Parenting and social media are a match made in… purgatory? God knows some of it is hellish, and some of it charmingly heavenly. Never mind the issues of privacy, of children’s choices about having their image and name shared far and wide; forget the question of whether or not we’re trying to stage ‘memorable’ moments or spending so long attempting to capture them that we’re actually missing the few fleeting seconds of joy. The real issue is: how do we avoid becoming THAT parent?
You know the one. That person who wasn’t just changed into a mum or dad, but into a daily chronicle of poo and snot. Now, don’t get me wrong, my daughter’s poo and snot are relentlessly fascinating to me (no, really), and I totally understand why your child’s are to you, too; this is not my addition to the Mommy Wars, telling you what you should value or pay attention to. I’m just saying that – even to other parents – there is such a thing as too much. And damnit, if I’m going to spend my time worrying about keeping my updates on the right side of entertaining, I’m determined to take a few people with me. Okay, maybe just you.
In any case, here are my suggestions for making Facebook a more pleasant place for all (pinch of salt available on request):
1. Please, stop sharing ‘inspirational’ posts about parenthood.
For a start, they’re almost always poorly spelled and punctuated, and knocked up in Photoshop so badly that they’ll make even a mediocre designer’s eyes bleed. But more than that; they’re annoying. Actually, my life wasn’t a miasmic haze of booze and clubbing before, and it’s not an idyll of family board games and Victorian childhood now. Having a child changed my life immeasurably, and gave it a different meaning, but it didn’t suddenly provide meaning where there was none. In all seriousness, I know that these posts have upset people who are unable to have children, by implying their lives are less-than. And though they shouldn’t antagonise the child-free-by-choice too much, I have a sneaking suspicion they do.
2. Consider only one potty training update, ever.
Preferably at the end of the process, in a wave of smugness. This can be waived if there has been a particularly amusing effluent incident.
3. Be creative.
I have to admit, I’d love to see an end to the ultrasound-as-announcement, though I fear I might be alone in that. But it would be nice to see some different kinds of posts. My very favourites from all parents are the ones that quote their children, because from the age of 2 until about 14, kids become naturally and abundantly hilarious. That does rather leave out the tinies who are not yet tattling, so throwing in a bit of comedy among the cuteness is helpful. Silly hairstyles on babies = endlessly amusing.
4. Do share the milestones…
It is actually really sweet when little Alfie says ‘mama’ for the first time, or young Poppy says ‘I love you’. That’s never not heartwarming.
5. …but try to remember not everything is a milestone.
I say this with the wry knowledge of being the woman who updated when her kid sang along to It’s a Small World (once I’d stopped crying). Coming to terms with the fact that not everyone is a ridiculous Disney freak was hard, it’s true. But I’ve learned my lesson.
What it all comes down to is that I still want to know about you. I want to know you as a parent, just as much as I wanted to know you before you were one. Of course that’s going to include 100% more child-related updates than before, but where the real gems lie is in the interaction: where you are still part of the event. Keeping a diary of every tiny incident is a lovely idea, and your children will surely look back on their very own annotated photo album (or locked blog, or, as I’ve seen some people suggest, gmail account full of images, videos and short posts) with delight when they’re all grown up, but it’s not necessarily important to share this with the world. I just feel like – at least for myself – oversharing means losing sight of your own story, and letting it become a list instead of a narrative.
After all, if you’re sharing at all, it’s for an audience, right? So you may as well leave them wanting more.