How social media has made me a better parent
"Don't read the comments." Can we all agree this is terrible advice? Sure, trolling abounds, but I have learned more about parenting from the people I disagree with than from anyone on my side. And I'll tell you why.
Oh, the internet. So full of opinions. Religion and politics aside, not much causes a bigger stir than shouting "circumcision" in a crowded Facebook group. Conflicting opinions on parenting decisions bring out the worst in all of us as we jump to defend the choices we make for our families. Unsurprising, given the somewhat high stakes of the endeavor. I mean, if you do it differently than I did, you're probably an idiot whose kid will fail all the fails, am I right?
That's basically where we end up. We see strangers spouting often crass opinions and denigration regarding our choices and we write them off as assholes. Facebook gets scary, because suddenly we are confronted with these same viewpoints in the voices of people we care about. It can be unsettling. But this is where social media transformed the way I looked at all of it.
Because, ugh. People I love have some horrible opinions about parenting. Wait. People I love have these opinions. People I otherwise respect, possibly admire, do things completely differently than I do, and I know their children, and their children aren't the worst in any way. Maybe we could all stand to be a bit less defensive about our own parenting and a lot less judgmental of others. Plenty of opportunities to royally screw things up arise along that 18-year trek, but most of the ones that make a difference don't revolve around formula and co-sleeping.
This doesn't limit itself to personal essays and Facebook wall posts about raising kids. If a news article has comments, I always read at least a few — especially if I agree with the author's viewpoint. I go in thinking, "Surely everyone else reading this agrees 100 percent." Ha. I read the comments to confront the voice of dissent. I read the comments because otherwise it becomes simple to encapsulate myself in a bubble of people who agree with me and never make me question why I hold the beliefs I do.
If I skipped the comments on articles about sexual assault, I'm not sure I would realize the depth of scorn held toward the women reporting the crime. If I skipped the comments on articles about civil rights, it would be easy for my privilege to blind me to the fact that racism still runs rampant in our culture. I owe it to my children to know the other side. If I want to teach them to respect differences in others, I need to lead by example. I couldn't be the parent — the person — I am if I tuned out that noise.
Always read the comments.