October Is National Anti-Bullying Month: Let’s Start With The Parent Bloggers.
Stop me if this sounds familiar.
I took it in the teeth last week. I wrote a blog entry admitting I had a favorite kid and the internet turned on me. Viciously.
Catherine Conger, a professor of human and community development at the University of California at Davis, assembled a group of 384 sibling pairs and their parents and visited them three times over three years. She questioned them about their relationships and videotaped them as they worked through conflicts. Overall, she concluded that 65% of mothers and 70% of fathers exhibited a preference for one child, usually the older one. And those numbers are almost certainly lowballs, since parents try especially hard to mask their preferences when a researcher is watching.
So my declaration that I felt a stronger bond to my older son wasn’t totally unreasonable. Still, it was deemed important enough for The Daily Mail to make it headline news. That led to an interview request from Good Morning America. Soon after I was being talked about on Inside Edition, HLN, Fox and Friends, and Yahoo! Metro put me on their front page, while Radar Online, The Huffington Post, The Vancouver Sun, and The Globe and Mail all covered my declaration with bold headlines. The shock and awe from the audience dripped from the comments on each article.
While I expected the outrage from the commenters on the media sites (anyone who has read comments to newspapers knows the level of discourse does not rise very high), it was the licking I took from my supposed peers that I found the most disturbing.
Bloggers told me to keep my trap shut. They told me to shut up, and then called me a dumbass. I was labelled a narcissist, and an idiot. They called me a doofus, daft, and an overall lousy father while other dads basked in the glow of their own perfection.
I was accused of selling out my children in the pursuit of page views, by parents who saw a topic that was resonating with mainstream media and wrote about it in pursuit of their own page views. Some even went on the same chat shows the day after I appeared to drum up their own theories on my parenting and plug their own blog.
One retrospective on the situation suggested that I had it coming, and I should have known better. “Being a parent blogger is a bit of a social club and you don’t want to lose your membership to that club,” I was warned.
I’m sorry, but if it’s necessary to be hazed and buy into conventional wisdom to be considered for entry into the scene, I’ll stay on the outside. But then I won’t get a book deal, or a tv show, she continues to warn.
The crab mentality has the blogosphere’s ego all wrapped up in knots. People are so worried when someone else gets a click, or an offer, or a sponsor, that instead of celebrating the growth of the industry and the scene, they panic. Where’s my deal? Where’s my invite? How come I don’t have baking spray to give away this week? It’s beyond competitive, it’s petty, vengeful, and juvenile. It’s turned the wonderful world of storytelling that was parent blogging into a competitive challenge between snake oil saleswomen.
I mean with friends like bloggers, who needs enemies?
But back to the drama I found myself in after my bold declaration … today, a news anchor will be fielding the same legion of emails and phone calls from producers that I waded through last week after she called out a person who emailed her news program calling her fat.
What Jennifer Livingston has to say to her accuser is exactly what I would like to say to everyone who wrote about me last week and called for my kids to be taken away from me. Scroll through to 53 seconds for the part of her rant relevant to my situation:
You don’t know me. You are not my friend. You are not my family. Like Jennifer, I have a thick skin and I can see through your empty rage and realize it reveals more about who you are than who you think I am.
October is National Anti-Bullying Month.
How can we expect our kids to grow up as empathetic, supportive, carrying members of society if we, as parents, bully each other?
I’m all open to articulate criticism, discussion, and debate, but name-calling fueled by keyboard courage and bolstered by an anonymous avatar does nothing but make things worse.