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:
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.
2. Silver Linings
Whoa, you guys. Sophia peed in her potty not once, but twice. Break out the caviar and pop the champagne, because THIS dad’s about to be relieved of diaper duty! It’s important to keep things in perspective, even when every news operation in the country is reporting on a terrorist attack.
3. Mommyjacking Part I
Haha, Laurel, if only you had another kid, you wouldn’t even be able to keep up with national headlines! Next time a bomb explodes and kills innocent civilians watching runners race for charity, just remember: You could’ve prevented occupying your mind with such sadness. The choice is yours!
4. Mommyjacking Part II
I’m not sure if Katie’s original update comes off as totally rhetorical, but I do think Patricia has greatly missed the point here. The first battle of the Revolutionary War may be symbolic, yes, but that’s about all it has in common with those other events. Perhaps Patricia should treat Katie’s update more like an SAT question, and less like an opportunity to give her daughter a quick shout out. After all, I’m sure she’ll formally recognize her daughter’s birthday on her own Facebook page. Shouldn’t that be enough?