Everybody Lies: Parents and Social Media
I call shenanigans!
My daughter hopped into her Cozy Coupe and slammed the red plastic door. “I’m going to the Internet to see my friends,” she said, then rolled away. “Did you hear that?” I said to my husband. “Did she honestly just say that?” He nodded.
Before I had kids, I often thought my sister was lying about the things my nephew said. No way he thought bunnies pooped marshmallows. But now, as the parent of an almost 3-year-old, I’m a lot more credulous.
I frequently find myself questioning what I just heard. Did she really call my boobs “milk bellies?” Did she really just try to turn her brother into a snowball with a piece of bread she’s calling a magic wand? Being a parent often means living in this suspended reality—is a small human really rolling on the floor and licking the mud off my shoe? Do I really have to explain why we don’t build poop towers? And as the only adult witness, you find yourself questioning your sanity.
A recent article for Vice Canada accuses basically every parent who ever posted something hilarious their kid said on social media of faking it. He refers to a Twitter account @FaaakeTweets as evidence of his accusations. But beyond repeatedly tweeting “FAKE,” writer Clive Martin really has no case against the lying parents. He cites no proof. Just conjecture. It’s probably link bait, designed to drum up clicks and responses. But I do think the article unintentionally brings up a salient point about why and how we share about our children on the Internet.
Of course, parents do lie about their children’s accomplishments. This is a time-honored tradition as old as the sperm meeting the egg. Anyone who’s been on a parenting forum has seen someone steal someone else’s pictures, story or, worse, fake a child’s birth and death for attention. And we all have the stories of our cousin claiming on Facebook that her baby is speaking in full sentences when we all know that he’s 9 months old and can barely blow a raspberry. Recently, there have been some high-profile examples of bloggers accused of faking stories for attention. But this isn’t a trait limited to the people who birth children. Like Gregory House said, “Everyone lies.”
I can admit to fudging a bit. Condensing conversations and exaggerating reactions. But why do we do it? Why are we tempted to fudge the details of our children’s lives? Aren’t they good enough already? Why do we need to change them into something of a commodity for “Likes”?
Research released last year, indicates that people who lie on social media do so to seek approval or appear “cool.” Which makes sense when you relate it to teens, but it’s a little more complicated when it comes to parents talking about kids. And I think, with the exceptions of attention-seeking narcissism, we have a narrative of our lives—a vision of how things should be and how they should go. We try to bend our actions and activities to fit this narrative. Are we the hippy mom? The cool parent in the leather leggings? The rabble-rouser, who gives the haters the finger? And children, well they don’t care two poops about how we want our lives to be. The professional chef who wants his kid to eat kale will inevitably have a child who wants nothing but boxed mac and cheese with all the GMOs. I’m a no-nonsense, sleep-training parent and I have a little peanut who wants to nurse and co-sleep all night long. The hardest part of being a parent is learning to separate who you see yourself as and who your children want to be. That dissonance between creator and created is a learning process that starts the moment that little rabble-rouser is born.
I get this dissonance. I was often tempted to lie about my daughter through exaggerating her good qualities when she was younger. You see, my daughter didn’t walk until she was 18 months old and I had a hard time reconciling the fact that kids younger than her were already running and climbing on furniture. Was I a failure? Was something wrong? It made me feel like I had to exaggerate other parts of her development as some sort of justification for the weird stares I got when we were out. As it turns out, I just make lazy babies and rather than feeling anxiety about how I needed her to be, I needed to just accept her and be honest about her struggles, faults, joys and all. So sure, parents lie on social media. But so does everyone else, the important thing is that we face the realities of the little nuts we’ve been given and enjoy the rest.
And there is also the fact that kids do say really crazy things. Really crazy. And I hate to play this card, but you don’t even know how crazy things can get until you’re locked in a room with a 2-year-old waving a wand and talking about booty cups. No, I don’t know what that means.
YOU MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN