Here’s a hot take: parenting is hard but parenting in the time of social media is harder.
Sure, sure, there’s plenty of good to be found on your social feeds. Photos of friends and family. Cat videos. A steady stream of memes that make you chuckle. And then there’s the helpful stuff. Articles with tips and tricks you had no idea existed, essays that make you feel seen – true ah-ha moments that change the course of your parenthood journey for the better.
It can all seem so exciting and genuinely helpful in the beginning, especially when you’re a first-time parent trying to figure out which way is up. Social media provides easy access to so many different parenting approaches, theories, and techniques, all in bite-sized snippets, perfect for a quick nap time scroll. It seems like (and can be) a good thing.
But, as we all know and have likely seen first-hand, it can get ugly out there pretty darn quick as people with different opinions hash it out in the comment sections of even the most mundane seeming posts. Why? Because some people are just assholes.
Who's that trip trapping over my bridge...
The longer I’m a parent, the more I realize that no one has it figured out. I find that around 95% of other parents are like minded and learning as they go. They have their opinions – some strong, some otherwise – but they are open to hearing new ideas and discussing points of view with others in a way that’s positive and kind. We all learn things in these exchanges, and we’re better for it in the end.
But the remaining 5% are just assholes. I actually like to refer to them as “seagulls” because they fly in, make a lot of noise and shit on everything.
Trolls, assholes, seagulls - call them what you will, but they know best. They are rigid in their opinions, won’t budge on their point of view and spend an inordinate amount of time forcing their beliefs on everyone else. There’s no safe topic – sleep, feeding methods, schedules, vaccines, pacifiers... Even something as delicate as loss or as out of your control as the way your baby came into the world - these seagulls are always there, ready to jump on your ass and pass judgment with zero decorum or civility. It’s exhausting at best, and incredibly hurtful at worst.
This isn’t new, and it isn’t you.
These comment curmudgeons aren’t unique to moms or women for that matter. You can find them talking about dog ownership, lawn care, guns, cake baking, knitting, car repair - you name it. They are everywhere and they want you to know that they are right, and you are wrong.
What is new(ish) is how easy social media makes it for them to show up and shit on everything - and what makes it dangerous is how sneakily draining their behavior is.
A serious energy suck.
As a new parent, you aren’t brimming with an abundance of energy. You don’t have the time or emotional reserves to healthily process being told “Yor a mOnstre!” from Becky with the Bad Hair because you dared to admit you sleep trained your baby. But like it or not, here she comes, dipping your bucket with her typo-riddled judgment.
Of course, some people won’t be bothered by Becky’s careless accusations. But for others, and especially for new parents who are already doubting so much of what they do, these interactions are triggering. Encountering them enough times, regardless of if they are directed at you personally or are just general seagull spewage found in the comment section of an article you’re fed, is an energy vacuum. You get worn down by the day after day onslaught of negativity being dumped into a space you previously viewed as a community.
So what’s the solution?
An obvious one is to separate your parenting experience from social media, either by completely ditching the offending social media channel or just limiting the amount of time you spend on it. Remember that the algorithm feeds you articles with high engagement, and oftentimes that engagement is negative.
If you still want to stay on, consider trimming out any pages that routinely post pieces where trolls, bots, and seagulls regularly come to play. Find a site whose tone is a good fit and just follow them. Sign up for newsletters from sites you like for daily or weekly doses of parenting content where you won’t witness Becky’s rantings. Stay off the comment section of anything and everything.
Isn’t that kind of an echo chamber?
Yes and no. If you only get all of your info from one site that has a very staunch view on things, then it’s more of a yes. But then again, if those are already your tendencies, you’re already echo chambered. But if you’re just sick of social media, and looking for another way, there’s no harm in using Google to round out your perspective when you’re considering something - like if you want to sleep train or not. Sure, you’ll come across many of the same articles, but Becky won’t be there squawking about your maternal fitness.
Okay, but what about sharing photos?
There are a ton of easy to use, free or (mostly free) photo sharing sites that serve much of the same purpose of Instagram or Facebook. All of the fun, none of the trolls! What a combo!
You’ve got a lot on your plate as a first-time parent.
Between the self-doubt, the chaos of settling into a new routine, sleep deprivation, and the decision fatigue that comes with every single stage of pregnancy and new parenthood, the LAST thing anyone needs is unnecessary assholery. So, if you’re feeling drained, maybe consider cutting the social media tether. Or at least trimming the bush… wait no, not that bush. Becky says you’ll get vaginitis, you monster.
How do you handle the negative side of social media?
Have you cut it out, or reduced how much time you spend on it? Let us know in the comments below!
Our next reco: How to Gracefully Deal with Unsolicited Parenting Advice