How I Learned Not To Care About Opinions On the Internet

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Forgive me in advance. I’ve had these thoughts in my head for quite some time now, but haven’t been able to find the words to say them. Ahem. Correction. The NICE words to say them. Ask me anything and I can probably shoot my mouth off, but it wouldn’t be nice or productive 🙂

We’ve all experienced it. So-and-so posts something on our Facebook about their parenting decision; vaccines, cry it out vs. attachment, co-sleeping, breastfeeding, working, tv-watching, homeschooling, healthcare, gluten, proper carseats….the list is overwhelming, no?

And we feel irritation. We may glance over it, move onto something else, but the irritation stays. Sometimes, it’s even worse than irritation– it manifests itself into full-blown hurt.

Did so-and-so do something wrong by posting it?

I’m not going to give a black and white answer on that one, because it’s not up to me to determine that. Only the one who posted it knows their true intentions behind why they did. For me to assume and say they did anything wrong would just feed the problem.

To be honest, I’ve found some really valuable information on Facebook. I have some, how shall we say this, well-informed friends. I appreciate the wealth of information they have to offer because, hey! Less research for me!

But how do we keep the wealth of information from turning into something that overwhelms us and makes us resentful? We can’t and shouldn’t try to control others, so what’s left to do?

A few days ago, a bloggy friend of mine posted an article about napping when her baby naps. I loved the article, but was astounded when I got to the comments. Moms were viciously attacking each other and the author! I couldn’t believe it. The article wasn’t even controversial! I got so fed up after about 30 seconds of reading that I wrote my own little response.

Go ahead and find it. I’ll wait.

I’m not proud of how I said it. But it saddened me to realize that every single one of those moms felt so irked by some hidden subtext that they had to respond in such a manner.

Mommas, we have a responsbility.

We cannot shut ourselves off from information just because we know we’ll react in a certain way. We have to get to the source of the problem and control the reaction, because without that ability, we’re vulnerable sitting ducks for any tiny disagreement or criticism that comes our way. We are insecure time bombs, just waiting for someone to set us off.

Believe me, I know. I am so sensitive that if someone tells me I did something wrong, I feel sick to my stomach for days. About two years ago, I learned that the way I process information and criticism needed to change, or I’d have to become a friendless hermit. Here’s how I figured out how to do it.

(Side Note: There are two groups of people who I feel are exempt from what I’m about to say: Preggos and Moms of newborns. Both of these groups get a free pass for almost anything, in my book, because hormones are a b****).

First of all, whenever something I read online irked me, I sat down and really took an honest investigative look at the thoughts and feelings surrounding the irritation. I asked myself some brutally honest questions and tried my best to answer them truthfully, without just saying, “Well, that’s the problem with Facebook these days!” (cop-out alert!).

Here are the feelings I uncovered:

1. I felt like someone was telling me that they were better than me. Somehow, someone was saying that their parenting decision was better than mine, and they were trying to rub it in my face (how DARE they?).

2. I felt like someone was calling me a bad parent.

3.I felt like someone was telling me I was lazy for not looking into such and such thing sooner, or for not being willing to “buck the trend” along with them (because, don’t we know yet? ALL doctors are lying! ALL food companies are lying!).

Secondly, once I’d admitted to all of my thoughts, I played the “what-if” game. What if all of those moms really are better than me? What if someone is calling me a bad parent? What if someone is saying I’m lazy for not distrusting conventions along with them?

The what-if game REALLY works for these thoughts! Because here’s what I discovered!

1. Yup. In all honesty, most of the moms I know probably ARE better moms than me. If I take myself lightly enough, I can admit this pretty readily.

What does this really cost me? Will my friends (true ones, not acquaintances) love me any less if I’m not as good of a mom as they are? Actually, ironically, they will probably love me MORE if I’m just me, full of imperfections and errors! The road to perfection is paved with loneliness, because you start pushing away anyone who could drag you down.

When we start thinking that every article is about US and OUR WORTH, we become the ultimate egotists. And that color ain’t pretty on nobody.

Conclusion: I only gain more love and acceptance if other moms are better than me. Threat neutralized!

2.  If someone is calling me a bad parent (they probably aren’t, but this is the “what-if” game, after all) and they are someone whose opinion I actually care about, they are someone close enough to help. For example, if they think I should be using cloth diapers, maybe they’d like to come wash them for me? If my food isn’t organic enough for them, are they willing to buy it themselves? Believe it or not, in extreme cases, I’ve had friends and family actually volunteer help when they think I’m overwhelmed. The moment I lay my pride down at the door, I actually become grateful for it!

On the flip side of this, if we criticize how someone is doing something, we should consider that the equivalent of volunteering to help. Who are we to say what someone should be doing if we’re not willing to do it ourselves? Any of my true friends and family would only criticize if they were willing to either help or back off.

Conclusion: Even IF they are calling me a bad parent, I probably don’t care about them very much in the first place. Or maybe they’ll come and clean for me? Score!

3. Am I lazy for doing what convention has taught me? Guys, our generation is so used to bucking the trend that we forget that Mommas have relied upon tradition for THOUSANDS of years. We used to learn about parenting from our community and our Mothers. The fact that I have done things differently than my Mother did has caused me grief many times, because I wish it’s something we shared. Doing things differently shouldn’t be taken lightly.

I also realized that there’s no way that so-and-so could know what I’m going through at that particular moment. Maybe I’m already feeling overwhelmed and that extra information was enough to send me over the edge. But how were they to know? On a better day, I might’ve thanked them for the info instead of getting hurt.

Conclusion: Maybe I do trust convention too much. Okay, I’m a trusting person! Chalk me up some points in the character department! 

After playing the “what-if” game, I usually feel significantly better because much of the “threat” has been removed.

Finally, I look at the big picture. Ultimately, I only care about two opinions about my parenting here on this Earth– my husband’s and my childrens’. Because guess who has to live with all the results of my parenting? If I become convinced that we are ONLY eating organic, Jesse better be on board with it because he’s the one who has to help pay the bill. If I become convinced that my kids shouldn’t have another vaccine, my kids are the ones who have to get the measles and chickenpox someday. I should take their “opinions” into consideration, because they’re the ones who have to live with the consequences.

Not so-and-so on Facebook.

This doesn’t mean that I’ve cashed it in. If you have been reading my blog for any length of time, you know that I am constantly striving to find the best balance for our family, navigating the tense waters of the parenting debates. I can do this because I know my family, but God help me if I try to do it for someone else’s, or let someone else’s opinion dictate our lives.

I’m not just trying to make sure my kids are parented well, I’m also striving to be a good example. I don’t want my kids to see someone who is afraid of others’ opinions, ranting off and on about so-and-so on Facebook. I want them to see someone who is confident enough in her own decisions, who takes herself lightly enough to admit when she’s wrong, who trusts in the good will of her husband and close friends. I want to teach them not to hide from information and differing opinions,  but to face them knowing what they believe and why.

Even if you successfully find a way to ignore most of the hurt feelings associated with articles on Facebook, it’s still good to remember the struggle that most moms go through when they read these sorts of things, and we should check twice to make sure that what we have to say will be received well. If you know that most of your friends are gluten-eating foodies, articles about how gluten is poison should probably be avoided, or couched in a few reassuring statements (lesson learned last month when one of my close friends unfriended me!). Another friend of mine posted a few nights ago that she was literally shaking after reading Facebook articles, a big thank you to all the people who posted that night. Boy was I glad that I wasn’t one of them that particular day, but I very easily could’ve been. I forget that just because I’m not affected doesn’t mean that others aren’t.

Because if we saw a hurting mom right in front of us, instead of imagining them across a computer screen, we wouldn’t hurl rocks at her right?

Even organic, grass-fed rocks.

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  • http://www.makeitcountblog.com Megan Hall

    I don’t have kids yet, but (as a blogger) I have given a lot of thought to what I would want to share on the internet about kids and parenting. People can be so mean. I think it’s okay not to agree with someone else’s parenting decisions. I even think there’s a way to respectfully share your difference of opinion. That applies to anything, not just parenting. I don’t know why people think it’s okay to bring others down. Anyway…I wanted to share this post with you if you’ve never read it. I thought it was really good. http://www.rageagainsttheminivan.com/2012/05/where-is-mommy-war-for-motherless-child.html

    • themrscone

      Wow, what a great article! I love the line: “Let’s stop quibbling about what competent mothers are choosing for their kids, and step it up for the kids that don’t have one.” Amazing. If we put half the energy we spend arguing about little stuff towards saving other children, we wouldn’t have orphans, in my opinion.

  • http://www.a-life-from-scratch.com A Life From Scratch

    Great post….! And I completely agree. I could care less what others think and it’s why I avoid many aspects of social media, I honestly just….don’t care. My husband and I know best!

    • themrscone

      True that!

  • http://www.handandtheheart.com Andrea @Hand and the Heart

    Wow! I can’t even believe how harsh people were being on her!! Didn’t Anne Voskamp say we should only say words that build up souls? 🙁

    My husband reminds me ALL the time actually envision what 200 real people look like reading my words. It’s so easy to say things online, even with the best intentions. Sigh. Good post, and good reminder my friend! Thanks!

    • themrscone

      Wow, that is a good way to think of it when I blog. I’ll have to remember that!

  • Rebecca

    Honestly, I’ve stopped reading parenting stuff of facebook, and I unfollow people who post inflammatory articles about how we’re doing it wrong. On my mom message board, I stay away from the threads about spanking, vaccines, formula, co-sleeping, elective c-sections, etc. etc. etc. It’s just not worth it! Different people make different choices about what works for their kids and their families, and we really ought to just respect their decisions and not try to force ours onto them. It really comes down mutual respect for other moms. I’m pretty sure we are all doing the best we can, and what works for you might not work for me. Anyway, good for you Kelly 🙂

    Here’s an article about ending the mommy wards I think you might like:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ct-working-moms/end-the-mommy-wars_b_3416553.html

    • themrscone

      Totally agreed. Will check it out!

  • LisaC

    Wowza…there were some seriously mean comments and only 43 total. That’s a distressing number of mean girls in one place :/ The last time I saw that much derision was on Baby Center.

    I wonder why they read the blogs if they disagree with the author so much. Is the anonymity of the internet creating a nation of mean girls or is it just allowing said mean girls to be more vocal?

    If you’ve found a way to rise above those types of comments, kudo’s to you. I enjoy reading yours and a few other parenting blogs for the normalcy it helps me feel in my own crazy, chaotic life. Sometimes it’s nice to know I’m not alone in this craziness.

    • themrscone

      Wow, Lisa, that’s a big compliment. I’m glad I can help! I think that moms have bad days, get on the internet, and take it out on strangers, honestly.

  • http://www.abeautifulexchangeblog.com Hayley @ A Beautiful Exchange

    AMAZING post! Just amazing. My favorite of yours by far! I also struggle with this a lot and feel that people are FAR too comfortable with squashing on other people under the excuse of “freedom of speech.” Every woman/person that has an online presence can understand each and every single point. GREAT post!

    • themrscone

      Thanks so much, Hayley!

  • http://www.abeautifulexchangeblog.com Hayley @ A Beautiful Exchange

    Also, I saved reading your friend’s article for after yours because you were on a roll and I just need to say that I am OUTRAGED at those comments.

    • themrscone

      I know, right? I couldn’t believe it. I remember something you recently said about a Matt Walsh article and the horrible comments.

  • http://www.yimwriteous.com Yulunda

    What an awesome post. I learned years ago at around your age that what people say about me ONLY matters IF I believe it. And, to tell the truth, if we lived in a world where everyone shared the same opinion, how boring! People make the world go around, let them be who they are and we shall be who we are!

    Happy SITS DAY!

  • Jenny

    The internet can be such a wonderful place, but man oh man do the judgemental parents LOVE to hang out on it. I’ve learned that the bulk of the nasties happen on Facebook and I do a lot of hiding of people on there. Even single friends with no children feel that they can somehow solve all my child’s sleep problems with a reposting of whatever wacky article they didn’t exactly read… I try to keep my corner of the internet judgement free. Happy SITS Day!

  • Courtney Conover

    This, Kelly, was awesome,and I’ve bookmarked this for future reference. (I reckon that this is the kind of post one will read again and again…) I also spied The Christmas Story button on the side of the page, I’m going to read that one next…

    Stopping by from SITS. <3

  • Kristen Miller Hewitt

    It’s so great that you are able to rise above the comments and just write. I find that really think, and re-think ,and re-word when I write to make sure I’m not offensive. It’s hard to put yourself out there…but you’ve done it beautifully.

  • http://www.savers4life.com Savers4Life

    Very good information and something to for sure keep in mind. Not everyone can agree with you, but it doesn’t matter.