I used to be a fan of the Celebrity Baby Scoop website. I enjoyed seeing all the photos of celebs and their kids, pregnant stars, and all the great fashion for moms and kids. The one and only reason I don’t visit the site anymore is because I refuse to give the trolls who comment an audience. Most of us can’t relate to the lifestyle the rich and famous enjoy, nor can we afford to buy the latest designer duds for our toddlers, but we have plenty in common with each and every one of them. We are human beings, we love and adore our children, we think our children are beautiful, and we’d all hate to have candid photos of our kids uploaded to the internet and then judged and torn to pieces by strangers.
I’m trying my best to teach my daughter compassion, and when she says something that hurts someone, I ask her to put herself in that person’s shoes. “How would that make you feel?”, I ask her. When she realizes that her words have caused someone pain, she apologizes, gives hugs, and hopefully catches herself before she spews venom the next time. I also stick up for her when someone treats her badly, so that she knows it is unacceptable.
As parents, we have to be careful about setting a good example with our online behavior. Some people feel that normal rules of civilized society, like manners and morals don’t apply when they are hiding behind the internet.
Louis CK has a great bit about not letting his kids have cel phones for this very reason. He says, and I paraphrase, that kids can be mean little turds on the playground, but when they see the hurt in another kids eyes, most won’t feel good about themselves. When someone sends a mean text, or posts something hurtful online, they don’t see the real reaction of the person they hurt, only the follow up comments, and it may actually make them feel special or important that they are engaging people with their opinion.
So when a celebrity is walking down the streets being hounded by paparazzi, and a photo of their child ends up on a website, please think about that child as a human being before you pop off a comment about how ugly they are. Imagine that child at school being shown the comments by a nasty schoolmate and having your comment color their own perception of how they look, and affect their confidence and personality development.
The same goes for comments about how people parent. You can never know all the details about a person’s life, so it’s not fair to harshly judge a mom for working, giving up a career, breastfeeding, bottle feeding, co-sleeping, sleep training, whatever. Whether it is the first child, or the 6th child, every experience is different. Every child is going to react differently. Every mother is exhausted. We all feel like we’re screwing up about half the time, so we don’t need the vicious words of a stranger to make us feel worse about ourselves.
Be gentle with one another.
If you can’t say something kind, shut the &%$# up.