don’t get the STFU Parents person picking that one. The others? Yeah.

      • http://www.facebook.com/courtney.wooten Courtney Lynn

        I agree. Though I do agree with B that it sounds a bit self-absorbed, I’m okay with #1 because it still relates to the tragedy. The rest are inexcusable and insensitive, IMO.

      • STFUParents

        To explain the first one a bit — when I write my Mommyish columns, I try to split similar submissions I receive into “Mommyish” and “STFUP” folders, so there’s a bit of each type of example in both posts. Sometimes I’ll pick a “tamer” one for Mommyish, but then post the “more offensive” example on STFUP. IMO that’s what happened in this case, because the similar example to #1 on the STFUP post I’m writing right now is more annoying/self-absorbed than this one.

        In my mind, the two posts go together, but I know that’s probably only clear to me, lol. After you read the STFUP post later maybe this comment will make more sense. (Or maybe not!) But yes, I always post the “tamest” examples first in my column and then work up to the more offensive ones.

      • Jezzer

        Ah, I was wondering about that. I typically fall in the “angry non-breeder” spectrum of the STFUP readership, and even I thought the first one was kind of cute and sweet.

      • http://www.facebook.com/iwill.findu.90 Iwill Findu

        I thought the first one was sweet also. It’s an older brother wanting to take of and protect their younger sibling during a tragedy even if they aren’t really old enough to process some of the harsher facts of the world yet.

      • goofyjj

        I’m probably in the minority but it rubbed me the wrong way as a little santimommy and could have been saved for a later date. I’m sorry but a little kid isn’t a “hero” – the first responders are the heroes.

      • Jezzer

        Geez, dude, her kid’s probably not a genius either, but let parents cling to some cherished misperceptions.

    • http://www.scargosun.com/ Scargosun

      I love your blog posts and I have to tell you these FB posts stunned me. I physically had to keep my self from banging my head on my desk after reading “Silver Lining”. SERIOUSLY!?

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1193472032 Nancy Reeb

        You know what drives me nuts? A tv child psychologist advising parents to explain to the child why one of the brothers/bombers/terrorists is dead. “He made some bad choices”. Seriously? Breaking your friend’s crayon on purpose is “bad choice”. Detonating two bombs is a batshit crazy act of terrorism. They may not need all the details but find a truer word for an act that maims and kills innocent people.

      • smishsmash

        I’m actually ok with “they made bad choices.” You have to pick a simple way to explain these things to small kids. Really, the alternative is to say “they were crazy” or “they were bad people” which in my opinion sets the stage for kids to get this idea that there are these inherently bad people somewhere over there and these inherently good people somewhere over here and people act in accordance with this inherent godness or badness. But that’s really not true. As much as they may have been legitimately nuts, they did actually make the choice to act on their nutballness. If I’m going to pick a simple way to try and explain a tradgey to my child, I’m definitlely on board with picking the method that prioritizes accountability and emphasizes that these people had a choice in how they acted and that it’s important for us as people to put the hard work into thinking about our actions and morality rather than just assuming there are “good guys” and bad guys.”

      • http://www.facebook.com/katherine.handcock Katherine Handcock

        Yeah, it’s hard to explain in a simple way to little kids. When I’ve had to explain similar situations to my 4-year-old, I tend to say, “They did bad things” or “They did things that hurt people.”

      • heather

        The “bad choices” thing could backfire though… if you have an anxious or literal kid and they later make a kid bad choice (ie the example of breaking someone’s crayon), they could remember that conversation and be afraid that they will be killed – if the guy on the news died because he made bad choices… and i just made a bad choice…. cue scared kid. i was like that as a kid, and if someone had explained something that way to me, i would have lived in fear of accidentally making a “bad choice.” i do like the discussion of choices and consequences, but some differentiation has to happen between kid bad choices and terrorist bad choices.

      • Leigha7

        “Bad choices” may be a good starting point, but I really don’t think it’s enough in and of itself. I’m not sure if most little kids are capable of understanding that when they make a bad choice and kick their baby brother that it’s nowhere near even remotely in the same realm as the “bad choice” of committing an act of terrorism. The use of a mild phrase for an extreme circumstance seems inappropriate to me, unless there’s plenty of clarification afterward.

        I was 11 when 9/11 happened, and my elementary school chose to have all the older kids (I’m guessing 3rd or 4th grade up, but not certain) watch the news live. I think this was the best thing they could have done, because it was much less scary than it would have been if we’d been kept in the dark while all the adults around us were obviously distraught. I’m not sure what would be the best way to deal with it for very young children, but I definitely think making sure they have some basic understanding of it is important.

    • http://fairlyoddmedia.com/ Frances Locke

      I actually think the first one is okay It’s on topic and sweet, though not something I would have posted myself. Also, the typo might have been a legit one. I am a pig and a workaholic so I eat over my laptop constantly and I always have keys sticking, lol.

    • kirsten

      Given the foggy info given by poor reporting, #1 may have hit the mark with “mist” after all.

      #3 boggles my mind. A little snark towards poor judgement is the norm for this column, but having to denounce literally referring to the bombing as a “side note”? Toni surpasses the idiocy expectations of even STFUP.

    • Guest

      Nancy Reeb Scargosun • a minute ago

      +

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      You know what drives me nuts? A tv child psychologist advising parents to explain to the child why one of the brothers/bombers/terrorists is dead. “He made some bad choices”. Seriously? Breaking your friend’s crayon on purpose is “bad choice”. Detonating two bombs is a batshit crazy act of terrorism. They may not need all the details but find a truer word for an act that maims and kills innocent people.

      • BarlowGirl

        What word?

    • Foxhound

      All are obnoxious, but number two…wow. My mouth is still agape.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1193472032 Nancy Reeb

      Delete
      Flag as inappropriate

      You know what drives me nuts? A tv child psychologist advising parents to explain to the child why one of the brothers/bombers/terrorists is dead. “He made some bad choices”. Seriously? Breaking your friend’s crayon on purpose is “bad choice”. Detonating two bombs is a batshit crazy act of terrorism. They may not need all the details but find a truer word for an act that maims and kills innocent people.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Gregory-Wahl/100002290528866 Gregory Wahl

      I really think #1′s okay. It was germane and personalized, just like how I might post about conversations I’ve had with my kids over otherwise serious political topics. I actually think the last line of your reaction paragraph went way over the line, considering.

      That said, the rest of them are ridiculous, and I love Katie’s reaction to Patricia.

    • ALE515

      I am really really happy that Facebook and other such things weren’t around on 9/11/01… I can’t imagine all the mommyjackings and what not happening. I can’t stand seeing the horrendous anniversary posts, can you imagine it in real time?

    • Powers

      I don’t see a problem with recounting one’s children’s reaction to the news, any more than recounting one’s own reaction to the news.

      • BigBlue

        I didn’t mind that one either. The others though…sheesh people.

    • JanaOlsen

      I’m so confused by that last one. Why would you even want your daughters birthday to be mentioned with those events?
      I find #2 to be the most rage inducing. I doubt the parents who lost their 8 year old son will be cheered up by your child being potty trained.

      • Rachel

        Betting she associated her daughter’s birthday with those other events because the birth of her daughter is LIFE-ALTERING CHAOS~~! that will ~*~LIVE IN INFAMY~*~

    • http://www.cafepress.com/ladycrim ladycrim

      So, is Patricia in #4 claiming her child’s birth was a national tragedy comparable to mass murder, or is she just clueless?

      • Shea

        Maybe she’s given birth to the Antichrist.

    • Teal

      The initial post in #4 does actually make an interesting point. What is it about the middle of April that makes people go nuts?

      • sarrible

        The third Monday in April is Patriots’ Day, when the anniversary of the battles of Lexington and Concord is commemorated, and for some reason white supremacists really like to do stupid things on that date. The Branch Davidian disaster in Waco, Texas, was on Patriots’ Day, as was the Oklahoma City federal building bombing.

      • Simone

        American patriotism, huh? National identity can be a pretty dangerous thing for unbalanced people.

      • Hannah

        I thought the guy meant that Hitler’s birthday is 4/20. But I doubt that had anything to do with the Boston bombing.

    • Michelle

      I love STFU parents, but I disagree that the first status is offensive. I also suspect that you do not have a sh*t because you do not know the person who made the post. If your friend gave a response, you would care even if it was just as trivial.

      • michelle

        “give a sh*t”

      • Leigha7

        Except that the status was submitted by someone who is friends with them, so it’s obviously not true that their friends would necessarily care about it.

        I do agree that the first one wasn’t so bad, though. It’s light-hearted but on topic. If you’re the sort of person who appreciates having something to lighten the mood a bit after a tragedy, without the awkwardness of completely unrelated happiness, it’s a pretty good status. If you’re someone who thinks it’s inappropriate to be happy right after a tragedy, however, I can see where it would rub you the wrong way. Nothing wrong with either viewpoint.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003329844037 Tammy Gaudreault

      Think the drinks were kicking in when you wrote this, I can feel the aggression in the way you wrote lol. I don’t blame you though, and I’m pretty sure these are just the light ones that you have as compared to some that were sent to you that could make a butterfly grow claws out of anger.

      • STFUParents

        Ha, actually I wrote this after I went through submissions that night. Wrote it around 9am!

    • Cee

      Ugh, fuck! How hard is it to post your sympathies about a tragedy, followed by something about your child an hour or so later? Its as simple as that folks! No need to mix it and sound like an asshole.

    • once upon a time

      In #4, Christopher says, “What is Saturday?” Is that a special date in America or is it just another reference to someone’s birthday?

      • mars

        This Saturday is 420, so in #4 Christopher is implying that all the tragedies are because people smoke weed I guess.

      • k_milt

        It’s also Hitler’s birthday, so my guess is that he was referring to that event. Like Hitler’s ghost invades people and makes them do bad things?

      • STFUParents

        I wondered that, too, but Hitler’s birthday was my first guess.

      • goofyjj

        My guess was it was a smug reference to 420 and how drugs are the scourge and cause of all evil in the world.

        All the “smokers” I know and have known are the most peaceful people. It’s difficult to imagine hurting other people when you’re sitting around talking about peace, love, and Bob Marley.

      • Persistent Cat

        Agreed. How many people remember Hitler’s birthday? There aren’t posters all over my city about Hitler’s birthday but there are posters everywhere advertising the 420 rally. And she asked, “what is it that makes people loopy,” hence the 420 thing. That’s my guess.

    • Simone

      People need to stay off social media around the time of tragic events if this is the best they can do. How unbelievably self-centred. I and my child are the centre of the entire ***ing universe… Hey, all those mothers and fathers who are now insensible from grief and facing a lifetime of loss, guess what? My itty bitty angel peed in a potty…. And to think it is the role of these people to teach their children empathy.

      It does not matter one bit that the bereaved parents will not read these facebook entries and are not privy to such sentiments. We are now living in a global community and what we say and do can at any time become public and can affect the way numerous others think and feel. Save your little kiddy updates for another time and as B says, for shit’s sake don’t tack on a mention of horror and loss to seem topical. ***ing barf.

    • http://www.facebook.com/katherine.handcock Katherine Handcock

      It took me a while to figure out why status #1 bothered me — like people have commented below, it doesn’t seem that bad — and then I figured it out. For me, the problem is that friends/family members/loved ones of those injured or killed in the bombings, and in all the other incidents of violence that happen every day, would have loved to be able to stop the bad guys. Chances are good that, no matter how many or few FB friends you have, someone out there wanted to save someone from violence and couldn’t. A status like this is sweet, but in the context of the immediate reminder of circumstances where you can’t save someone, it could be very painful.

      • http://www.facebook.com/paul.white.3532507 Paul White

        But the vast majority of us don’t know anyone injured or killed in Boston. It’s a horrifying attack, but 3 people killed and a 150 or so injured describes a day of traffic in most big cities too.

      • http://www.facebook.com/katherine.handcock Katherine Handcock

        That’s what I was getting at, though: as sweet as it is that this brother says “I’ll protect you” to his sister, he can’t. He can do his best, but he can’t eliminate risk — as you point out, there’s risk every time they get in the car together. Some brother on her Facebook feed is remembering something — a car accident, a crime, an illness, whatever — that he couldn’t stop. We may not know someone directly affected by Boston, but I think it would be just as painful for someone who’s loved one died in an accident to see this and think, “Yeah, I promised that too.”
        I think I would feel differently if this status were “out of context” i.e. on a typical day in their lives, brother said this to sister. But to me, it still has that resonance of promises that can’t be fulfilled.

    • Karla

      In some ways, your use of the Boston tragedy in your writing is as offensive as these posts. How is your blog really different than these FB posts?

      • STFUParents

        My “use” of the Boston tragedy? I’m reporting the trends I see in my email inbox, just like any other column. I’m covering a story that EVERY other outlet has covered. I’m not “using” it for personal gain. I’m reporting on it from the social media perspective, like I have in 100 other columns on Mommyish.

    • http://www.facebook.com/Coco.M.Rogers Coco Rogers

      The “Pee in the potty cancels out horrific events! Yay for urine!” thing made me want to kick Sophia’s mother in the shins. I love Katie with all my heart, though.

    • heather

      Every time we see these types of updates showcased, i think this:

      It’s a big world. Even on days of huge tragedy, something joyous can happen in somebody’s own life, and vice versa. At the moment when your child is born, somebody is losing their child. At the moment when you say goodbye to a parent for the last time, somebody is celebrating finally finding out that they are pregnant. Joy and tragedy both happen every day, and both are always significant. Even on days of huge scale tragedy, there are people out there celebrating something wonderful.

      What irks me is the combining of the two. i think some people do it so as not to appear insensitive- ie, “ill look like a jerk if i just say happy birthday nevaeh because today is september 11 and if i just say happy birthday, ill look selfish…. so happy birthday nevaeh, 911 never forget.” in reality, that makes it worse. its okay to wish your kid happy birthday on september 11. its okay to announce that your baby took his first step, even if a bombing just happened. recognizing joyful things is what keeps us going as people. but dont combine them in a single status!! you can post two separate things.

    • http://www.facebook.com/courtney.wooten Courtney Lynn

      If you’re going to make a statement regarding such a horrific event, NOTHING else should accompany your statement. If you really need to talk about your kids, here’s a thought, make a new post rather than sounding like some self-absorbed, insensitive ass. I’m pretty sure that the parents of the 8-year-old boy would like to have the ability to brag about him still. Or the ones of the 29-year-old woman for that matter!

    • …her?

      I can’t imagine that anyone is comforted by the fact that someone else’s child peed in a potty.

    • Byron

      This just shows that most people don’t really care, most people are more affected by where their kid will piss for the next few months than what happens to strangers they never met or never would meet.

      It’s sad but it’s how selfish individualistic people are in this society of ours. Say what we may, our immediate surroundings affect us on a much greater scale than the terrible events that occur arround the world.

      Hell, this is just being noticed because it happened in American soil. There’s equally horrid events taking place all the time but most of the time nobody seems to care because they’re in some third world country. I…honestly fail to summon much interest merely due to how I detest the hypocricy of tragedies being tragedies only when they happen in a country that I currently occupy.

      • jadeflower

        Even on the same day there were people killed in car bombings in the middle east. Not saying we have to always look for the worst event because only it deserves attention and tears – just to point out that, yeah, most people care more about what they consider “their world.” For some folk, obviously and sadly, their world doesn’t go much past their front door.

    • Eileen

      Honestly, the FB statuses I really wanted to see were the ones from my friends in Boston letting everyone know that they were unharmed. We hear these stories, and we know they’re awful and how we’re “supposed” to react, so it’s become somewhat instinctive and I think a lot of words (like devastated) and responses have lost some of their power. Obviously I understand the impulse, but I also find it hard to express sympathy on FB without feeling a little trite.

      And then you see a status linking bombings to kids peeing in the potty and suddenly FB sympathy statuses lose even more of their sincerity.

    • K2DangerGirl

      I feel like #1 would have been just fine except for the “little light from my children” and “Prayers to Boston.” The first seems to say “my kids’ adorableness trumps whatever you are feeling” and the second seems like an afterthought so as NOT to seem offensive.

    • goofyjj

      #2 Orange should probably look up the definition of perspective. I’m sorry but some kid using the bathroom pales in comparison to the tragedy of a terrorist attack

      Patricia is just a complete moron.

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