A couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog for the All Things Mothering page about tandem nursing, which is when a mother breastfeeds two siblings of different ages concurrently.  It was a pretty basic post talking of the strains and the joys of this unique relationship.  What worried me was the comment string and the comments on the Facebook notification that followed.  There were several unhelpful comments, where mothers called each other names and derided each others’ choices.  The online administrator had to remove some comments and ban the perpetrators.  If you’re a mother and you read blogs, check out Facebook comment feeds or visit noticeboards or chatrooms related to parenting, you will have noticed this worrying trend, namely, the tendency to hide behind the digital medium and be nasty.File:Bullypic.jpg

It appears that many people haven’t moved on from playground antics such as telling secrets about other girls, talking down to each other, using name-calling, talking behind their hands and passing notes.  This is stuff my six year old and nine year old come home with… and yet these are women usually in their 30s and 40s who will write the most abhorrent, derisive statements about parenting choices that are so personal.  Although we are grown-ups who should be able to control ourselves and Do The Right Thing, somehow people forget basic manners online and rip each other apart because your choices don’t match mine.

The klesas, as defined by the author of the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali, are the obstacles to achieving the state of Yoga, or a quiet mind.  In my last post I discussed avidya, or ignorance.  The second of the klesas is asmita or egoism.  Patanjali isn’t talking about egoism as in narcissism, but rather the tendency we have to see ourselves as separate from another.  It’s an illusion that you and I are unitary actors in this world.  Each of us is like a stone thrown into a still pool of water– everything we do creates ripples that move outward and affect other people and the world we live in.

An easy example from parenting: my children do as I do, not as I say.  How many of us have listened in horror as our newly-talking toddlers come out with choice phrases that shouldn’t be heard from the mouths of babes?  Our children are constantly learning about the world by watching us and others.  Now that I have three small people around me nearly all the time, I can see with even greater clarity that nothing I do can be held in isolation.  All that I do affects others and has the potential to mould and change the world, even if in a very small way.

To post an aggressive invective on a comment thread is to pretend that we aren’t connected and that the most important thing is that you have the ‘right’ to say what you think.  Several of the people who had to be banned used phrases such as, “Well, it’s just my opinion.”  Or, “I’m not judging you, but it’s what I think.”  Or my favourite, “I’m just saying.”  You might as well append the phrase So THERE and stamp your foot, as far as I’m concerned.  Grow up.  It’s artifice to think that you can put your opinion out there without consequences.  Unfortunately many people seem to have forgotten tact and good manners.

It’s hopelessly depressing that those people fail to see our interconnectivity.  As human beings we share the experience of living together on this Earth.  Like a Venn diagram, each of our lives is a circle that overlaps many other lives.  We are made of the same substance; we each have individual personalities but the stuff we are made of is the same.  To forget this is the ultimate in egoism; to forget this is to say “I am all that matters.  I come first.”

We spend countless hours telling our children to share, discouraging them from antisocial behaviour and helping them to navigate the world of social interaction.  My daughters struggle with the nastiness of other girls who seem altogether superior, more knowing, with sharp tongues to match.  I wish I could say that it all gets better when you grow up, but unfortunately it doesn’t.


Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Nastiness on the web and elsewhere
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10 thoughts on “Nastiness on the web and elsewhere

  • 08/01/2012 at 7:17 pm

    Thank you for this nice post. I often read threads on mothering websites where clearly desperate people ask for support or advice about a difficult parenting issue and are aggressively attacked by others for their choices. I have to say this horrifies me, there is absolutely no concept of sisterly support which is very sad. I just hope such people read this article and think twice.

    • 08/01/2012 at 8:20 pm

      Thank you Laura. Perhaps they will read it and think twice, or they might leave me some nasty comments! 😉

      It’s so sad when women attack one another about something so personal as parenting. Just because we do it differently doesn’t mean we can’t respect one another.

      Thanks for reading and commenting. Means a lot!

  • 08/01/2012 at 9:35 pm

    Hi Lisa

    I absolutely totally agree with all you’ve said here. I find myself being utterly amazed by the venom which accompanies so many of the comments made in relation to these kinds of topics. It’s so strange that something which should bring women together divides them so utterly. Rather than being supportive, so many women see others doing something different as an attack on the way they do things, and so respond accordingly. I guess it’s because so many of us are so insecure about our own parenting styles that when we see difference we read it as criticism and so go on the defensive.

    I also agree with what you’ve said about little girls! I’m so scared of my daughter growing up and having to face these scary, haughty, judgemental girls – because I remember what they were like!

    But I do also know that I was sometimes one of those little girls who said nasty things to my friends. We probably all did sometimes. But I still feel terribly guilty about it. And I also know that I sometimes say things about people I know behind their backs. I did it just yesterday and I felt awful about it immediately. So while I totally agree with what you’ve said about the terrible, vicious comments that people leave online, hiding behind their online personae, I also think we have to acknowledge that we do sometimes make judgements ourselves, and sometimes say things we later regret. And give ourselves permission to be human.

  • 08/01/2012 at 9:43 pm

    Hi Kirsten
    As usual you raise an important point. I so appreciate your honesty in saying that you know that you have said things to hurt people and that you regret it later. This takes so much self-awareness. All of us have the capacity to harm, and hopefully to realise later what we have done… and we regret it. Thank you for pointing us back toward compassion and one of the signature themes of this blog: the persistence of our humanity.

  • 10/01/2012 at 12:31 am

    Very well said Lisa, this lashing out at people who express differences of opinion or maybe are at the start of their parenting journey and genuinely want to learn and grow, is not helping anybody . Wow, sometimes I wish that I could turn the clock back and do-over some of the experiences with my children, good and bad…:). Thank you for expressing so clearly what is lacking in this virtual world. How many of these people would voice the same opinion out loud in mixed company??

    • 10/01/2012 at 12:37 pm

      Thank you Dierdre for your comments. You rightly point out that some parents are just starting out and need information and support, not judgement. We all have regrets and wish we could have a chance for some do-overs– I’m the same. I just try to be present to them now.
      Thanks again for reading and commenting,

  • 11/01/2012 at 12:46 pm

    I’m so glad you raised this issue. The internet is the ultimate hiding place for people who want to ‘share’ their opinion. It seems as though some individuals forget that the person they are criticising is a real flesh-and-blood human.

    Words matter. Words can hurt.

    Maybe if there was a button on every computer that said “think deeply before you make that comment and hit return” that would be of help!

    Thanks again Lisa.

    • 11/01/2012 at 3:13 pm

      So true, Teika. It’s so easy to send off something hurtful. Face to face people are usually a little more circumspect.
      Thanks for reading and commenting,

  • 28/01/2012 at 12:23 am

    I have self-banned myself from several FB groups that seemed to revolve around drama and the exact kind of nastiness of which you speak. As a woman who was relentlessly bullied as a child, my first instinct now that I’m grown is to lash out at these types of people. I found myself not liking who I was, and I even found myself initiating the bullying on more than one occasion. I still struggle with the feeling of wanting to “get back” at people for what was done to me. It’s something I’m glad I’ve recognized about myself so that I can work on it.

    • 28/01/2012 at 9:00 am

      Hi Christine,
      I am honoured by the honesty of your comments and am amazed at your self-awareness. Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment.

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