The social media shaming has to stop
My mum told me a story a few years ago. She recounted an incident that she’d heard about when she was a new mum herself.
It involved another mother, who lived in our town. She’d recently given birth to twins.
One day she wheeled her double buggy into the GP’s surgery. In a fit of despair, she told the woman on reception that she couldn’t take it anymore, that she’d had enough. Then she walked out, without the buggy and the babies.
Of course, the poor, desperate mother came to her senses and returned minutes later, but word obviously got around about what happened, otherwise how would my mum have known about it?
I do wonder how that mother would have fared, had the incident happened 30 years later, in the age of social media.
Because, although I’m sure many people who heard that story would have had the same reaction I did - one of total empathy for a mother who was clearly struggling - there would be dozens more who would be quick to condemn her actions.
The difference is that, back then, it’s unlikely that the critics’ comments would have ever reached the mother’s ears.
But today, people don’t just utter their harsh judgements in a quick gossip session in a coffee shop, or outside the school gates. They air their opinions online.
But often these opinions are unkind, unfiltered, and they have the potential to seriously affect a person’s mental health.
I had the unfortunate experience of being ‘mum shamed’ on a popular social media platform a few years ago. Although the post didn’t directly identify me, it was obvious that the comments were about me.
I was being judged by someone who had observed me for a few seconds one morning. Based on that little ‘snapshot’ of my day, she’d concluded that I was a bad parent and decided to share her views with thousands of strangers.
She had no knowledge of what had occurred in the hours and days leading up to the moment she saw me. And I wasn’t even doing anything wrong. I was simply doing something that she, personally, disagreed with.
Those comments had a profound effect on my state of mind for years after. I knew I was a good mum. I knew I was capable of making responsible parenting decisions. Except after that incident I began second guessing every choice I was making.
I was so terrified of being judged that it began to affect my rational thought process. It didn’t matter what I did, I felt like a failure.
And here lies the massive problem with social media. We all know the content we see never tells the full story. But the more we use these sites, and the more we digest what we’re seeing and reading on there, the more it distorts our reality.
I’m glad we live in a world where we have the freedom to share our opinions. I would never want that to be censored. But there’s a difference between free speech and responsible speech.
Negative comments are often irresponsible. Very rarely are they constructive or helpful. And most of the time they’re only being posted because a person is seeking validation of their own opinions.
People post for likes. That’s how social media works. We all get a little rush of endorphins when someone reacts to the content we put out there. But no amount of ‘likes’ is worth damaging someone else’s mental health.
So please, for the sake of all mothers out there who are just trying to do their best, let’s take a stand against the social media shaming.
Because being a parent is hard enough without the negativity.