‘You should totally try this baby bouncer I have. It’s awesome. I’d NEVER recommend it on stories (I’d be eaten alive!) but between you and me, it’s a lifesaver.’
This was a message I got from one of my Instagram buddies who has a baby who’s about Harriet’s age. Our kids were going through a grizzly phase at the same time and we were swapping tips.
I know exactly why she didn’t say publicly on stories that she put her kid in a bouncer. Because inevitably some know it all would slide into her inbox and say ‘Just FYI, baby bouncers stunt the development of your baby’s motor skills’ or ‘I wouldn’t put my kid in a baby bouncer if you paid me. They’re total death traps.’
You might think I’m exaggerating but I promise I’m not. I once did an Instagram story about something (I can’t remember what) and I was making a cup of rooibos tea and I put milk in it while I was talking. Some random person commented ‘Um… you aren’t supposed put milk in rooibos. LOL.’
It’s certainly not the worst thing anyone has said to me on the internet but it made me feel yucky. The tone was bitchy, the story I posted wasn’t even about the tea and the comment was completely unnecessary. I’m sure that person didn’t mean to upset me and I’m almost certainly overreacting but it didn’t sit well and I was left pondering why this person felt the need to point out something unrelated and negative about my story. Also, this person was totally wrong. You CAN put milk in rooibos. But even if you’re not supposed to, who cares? I could put yogurt and lemon juice in it if I wanted to. I’m not hurting anyone. The creepiest part about it was that I didn’t even say it was rooibos. This person knew by looking at the tea bag tag that was on the screen for about a second. So much attention to detail in the name of calling someone out on a perceived mistake. Get hobby. For real.
I totally understand that when I create content other people are free to comment on that content. This post is just a reminder that freedom of speech is not without consequence and if you’re interacting with other people on Instagram stories here are a few questions you might like to keep in mind if you don’t want to ruin someone’s day by saying something rude/insensitive/unnecessary.
If you DO want to ruin someone’s day then off you go on your merry way. Might I suggest some therapy or counselling though? If being nasty to strangers online makes you feel good, you might want to have that checked out.
For the rest of us, here are a few things to keep in mind when chatting in Instagram stories.
1. Is this related to what the person was posting about?
If someone is posting on their stories about a new pair of boots they bought and you notice there’s a picture on their wall that’s crooked, should you point it out? Probably not. It’s unlikely you’d walk into someone’s house for the first time and say ‘There’s a stain on your carpet.’ The same rules of general politeness apply online.
The one exception to this rule is if you’re going to compliment the person. If someone is doing a story about a new pair of boots they bought and you think their hair looks great, absolutely tell them. Compliments are lovely… leave the negative feedback in your head.
2. Did this person ask for advice?
Another Instagram mate of mine mentioned on her stories that her kid had woken up quite a lot overnight and she was tired. She was INUNDATED with sleep training advice, book recommendations, clinic advice… it was madness. She wasn’t asking for advice, she was just sharing about her day. And yes, when you see someone struggling with something you think you can help with it’s human nature to want to help but often it’s not helpful. Especially with unsolicited advice. Especially (especially, especially!!!!) with unsolicited parenting advice.
On the flip side, if someone asked for advice, go nuts. I asked for advice on Instagram when my daughter who previously took a bottle a week for her whole life decided to reject the bottle 48 hours before she was about to start childcare. I was at my wit’s end and I asked for advice and all the advice I got was wonderful and encouraging. I even had several recommendations for Pigeon bottles which we tried and they totally did the trick.
However, if I’d already tried literally everything, including every type of bottle on the market and I just wanted to have a whinge, that advice would have been really annoying and potentially upsetting. If you’re giving advice, make sure the person was actually asking for it. If you really can’t help yourself start your message with ‘I hope you don’t mind me giving some unsolicited advice but this was really helpful to me when I was in a similar situation but definitely feel free to tell me to bugger off!’ You could write almost anything after that sentence and it would be fine.
3. Read your comment back to yourself and imagine a stranger sent it to you. How did it make you feel?
Many, many years ago I had a regular commenter on the blog who called me ‘bitch’ a lot. It was in a friendly way and I didn’t actually mind it much because I’m an affectionate insulter myself but I always thought it was a bit bold.
I’m a massive fan of casual and friendly tones but sometimes they can come across as a bit judgemental or insensitive. Just read your comment back and try to soften it a little if you think it’s coming across in a not-so-great way.
I did this just the other day when I commented on an Instagram story about blood donation saying I was keen to donate again after being pregnant/breastfeeding and not being able to. The poster said ‘I can’t donate either! I don’t meet the minimum weight requirement of 50kgs.’
I nearly wrote back that I would love to not meet the weight requirement and that I haven’t weighed 50kgs since I was primary in school, but I didn’t. Why?
1. The conversation wasn’t about that
2. I know from experience that slim women do not appreciate being compared to children
3. I have a hard time losing weight and that’s no one’s issue but mine – it’s certainly not the problem of a woman I’ve exchanged a few words with on Instagram
So I deleted it and wrote something much nicer/on topic/not riddled with my own insecurities and jealousy.
Yay me. Bad vibes averted.
4. Is it absolutely necessary for you to comment on this thing?
An Instagrammer I follow posted a picture of her newborn baby in his cot surrounded by stuffed toys and artistically bunched up blankets. I certainly noticed that it probably wasn’t the safest cot arrangement but I assumed she did it for the photo because it looked cute. I looked at the comments and there were about a dozen that went along the lines of ‘This is an unsafe sleeping arrangement for your child.’ and ‘I hope you took all those toys out of that cot before he went to sleep!’
While I was still looking at the post this Instagrammer edited her caption to confirm that of course she didn’t leave her newborn baby to nap in a cot full of sleeping hazards and she just put him there to take the photo. She just wanted to post a cute picture of her baby and then she had to spend half the afternoon defending the picture and her safety standards as a mother. Sheesh.
If it’s not absolutely necessary to comment on a thing, maybe don’t.
5. Is what the person doing offensive or dangerous?
I see things on Instagram stories every day that make me go WTF but they’re very rarely offensive or dangerous. They’re just things I wouldn’t do. Which does not in any way make it okay for me to direct message a woman I’ve never met on Instagram and say ‘FYI – Australian government guidelines recommend zero screentime for children under the age of 2.’ when she uploads a story of her 8-week old baby watching a movie.
Do you know why I don’t do that? Because it’s none of my business and her posting it on stories doesn’t make it my business. What would I be achieving by questioning this parenting choice of hers? It would only make an exhausted mum feel shit about herself. Why would I want to make someone feel like that? I’ve made the decision to not point my child at a screen until it is absolutely necessary but you know what? I might just be making life harder for myself and if I plonked my girl in front of a screen for a few hours a day I could get a lot more done and she might turn out totally fine with no adverse effects from an early introduction to screens. Also, my kid is 6 months old and thinks a washcloth is the greatest thing in the world. I may have to reassess my stance when she’s a toddler but who knows? The point is, all of this is MY shit and has nothing to do with the woman who doesn’t mind if her wee babe watches movies.
To break it down more simply, before you write anything on the internet ask yourself these questions.
Is it kind?
Is it necessary?
Is it helpful?
If you answered no to any of these questions, maybe hit delete and not send.