Parental Advisory: STFU, Parents lays down the rules for (not) oversharing

Jul 29, 2016 at 9:28 a.m. ET
Image: Anna Koonce / EyeEm/Getty Images

Hello, and welcome to the new STFU, Parents advice column! For those who aren't familiar, STFU, Parents is a submission-based site that mocks, analyzes and discusses trends in "parent overshare" on social media platforms. I always keep the submitters and submissions anonymous, and that's how questions submitted to this advice column will work as well. The idea is never to "name and shame"; it's to consider common online parenting behaviors, ask the hard questions (like, "Why do parents post aerial pictures of their kid's poop in the potty?") and hopefully have a few laughs in the process. For this column, I want to tackle some seven-plus years of questions that readers have sent to me, because it turns out a lot of those questions are universal.

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Have you ever wondered if you're the only person who loves their sister in real life but hates her posting habits on Facebook? Have you felt enraged by a friend who posts anti-vaccine rhetoric but aren't sure if you should defriend them because of your preexisting relationship? Have you been friended by a bunch of toddlers (aka your friends' kids) who "post" regular updates on their own Facebook pages but don't even know how to read?

For nearly a decade, most of us have embraced social media in a meaningful way on a daily basis, and our relationships to sites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have become as real as the relationships we forge in real life. Millions of people have grown up online, changing their status over time from "single" to "married" and/or "having kids," which can greatly influence posting habits. If you're a person who engages with social media (and most of us are), then your relationship to your friends' and relatives' online personas has likely evolved, and sometimes that can mean scrolling through your news feed and repeatedly asking yourself, "Why the hell did that person post that?" If this is you, or if you simply enjoy reading advice columns, then Parental Advisory is here to entertain and hopefully inform too. Let's get started!

Q: What are the warning signs to look out for that you might be one of those oversharing parents who annoys their friends?

A: This answer isn't as obvious as it seems. Several years ago, people didn't use likes as currency as much as they do today, so an unpopular post (or person) was easier to spot. Today, things are more complex. First, there's the algorithm issue. For your posts to show up with regularity in hundreds of friends' Facebook news feeds, you have to post consistently. So a post with only four likes might be unpopular, but it also might not be seen as much as other posts are if the person doesn't post all the time. Parents, however, don't usually fall into this category, because they love sharing anecdotes and pictures of family life, so their updates usually get good exposure.

There are also a lot of people on Facebook who are recent parents and whose friends are recent parents, so even if those people previously had nothing in common other than having attended the same high school, they now have "raising a family" in common. They may have avoided one another in real life for 20 years, but suddenly, on Facebook, they're best friends. They will always like one another's pictures of their kids wearing back-to-school outfits. They will commiserate together when their kids are potty training.

They've narrowed down their common interests to the most basic elements of life — like members of Greek society who become lifelong "brothers" and "sisters" because they happen to attend the same university — and that can make determining who is actually oversharing versus who is genuinely "liked" difficult to ascertain. For that reason, I would say a person's "likes" have to exceed 50 or even 100 on a regular basis to determine if they're sincerely well liked. Anything below 50 could just be family, close friends and those so-called "best friends" who trade likes with one another all day, which isn't an accurate overshare barometer.

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The answer, then, is that the numbers can lie. The only real way to know if you might be an oversharing parent is if you measure your posts by a series of standards and adhere to certain "rules." The primary rule, above all else, is to ask yourself if what you're posting could be considered overshare. By doing that, you're already ahead of the majority of parents on Facebook. Hardly any parent asks themselves this question, because they don't want to know the answer. If you want to share a detailed poop story only because you think it's hilarious, you can't ask yourself if it's worth sharing with your whole network, because the answer will be no.

poop in the bathtub
Image: STFU Parents

The answer is that you should post on a private parenting group page where parents can exchange excrement tales like old war stories with abandon. When in doubt, post in a parent group. Don't have one? Join or start one! There are at least 500 million parent group pages, by my rough calculation, and that is where all the overshare should go. There's no shame in sharing poop stories, unless it's with the hundreds of people you're friends with who don't care. Narrow that number down considerably, join a parent group, and stop convincing yourself that everyone else in your regular Friends list is missing out. Trust me, they're not.

Image: STFU Parents

Next up: Rule 2

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