Mean Moms: Social Media an Outlet for Grown Up Bullies?

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September 2, 2013

We hear a lot about teens and cyber bullying. From hateful remarks to full blown threats, teens are growing up in a world with ever-increasing opportunity to bully. But, sadly, it doesn’t seem to stop when the teens grow up. The “Mommy Wars” are now a frequent topic of conversation. Breastfeeding vs. formula feeding, cloth diapering vs disposable diapering, natural parenting vs. mainstream parenting, gentle parenting vs. spanking, natural birth vs. standard hospital births, the list goes on and on. Women are finding reasons to battle it out online to prove they truly are “the best parent” out there. So what initiates this hate-filled speech and why does it appear to be so rampant?

No Personal Contact

It is much easier for a person to say something hurtful behind a person’s back because there is no physical confrontation and visible reaction. Social media is the perfect place for this. A person can say what they want and make blanket statements  without having to directly confront the individual in question. People are less likely to censor their spur-of-the-moment feelings resulting in some less-than-desirable speech.

Ease of Access

If a mom is angry, she is more likely to jump on Facebook or Twitter and share her woes with the world. She may later re-read those comments and regret some of what she said. Sure she can delete them, but the damage may well have already been done. With instant updates, hundreds (if not thousands) of people may have already read her judgmental or hateful remarks.

Power in Numbers

Groups are a breeding ground for hateful speech. Get a group of like-minded women together on a social media platform and you have a recipe for catty remarks. If a large percentage of the group feels a particular way about a subject, any dissent will be met with the wrath of not one person, but many. For example, a mother posted in a mothering group on Facebook asking for advice on a particular brand of bottles. She was met with backlash from an over-zealous group of women claiming she was neglectful, irresponsible and lazy for not breastfeeding her child. She was in the minority in the group so was met with literally over 20 comments of her poor parenting within an hour.

What Hurts?

The most important thing to remember online is that words can hurt. Though my parenting style may be different than yours, or my political beliefs a subject of your disapproval, what is appropriate to say and what is not? There is a difference in providing information on a subject in a tactful manner than demeaning an individual for differing choices. Remember when positing or commenting on a subject of disapproval to consider the other person’s feelings. You can absolutely voice a negating opinion without personally attacking the individual. Stick with information and loose the name calling and catty remarks.

If you are the subject of the attack, take every negative comment with a grain of salt. Understand that others may not parent the way you do, but do not allow anonymous faces online to ruin your day. I always advocate researching each decision you make as a parent. Sharing those opinions with others is important and may provide another parent with a new-found interest in your way of living; however, be considerate and remember that just because you aren’t face to face with the individual, your words still can sting.

Have you been the target of cyberbullying online for your parenting choices? How do you handle it?

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