The second I clicked Publish Post on my last post, I immediately began to feel uneasy. I had shared specific details about Nathan's behavioral issues, and about the teachers' comments, and about my concerns.
I agonized over Do I really want this on the Internet? for all of three minutes before I knew I had to go back and revise the post to prevent an entire afternoon of further negative feelings.
I don't know what it was that made me uncomfortable. I've always prided myself on being 100% honest, because I believe that it is only through honesty that we can help each other feel less alone. Was it not the whole I understand, me too, I'm not the only one phenomenon that made mom blogs such a revolution in the first place? Isn't it a complete violation of unofficial mom blog principles to cover up the negative stuff and present an online image of a perfect life?
And yet, as mom blogs have come of age, a huge number of bloggers have questioned the ethics of oversharing with the Internet. Is this the online record I want to leave for my child? How will my child feel if he finds out I didn't always like being a parent? What will people think of me as a parent if I admit to some of these parental shortcomings?
These are obviously important questions, ones that bloggers have asked a thousand times over in their respective posts, and ones that I have asked myself. Certainly there is a danger in oversharing on the Internet.
But, is there also danger in undersharing? Do mom bloggers do other moms a disservice when they aren't completely honest about the realities of their lives?
And it seems like, just based on my gut feeling here, most of the mom blogs out there now consist of glossy accounts of glowing family memories, attempts to hide the realities of everyday life with a pretty veneer. Mom blogs have become less of a diary and more of a scrapbook.
Which, look, I GET. We're now aware that anything we put on the Internet is permanent, and nobody wants her family's permanent record to be a bunch of stories about tantrums and messy houses. Further, there are a whole slew of topics we can't discuss because they might offend people we know in real life--friends, relatives, spouses, coworkers, and, as they get older, children themselves. And there are some Big Issues that people understandably don't want online, issues like divorce or serious medical problems. Plus some of your day-to-day frustrations are sort of too boring to post online anyway.
In the end, what are you left with to blog about? Fun Photos of My Family Outings, and Cute Things My Kid Said. And even though you know your life isn't perfect, your online record certainly makes it look that way.
This issue of a public versus private face certainly isn't a new one--obviously people have been hiding parts of their lives from the public since the beginning of time--but I think it is becoming a more serious concern as more and more of our interactions are online, and as we have such increased access to the inner-workings of other people's lives. Between Facebook, blogs, and all the other social networks, we have this false perception that we have complete access to the inner-workings of everybody's lives, and don't their lives look a lot better than ours? And so it's not surprising that a recent study found a correlation between number of hours spent on Facebook and negative feelings about one's own life.
Now, I should remind you of what you learned in that introductory social science class in college: Correlation does not imply causation. It could be that people who spend more time online are just sadder and lonelier to begin with. Still, I think everybody, regardless of overall emotional state, is getting more a much larger quotient of human interaction online, and we tend to falsely perceive that we now have complete access to the inner-workings of other people's lives.
But, of course, we don't. We're all putting up a front. And it can be harder to remember that with mom blogs, perhaps because they started out as such a tell-all, completely honest medium. Even the names of mom blogs suggest that they're giving it to you straight, names like Terrible Mommy or The Dark Side of Motherhood, which suggest both an honesty and a flawed humanity. (Note: To the best of my knowledge, those names are fictional. I didn't want to use the names of real blogs because I didn't want to suggest that I had a problem with any particular blog.)
But, as previously discussed, there are many reasons why we can't tell the whole story. Still, I think we owe it to one another to be honest when we can. Like so many other issues in life, the issue of oversharing versus undersharing is one where we have the difficult task of striking a perfect balance. And that fine line between the two is one we will always struggle to walk.