My fellow parents: we are contributing toward a growing and alarming trend, a social faux pas of epic proportions. In an effort to convey the joys and challenges of parenthood, we are oversharing the diaper diaries and minutia of our children’s lives, running the risk of boring and occasionally grossing out our Facebook friends – even the ones with kids.
We all know them: the Facebook friends and Twitter followers who post every mundane detail of their lives. And to some extent, social media platforms encourage users to elevate the everyday to the extraordinary. Think about it: if we waited for something truly profound to write, social media wouldn’t be nearly as social.
It’s a totally natural instinct. Even if we work outside the home, our children occupy much of our time and attention, and social media encourages us to share “what’s on your mind.” So, we post cute pics of our kids and amusing things they say and do (at least we think they’re amusing). But perhaps, I should draw the line at posting about my harrowing journey of saving junior from eating the cat turd he found in the sandbox (this never actually happened to me). Instead of laughing with me, you lose your appetite for lunch. Pregnancy is equally ripe for oversharing fodder. One friend told me, “I never want log into Facebook and read about how much your cervix is dilated.” (I swear, I have never talked about my cervix on Facebook, but apparently it happens).
Here’s a reminder: people who don’t have young children don’t always have the tolerance and stomach to handle poop humor or any of the other wonders of the human body that polite conversation omits. It’s a good thing I’m rarely polite.
My friends can attest that I am the queen of too much information. Stand still long enough, and I will tell you my entire life story in greater detail than you ever expected. Whether my oversharing elicits laughs, groans, likes, hides, retweets, or unsubcribes, I am nonetheless guilty as charged, and I take my place in the parental oversharing hall of shame.
That being said, I also try to monitor how often I post something about my child or my current pregnancy. Even though posts about my kiddo are generally well received, I think it’s important to maintain my own personal interests beyond parenthood — what I read, what I listen to, what pisses me off in the news, what makes me laugh, you get the point. I’m more than a mother, wife, daughter, etc. The person I was before I had children is still here, and she has plenty to talk about other than children.
So you can imagine my reaction when I discovered STFU, Parents , an entire blog dedicated to the hilarious atrocities of parental oversharing. Once I caught my breath from red-faced, wheezing, uproarious laughter, I realized reading the blog was a bit like looking in a mirror. And the most disturbing part was how much the blog’s tagline resonated with me, “You used to be fun. Now you have a baby.” Ouch. Cut me to the core.
STFU, Parents’ creator, who goes by “B”, discussed her motivations behind creating the site. Her intentions were not to be overly critical of parents, but to point out the tendency to overshare.
“I want to call attention to the way parents use social media, because the oversharing is a relatively new phenomenon, but I try to do with some humor,” B said. “I know that just about every type of person is capable of (and does) overshare on sites like Facebook, but I focus on parents because there’s so much to discuss. It’s also a niche that I can personally relate to. I’m 30 years old, many of my friends have kids, and I myself hope to have kids in the coming years, so I think about the kind of parent I’d like to be both online and off. It’s fascinating to me that parents are willing to expose so much of their lives and their kids’ lives on Facebook.”
The blog takes Facebook screen shot submissions from all walks of life and from people all over the world who think that sharing has gone too far, especially when the posts show your labor and delivery photos or infant feces.
“I think there are various degrees of overshare,” B said. “It could just be the frequency that a person shares information about their kid. Anything sitting in a toilet bowl or a diaper is decidedly overshare. The most popular category on the blog is about something I call ‘mommyjacking,’ which is when a parent hijacks a friend’s status update as a way to talk about their own child. I have hundreds of those submissions, and I think that reflects that so-called self-absorbed attitude some parents are criticized for having these days.
Note to self: I’m totally guilty of mommyjacking. I need to be mindful of that and offer my profuse apologies to those I’ve offended. So, as parents where do we draw the line between sharing and oversharing?
“Generally, I recommend that people stop to think about what they’re posting before they hit publish,” the blog’s author said. “Just taking that extra second to ask yourself, ‘Do my friends even *want* to see what my placenta looks like?’ or, ‘Do they really need to know all 204 words that little Nevaeh says at the impossible age of five months?’ could prevent you from crossing that overshare line. I think most people welcome seeing adorable pictures of their friends’ kids in limited quantities, but maybe not dozens every day. If you treat Facebook like a diary or a baby journal, you’re probably oversharing.”
Read the complete STFU, Parents interview transcript.
In the long run, if the worst thing you do as a parent is oversharing your love for your child, you’re probably doing a pretty good job. It might mean that you need to diversify your interests or filter what you decide to share, but it means you are an active participant in your child’s life. And there’s nothing faux pas about that.
In my next columns, I will talk to psychologists about how parents can maintain their identity and sense of self, even when their lives and priorities change. I’ll also explore how to maintain friendships between parents and people without children.
-Elise Rambaud Marrion @emarrion_cmn
Illustration: A screen capture from STFU, Parents