Over the past few months I’ve noticed a rise in keyboard warriors and trolls on social media. You know the ‘perfect people’ who jump on your statements and rip them to pieces for their own amusement. If you’re unaware of the term, here’s a definition from the Oxford English Dictionary:
A person who makes abusive or aggressive posts on the Internet, typically one who conceals their true identity.
‘she seems a down-to-earth person who does not deserve to be vilified by keyboard warriors’
Aside from the usual topics such as Brexit and the General Election, parenting groups are some of the worst places for this kind of behaviour, although it is becoming prevalent elsewhere. Don’t get me wrong this isn’t a new phenomenon with mums. In the late 90’s when I had my eldest daughter there were other mums at Baby Clinic discussing how their baby would only be fed organic food and would never be allowed fish fingers. People constantly telling me that ‘breast was best’ which was irrelevant as I was breastfeeding anyway. The difference 20 years ago is that most of the time you were able to smile and carry on with what you were doing, the comments didn’t get personal and it didn’t end up with 10 other parents putting you down for the choices you made for YOUR baby.
This is the bad side of today’s social media society. People can hide behind their keyboards, spouting nonsense that I wonder if they actually believe themselves. They don’t have to worry about the effect their comments have on other people as they are unlikely to ever actually meet in real life.
Let’s stick together
In the past few months I’ve come across several incidents that make me genuinely angry. The responses were cruel and completely unnecessary.
There was one mum in a make up group criticised for allowing her 14 year old daughter to wear makeup and a body-con dress for a family party. She may have looked older than 14, but why does that matter. Why should we have to adhere to some kind of preconceived idea of how a 14 year old should look and dress.
There was another mum who asked for advice in a cleaning group. She wondered if her house would pass a home inspection only to be told her house was disgusting and that children shouldn’t be living there. Erm, excuse me but when did having a spotlessly clean house become one of the requirements of being a parent. At this point I must mention that her home looked like a show home compared to mine at the minute, so that must make me the worst parent in the world!!
Being a parent is a tough gig and with everything else going on in the world at the minute, surely we should be sticking together and supporting each.
What’s the story?
Although the whole keyboard warrior situation saddens me I would like to believe they are in the minority. There are a lot more people who will be there to help answer the questions of those asking for help; people who will offer genuine advice and kind words.
But what happens if this changes and the keyboard warriors and trolls take over. Does this mean people will stop asking for help, never admitting they are struggling for fear of being criticised.
What people need to realise is that you will never truly know what is going on in another person’s life unless they choose to share it with you. And if you’re a stranger with a keyboard at the other end of cyberspace this is highly unlikely.
The mum you criticised for asking where she can buy formula milk at 2am may have been at her wits end breastfeeding a tongue-tied baby. She may already feel like a failure to her 3 day old baby who hasn’t stopped crying all since 10pm. I know because this was me just after my son was born!
The lady whose home you criticised when she ask for advice on cleaning may have a hidden illness or disability which makes it hard for her to do the same things you or I can do.
The person you laughed at and called drunk at 10am in the morning could be suffering from Parkinsons Disease and getting out of the house could have been a massive accomplishment for them.
If you’ve nothing nice to say…
When I was younger I was taught that if I didn’t have anything nice to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all (or keep my gob shut, as my dad used to tell me!). I still live by this advice today and I believe more people should too.
I never put anything on social media that I wouldn’t say to the person’s face and think it’s about time that other people began thinking the same way. If they did social media would be a much nicer place.
Maybe if people took the time to put themselves in the position of the person asking for help, they may offer a more constructive answer instead of criticising. So next time someone reaches out for help and advice, give them what they need; not your opinion based on what you think you know about them.
Everyone has hidden battles they are fighting. Everyone has problems and everyone has opinions. The issue comes when you think your opinion is right and therefore better then the other persons. It’s not right or wrong, it’s different and different is good. The world would be a boring place if were all the same.
However, one thing we all need to do is play nice; be kind to each other, and perhaps pause just a minute or two to think about what you’ve written before you press enter. Just because you can’t see the reaction it doesn’t mean your words don’t hurt.