Welcome back to Parental Advisory, where I answer all of your social media and IRL parenting etiquette questions. This week, we're #blessed to talk about how parents use #hashtags on social media.
My friend became a mom a few days ago. She was not a terrible oversharer throughout pregnancy but she is a sports junkie who posts every time she works out (every day). She just posted a first photo of her kid with the first name and second name hashtagged. I really want to comment something that will not be rude but let her know I don't like that trend. What is the point in hashtagging the name? Would it sound bitchy if I say something about her hashtag in the comments? I feel like perhaps she needs a little reminder to not become an annoying parent. Or is it already too late? This is only her third "daily photo" after giving birth (and each included that hashtag). I care about her but I feel like if she continues to be "that mom" I will have to unfollow her for my own sanity.
While I appreciate your honesty, A., I think you already know before my telling you that yes, it would be both rude and bitchy to tell your friend how and what to post on social media based on your preferences. That's why STFU, Parents exists, so parents can read up on good posting habits before they start Snapchatting their morning sickness or broadcasting their mucus plugs on Facebook live. STFU, Parents is a resource, and its purpose is to entertain and guide parents on various social media do's and don'ts.
Your purpose, as a friend, is to be supportive and encouraging rather than create new ways to be divisive. New parents are usually extra sensitive after having a baby, so even if the outward appearance on your friend's end is all #smiles and heart emojis, what's happening behind the scenes is almost certainly more vulnerable and raw than that. So your job is to be compassionate and patient and to merely imagine all the things you would like to say to her about her stupid hashtags but can't.
The reality is, you're annoyed by her hashtags because hashtags are inherently annoying. And even though I can't recommend that you enlighten her, perhaps with some kind of diagram or flowchart, on just what makes hashtags so insufferable, I'm with you 1,000 percent on thinking she should resist the lure of hashtags. It would be wise for us all to, really, and everyone who's gotten a little #hashtaghappy knows what I'm talking about. Sure, hashtags are tempting in the way that most technological gimmicks and tools are at first, but using them can quickly get addictive and spin out of control. It's one thing to post a picture of your baby once a week and use a name hashtag to make searching for those particular photos easier, but it's another thing to use hashtags as corny punch lines, humblebrag devices or tactics to increase follower counts and page views. One reader wrote in and said, "I was wondering your thoughts on passive aggressive hashtagging? Adding a # sign in front of incredibly long, rude sentences seems to be a huge trend among the sanctimommies." Another said, "Am I the only person who thinks it's weird to post about your baby's circumcision with the hashtag #gothisweeweewacked"? Whether it's the number of hashtags used, or the context in which they're used, hashtag-heavy posts are often cringe-inducing disasters.
Indeed, there can be a huge disparity between parents who use hashtags to be playful versus those who use them to drive home a point, show off or disparage other parents in some way. Consider the differences between a mom who posts a picture of her sleeping baby with the hashtags #bella #bellamadison #babybella #bellaboo #mybella #jellybella #bellasmommy #momlife, compared to another mom posting a picture of herself breastfeeding with the hashtags #breastisbest #bestmommy #breastmommy #breastfeedingandproud #downwithformula #formulastinks #exclusivebreastfeedingmom #EBF. Both moms are over-the-top with their hashtag usage, but at least the first one isn't outwardly dissing other parents or commenting on a hot-button topic just to be provocative.
When parents use hashtags to communicate their superiority in some way — with tags like #mykidisbetterthanyourkid or #anythingformybabies — they go from being harmlessly irritating to spiteful and offensive. Hashtags, when used correctly, should connect themes or connect us with each other, not serve as some kind of shorthand for "avoid me; I suck."
The longer we live in a post-#hashtag world, the more I think parents (and probably people in general) are divided into two types of groups: those who use hashtags lovingly, jokingly and/or to keep track of certain pictures and those who use hashtags to be smug, alienating and/or antagonizing. Hence, if I can't suggest to parents to stop using hashtags altogether — which I do recommend, #highly — may I at least make a plea for parents to use their hashtags in good health? If you're going to inspire frequent eye-rolls by posting #dailyphotos of your #preciousangels, try to be considerate about it. Assume your friends haven't popped up in the comments to instruct you get off the #hashtagtrain because it would be rude to do so, but also know they despise your hashtags even more than your daily postings about the gym. Those #babygirl hashtags are too repetitive, and those #momlife hashtags aren't that funny. Hashtag trust me, hashtag not even kidding, hashtag sorry not sorry.
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