Social media parenting
04/22/2013 9:41 AM
04/22/2013 9:59 AM
By Yvonne Zusel
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Poop pictures. Cyber mommy cat fights. Detailed accounts of changing a baby's diaper on a table at Burger King. Sometimes, Facebook news feeds are not for the faint of heart.
These kinds of parental social media "overshares" pushed Blair Koenig to write a blog, which turned into her new book, "STFU, Parents: The Jaw-Dropping, Self-Indulgent, and Occasionally Rage-Inducing World of Parent Overshare." The "STFU" acronym in the title is cyberspeak for, well "shut up" said in the rudest possible terms, though Koenig, an Atlanta native and University of Georgia graduate who now lives in New York, insists the title is tongue-in-cheek.
"I think of myself as a good Southern girl," said Koenig. "I try to be snarky without being totally mean-spirited." To write the book, Koenig borrowed heavily from her "STFU, Parents" blog, which she started in 2009 after noticing her own Facebook news feed becoming cluttered with even the most mundane photos and stories about her friends' children.
The blog, which now attracts more than 1.5 million readers a month, asks readers to submit the most egregious overshares they see on Facebook, which Koenig separates into categories, including "Woe is Mom" (mothers who complain about being mothers), "Mommyjacking (mothers who use friends' unrelated status updates to share news about their children) and, in Koenig's opinion, the most noxious of the group _ Sanctimommies (sanctimonious mothers). One submission has a father _ yes, there are Sanctidaddies, too _ saying "Only when you are a parent do you realize how life is worth more with a child." It's comments like this that especially roil Koenig, who isn't a parent herself. She's gotten some flak for not having kids from parents who think she shouldn't be writing on a topic she doesn't have first-hand knowledge of.
"Holy cow ... she has NO KIDS, what makes her the expert of what to say, or share?!" one commenter wrote on a recent article about Koenig, who points out that she doesn't offer parenting advice or purport to know what it's like to be a parent.
"Nobody should have to be something to have an opinion about something," she said. "You don't have to be a film person to have an opinion about a movie. I'm really not talking about parenting. I really am giving suggestions, using examples on what I consider to be bad form on social media, and that's it." She said that for every negative comment she receives, she gets twice as many positive ones, many from parents who thank her for shining a spotlight on a growing Internet trend.
"I AM a mother of two, and I hate parents that do this," one mother wrote. "I friended you on Facebook because I wanted to keep up with YOU. Not your kids."
So if the threat of oversharing on social media can create such divisiveness online and even within the parenting community, why do some parents post pictures of their children on the toilet or hijack other peoples' status updates to talk about their kids?
Marian Meyers, an associate professor at the Georgia State University College of Communications whose research focuses on women and the media, said women are given conflicting messages about what it means to be a good parent.
"On one hand, women are told that they need to be perfect mothers and that they don't live up to the ideal of a perfect mom if they don't share everything," Meyers said.
"If they post too much, they're told they're oversharing and they're criticized for it. It's a double-edged sword." Koenig acknowledges there's a larger conversation about oversharing on social media - and not just of the parental variety - to be had. She sees the problem getting worse before it gets better - if it ever does.
"I really do think we're creating more narcissistic generations," she said. "I think we have the tools, and like monkeys, we're still figuring out the best way to make it work for us. The way it works for a lot of people is that it gets them attention." But for now, Koenig doesn't have time to dwell on the larger issues. She has a book to promote - and a folder of poop pictures to go through.
(c)2013 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Atlanta, Ga.)
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