A couple of weeks ago, I posted several "overshare tips" for parents in honor of the New Year. Those tips mostly served as reminders, because they were based on previous columns about certain habits that parents engage in online. But for today's column, I wanted to focus on the habits I'm predicting for 2015 that have only just begun to infiltrate our online world. Social media trends can last long enough to become mainstream (I'm thinking of the people who create Facebook account for their fetus -- that "trend" hasn't slowed down at all), but even still, new ways of using sites like Facebook crop up every day. Sometimes they lead to a rash of interminable fads, like pregnancy announcements involving various pairs of shoes, chalkboards, or jars of Prego spaghetti sauce, until the trend is so overused that it finally jumps the shark.
Other times, trends move in strange extremes, moving from one acceptable course of action (posting everything about one's children online) to another, opposite acceptable course of action (posting nothing about one's children online). Social mores are starting to determine these types of behaviors, whereas before, it seemed more like individuals just made up the rules as they went along. Back in 2009, when I started STFU, Parents, there were no articles or blog posts about how parents use social media, what kind of impact these attitudes and user mechanisms had on their kids (or their friends), or what we could learn from social media etiquette, including the benefits of curbing certain types of posting behavior. But in 2015, these articles and blogger insights are rampant.
Nearly every day, someone sends me a new study or think piece written on these subjects, in which someone declares that kids have privacy rights, too, or that parents who post multiple times a day about their baby's teething condition are approximately 59% more likely to be ignored by their bored friends on Instagram. And for the most part, I think these articles are a good thing! We have more information to discuss, more data to mine, and more experiential evidence to prove or disprove our claims. (Not that I've ever needed data to justify my stance that no one wants to see your kid's poop in the bath.)
But at the same time, I wonder how these articles and essays and blog posts picked up by pervasive media outlets can influence how parents use social media. Are parents more likely to become sheep, following the herd mentality of whatever Slate or Huffington Post deems acceptable for parents to post online? Or perhaps parents will be more inclined to think for themselves, rejecting these mainstream notions as they overload our news streams? Today's forecast showcases a little bit of both. Let's check 'em out.
1. Posting Nothing About One's Kid Online
The discussion over what to post about kids on Facebook took a sudden shift in the second half of 2013, when Amy Webb posted her Slate article about why she and her husband post nothing about their daughter online. ("It's the only way to defend her against facial recognition, Facebook profiling, and corporate data mining.") After that, the conversation went from "what to post" to whether to parents should post anything at all. To this day, people send me this article and ask me what I think, and as of November, I now send them to another much less shared Slate article by Priya Kumar titled 'Parents: You Can't Control Your Baby's Digital Footprint.' Is it really such a bad thing for Google to know your baby's name, or for Facebook to know her face, if that is what will inevitably happen anyway? Part of my motto has always been for parents to simply consider what it is they're posting, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't be realistic.
In Kumar's article, she writes, "But one thing is clear: Control is no longer an effective paradigm to evaluate the relationship between privacy and information. When your baby pictures appear on Instagram, Dropbox, Gmail, and Grandma's phone, who really controls them? The terms of service and privacy policies that govern these tools evolve constantly, and absolute control over information is impossible, even for experts. Not to mention that newborns have no control over their pictures being taken in the first place."
That explanation speaks to me the most on this highly debated subject, because everyone has a subjective set of standards by which they live and post on the internet. Saying you want your kid to have "no digital footprint" is not only extreme, it's unrealistic. It's the strict vegan diet version of posting about kids on social media, and last I checked, veganism isn't exactly an easy practice to keep up. Besides, like Kumar says in the article, what makes keeping your child's name off Facebook, if you or someone you know is inevitably going to post a picture of her online?
Rick gets an honorary Gold Star because I'm *pretty sure* he's being Sassy with a capital S in his comment. "Congrats to K and A on E!" is the perfect response to Karen's (apparently well-received) announcement that she and her husband would prefer that people refer their baby only as "E" -- totally ignoring the fact that most people aren't on Facebook enough to guarantee reading every single post, and thus setting herself up to have to "gently remind" people not to use her daughter's full name in casual online conversation time and time again. How boring. Who cares? We all know what E. looks like. And if E.'s parents buy her toys, clothes, food, or furniture online, the last thing advertisers care about is her name.
2. Mommyjacking 2K15: No One Is Safe
Did everyone watch the viral clip of the mother calling in to chide her political pundit sons on live television? Dear god, I hope so. That was one of the highlights of the end of 2014, and it set an important precedent, too. Is anyone, or any medium, safe from mommyjacking anymore? We've got moms who qualify for Medicare mommyjacking TV shows -- what's next? HONYjacking? We've already got people mommyjacking videos of Justin Timberlake, so I believe anything is possible.
3. Speciality Etiquette Lessons In Parentsplaining
I've written before about my fascination with parents who tell their friends what to do, which in the past looked and sounded a lot like this:
The person who submitted this said, "I'm an RN nurse, and I feel SO BAD for the nurses assigned to Jessica's room." She also added that she "was in absolute disbelief when I saw this posted as her status. All I could think of was, she really must think she is the first person ever to have a baby in a hospital." ZING!
But, as we know, parentsplaining goes beyond visitation rules after having a baby. Some parents were even up in arms last year about April Fool's Day jokes, leading me to think that this year, we're going to see a whole new level of parentsplaining on social media.
STFU, Captain Dad.
4. The Year Of The Social Watchdog
One of the best/worst things to come out of 2014 is the awareness that we should all have that our voices are not sealed in a vacuum. You can be a random high school guidance counselor spouting off at the mouth about shooting protestors one minute, and on national television for being an idiot the next. In 2014, people continued to lose their jobs or get put on leave for showing the world what assholes they are. And in 2015, I not only think this measure of action will continue, but I think -- if done properly -- it could actually lead to more people thinking before they speak.
For a long time, internet users have felt like they could say whatever they want online, including on social media, because the chances of suffering any consequences for being bigoted were pretty low. Now, I think we're starting to see some of that change. And it's my hope that people will keep calling out the idiots who deserve to be called out, because the internet is not just a fictional world where anything goes. It's where many of us work and play, and in 2015, we're all empowered with the authority to be vengeful watchdogs.
For instance, what the fuck is this bitch talking about?
You're a racist asshole.
5. Moms Retaliating Against "Mommyisms"
All right, so this site is called "Mommyish" -- it's a tongue-in-cheek way of saying that the content revolves around parenting issues, okay! Pretty different from calling wine "mommy juice," or from pushing a rhetoric that demands that all mothers have "mom friends" who get "mommy and me" manicures together with their little ones. It's been a long time coming, but mothers are no longer silently rolling their eyes at these ridiculous marketing ploys that were once buoyed by "mommy bloggers." In fact, even the mommy bloggers started rejecting the 'mommy and me' archetype that advertisers (and society at large) want and expect motherhood to be. Surprise! No one likes being flattened into a one-dimensional caricature, even if "mommy juice" gets you drunk.
Plus, I think women are more likely in 2015 to reject certain dated, negative perceptions of motherhood relating to intelligence and power.
It's been a long decade of "mommy" gimmicks and faddish forms of parenting -- all interspersed with sub-fads relating to cloth diapers, fancy toddler diets, fear-mongering, natural birth, and so on -- but I have a feeling the tide is changing. "Mom friends" can just be known as "friends." "Mommy juice" can just be called "wine." (Or Scotch. 😉 And the breastfeeding vs. bottle feeding debate can just be known as "feeding your kid." Everyone can take a deep breath and calm down. It's 2015.