Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Big Bad Internets

Awhile back (maybe over the summer?) I heard an interview with John Melancamp (maybe on The World Cafe?  How do you spell his name?) and during the interview he started talking about the Internet and how he thinks it's more dangerous than the atom bomb, and the biggest evil ever invented.  At hearing that, part of me thought, "Gosh, he's got some issues with paranoia" and another part of me thought, "Hm... he might be right!"

Then the other day I got to talking to my mom about how the difficulties of parenthood for mothers of my generation are not at all the same as the difficulties for mothers of her generation.  It seems like these days "perfection" and "most" are all that matter in parenting style.  It makes for a stressful job.  As she said, it can take the fun right out of parenting.  And she's right, and I started wondering what happened in such a short time, and then I realized: It's The Internet!

Instead of being a regular mom with a regular life and two or three good mom-friends, we mothers of today are put on show to the rest of the WORLD.  Through Facebook and other social networks, through blogs just like this one, through Pinterest and Twitter (ok, social network..) and...... well, I can't think of anymore examples right now.  But we are on show all the time to everyone--to moms we know personally and moms we've never met and never WILL meet, and I think we all feel this unspoken standard that we have to live up to.  Taking a  picture?  Move that bucket of dirty mop water from the background!  Making a blog post?  Conveniently leave out the part about breaking down in tears three times in one day!  Let's keep it funny!  Sharing a newly finished craft?  Always shoot from the best angle and make sure the photo is taken from a distance that sufficiently hides all flaws!  In fact, just Instagram it and it immediately looks a million times better!  It's all about keeping up with other Online Moms.  We have to be as good as everyone else.  And it isn't good for us!  This front we all put up isn't good for our readers!  Because, let's be honest, we ALL have those "train wreck" blogs that we keep going back to and reading, even though they make us feel like dirt.  No, we can't be as good as that mom.  But we HAVE TO KEEP READING.  HER LIFE IS SO PERFECT.  I WANT TO BE HER.

Meanwhile, the children are drawing on the walls with permanant marker. Again.  (But it never happened unless it's posted online!)

And I feel like the competition that lives in today's parenting circles is much less about the kids and much more about the moms.  Nobody really cares about who the smartest child in the room is.  Nobody cares who potty trains first, or who reads the earliest, or who is visiting the NASA headquarters by invitation at age four. It's all about the moms. And specifically in my own social circles (as if I can even call myself a member of anything remotely "social" except for online!) it's like the moms are expected to do EVERYTHING.  Well, I homeschool and I have a little side job from home (which practically pays the mortgage) and I practice these seventy arts/crafts and I have fourteen zoo animals that I take care of nine times a day and I cut my own firewood with a saw I made myself, which I carved with my fingernails, and I suck venom out of my kids snake bites instead of calling the doctor because I'm JUST THAT HARDCORE.  And what's just plain "organic" anymore?  We only eat food that is SUPER-DUPER-MOST-ORGANIC-IMAGINABLE.  In fact... we actually just eat air. Food has too many bad extras.

That sounds judgmental, but it's not meant to be.  Hellooooo, I'm completely guilty of all that too!  "Oooooo, we eat deer meat, we are awesommmme."  Yeah, have I mentioned that we have an entire deer in the freezer that we haven't touched because suddenly I can't stand the idea of eating any kind of meat at all? (thanks, pregnancy... I hope this is a temporary thing because I used to enjoy many kinds of meat very much.)

But I do have to say.... our new ukulele is really cool and I love it.

However, that does not make ME cool just because for having one.

Honestly, I'm not trying to be a jerk. I'm not pointing fingers and telling people to stop being who they are--which is to say, more successful and productive that I am!  I'm trying to say, NOBODY has a perfect life.  NOBODY can do it all, no matter what their blog says.  For every fantastic accomplishment posted on a blog, there's a mountain of laundry that remains unpictured.  In every perfect family there's a toddler who never got the nap he really, REALLY needed.  And it's hard to remember because nobody wants to post about the unhappy things and the unsuccessful projects and the culinary flops.  We only want to post about the good stuff, and the stuff that makes us look good, but we all wish we could read a little less perfection and a little more real life in the rest of the Internets.

Am I right?

So let's all make a Chinese New Year Resolution--let's all try to not let ourselves get dragged down by the Internet!  NO MORE FEELING LIKE YOU'RE NOT AS GOOD AS THE NEXT MOM. Everybody does her own thing; Nobody can do it all. Everybody posts the good stuff; Nobody wants to read about family drama. (Well... ok... we probably all do, but it's really none of our business.) Everybody has that yucky bit of tummy flab that puffs out over your cesearean scar, or stretch marks or wider hips or extra pounds; Nobody has her same body post-baby.  We are all different and we are all doing our best and we are all doing the parent-thing our own way, and that's just as it should be because we are all individuals looking through these virtual windows into other people's lives where only the best stuff shows.


Anna said...

I think Annie that you are right. That there is a problem of perfectionism and it is very easy to lose perspective in the virtual world. (Remember the medium IS the message.)

That being said, I do find that there is a world of women in the working world who don't stay at home and have children and if we mothers want to share little moments of beauty or our accomplishments that we can share that. We can prove that being a mother is not only wiping snot, changing diapers, and breaking into tears three times a day, (although that is part of it!) I think I cry every Monday because it is laundry day.

So I guess it never is simple, is it. . . . .

Red Herring Jeff said...

I just can't help it that I'm perfect. Ha-ha-ha!

Actually, so well said! There are a couple of blogs that I check regularly (like sew liberated) where even her mishaps seem...staged. Fortunately, those ones are generally so well produced that it feels like reading a magazine, and that I'm not reading about real people. Where I fall into the interweb trap is on facebook. Because no one wants to post pictures about sad stuff.

I'm going to make this vow now. In three days, I will be able to get our blog back up and running. I'm going to do the new years goal post, and then the very next one will be about something gone horribly wrong...or at least not as planned, because you're right. We need to see more mistakes. Ha-ha-ha!

Thanks for sharing.

Mrs. H. said...

Annie, you are not only are hilarious, too!! And a great mama.

Clare said...

Haha I totally agree! There is way too much perfection out there that is probably the cream of the crop of someone's life. It can be so overwhelming and make us feel substandard, especially on bad days.

But I also think that blogs focus on the beauty of motherhood can equally inspire us to savor the perfect moments and capture them, and share them with others to inspire them. Also I often get into a rut of thinking, I have small children, I can't do ANYTHING I want to anymore, and then I see that someone else does make beautiful things in their spare time, (even if there are boogers in the yarn) that even if I can't do it, it is possible. Children are a blessing and a gift, (and hard work!!) and that should be celebrated and shared!There are bloggers who are total sell-outs, (cough, cough Soulemama!) so like you said, there needs to be more balance in Blogland. I think people enjoy sharing the good and not the bad because they want to inspire others and celebrate the good side of motherhood and dwell on those beautiful moments, and hopefully drown out the bad a little.

Your blog Annie is definitely very real, and that is why I LOVE reading it. And I will try and blog about my rainbow cake disaster and my ugly handmade gift soon!!! :)

Ann in LA said...

Annie, I love your blog BECAUSE you don't try to appear perfect.

And honestly, keeping an entire deer in the freezer sounds gross.

I took a bunch of photos of the new baby the other day before I realized they all included the balled-up diaper next to him. Forgot to move it out of the way!

Ben Hatke said...

Recently someone I work with, who has been in the world of publishing and illustration for a long time, pointed out that before the internet (say in Maurice Sendak's day) you became a book illustrator by moving to New York and competing against a few hundred other artists.

Now you don't have to move to New York, but you are competing with thousands and thousands of artists the world over. Because no matter where you live you can put up an online portfolio and send a nice email to an editor.

I have other artist friends who have forsaken the internet almost entirely. I regularly nag them about getting a website and making connections online. They are content to foster their reputation and work by word of mouth and are content with that.

Jill said...

Annie I am going to post a picture of my laundry room just especially for you. I mean it!

Your blog is my favorite blog.

And I am jealous of your ukelele!! I want to be YOU!! haha

Ben Hatke said...

What the heck was I going on about back there?!?

Why did I turn your blog post into a thing about art and illustration?

Annie said...

You all give me too much credit.... Trust me.... I move worse things than buckets of dirty mop water out of my photos. In fact, that's something I never move out of my pictures because I don't mop my floors! Ha!

Ben, I wondered the same thing but was going to be polite and just ignore you. :)

And I hope no one got the impression that I hate the Internet or anything, or that I hate happiness. I love both!!