Let me start by saying this: Criticism does not necessarily equal bullying. People are allowed to have a contradictory opinion to your own, to disagree with your opinion, and sometimes critique that opinion with facts and experiences of their own. If they do so in a constructive, non-personal and non-threatening manner, they are not bullying you. And yet more and more I see people succumbing to crippling anxiety issues because someone said something mean to them. A mummy war seems to be erupting online as we speak. It has basically turned into a she-said she-said debate with supporters on either side completely destroying each other. Kind of ironic when the whole Queen movement is all about supporting each other. I have to say the whole thing has made me more than a little nervous, considering some of my own previous views. But frankly no one “owns” the mummy blogging world. You haven’t cornered a market that only you and no one else is allowed to have an opinion on. That’s not fair. If it was, how are we supposed to have a diverse conversation? As Notorious Mum put it, not everyone fits into the category of “Queen” nor should they feel they have to. In which case, stand aside and let someone else have a voice, so those mums have someone they CAN relate to.
The point is when you post online, when you become a popular presence in society, you have to expect some opposition. Sometimes even backlash if you have an unpopular opinion. Notorious Mum disagreed with the Queen movement, and she gave various views on why. I agreed mainly with the point she was making, though I really didn’t like the way she went about it. Some points seemed very reasonable, others seemed deliberately hurtful. The part about actually parenting children because you don’t want them turning into psychopaths when they’re older may have seemed like a generalised comment and was probably meant to be taken in that way. But to me it sounded like she was inferring that this is what was going to happen to Constance’s children. And if I read it in this manner, then I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have been the only one. What happened next was uncontrolled threats and bullying from mothers on each side of the debate. A lot of hurtful slinging has gone back and forth, and it’s frankly ridiculous. Disagreement is fine. Trolling is not. What Notorious Mum said was sometimes hurtful, I get that. The comments by her followers after (which she admittedly participated in) were however unacceptable. But Constance’s followers threatening terrible things back was equally unacceptable.
What I find worrying was Constance’s initial reaction, admitting to having a complete breakdown and hiding herself away in a room for hours until she calmed down. In a way, this reaction is completely understandable. She has been thrust into notoriety with little training or experience. Her short stint in the Big Brother house and the 15 minutes of fame that came after may have prepared her to some degree, but really she was just a regular person who went to bed one night and woke up the next day with a million followers. That’s an immense pressure for anyone. Obviously, she has support to varying degrees from many people within the industry, and that’s wonderful. But this isn’t the first time she has had a severe reaction to a negative situation. That’s where I believe she would benefit from some professional counselling and training. Maybe she is getting that help, I don’t know. I certainly hope she is, because frankly my heart went out to her, and Notorious Mum, when I read about how upset the whole affair made each of them. Which is a timely reminder that if you’re going to post comments directed to someone on the internet, you need to remember there’s an actual real person on the others side of the words that you’re writing. Cut out with the trolling. If you don’t support an idea, then move on from it, don’t eviscerate the person who wrote it.
However, trolls are not going to go away overnight, so we must find a way to deal with them in the meantime. That’s where resilience comes in. The worrying part is, the more I look for it, the less I’m seeing it in today’s society. Firstly, don’t get me wrong, I completely understand that people can suffer from severe anxiety due to traumas they’ve faced in life. I would never ever deliberately diminish this fact. I believe Constance is one of them, which makes her reactions even more justified. But for others who haven’t suffered from adversity or trauma, we need to remember that there is a difference between diagnosed anxiety and just feeling worried. I’m seeing more and more young people today not being able to cope with the everyday stresses of life. Yes, on the one hand life is stressful, and sometimes more stressful than ever before. We face an extreme rising cost of living, irreversible global warming and a slide back towards conservative values. But on the other hand, we’ve never had it so good, with human rights, workplace diversity, modern medicine, and access to technology that makes life simpler and easier. So why the increase in young people’s inability to cope? Babyboomers would likely tell us that “kids today are too soft”, thanks to overindulgence in luxuries. You know, like food whenever we want it, disposable income, countless forms of entertainment (from cinemas, to television to numerous gaming consoles, etc), vaccines, non-compulsory conscription, houses with the same number of bedrooms as people living in it, and instantaneous messaging. When my mother was young her family didn’t own a car, or a TV and never once had a family holiday. Her mother before her left school at the age of 14 to work on a farm to help support her own family. And what was my biggest gripe growing up? If I didn’t have orange juice with my breakfast you could hear my complaints down the street.
Now I’m not saying that we need to let our kids suffer from extreme adversity. I’m not saying take all their worldly possessions away, place them on daily rations and make them share a bedroom with six other people. I’m not encouraging starting a world war or exposing them to third world country conditions just so they can see what “real” suffering looks like. But we do need to start letting our children experience negative situations. We need to let them fall, and experience the pain from that fall, so they can learn to pick themselves up and keep going. We need to let them experience all kinds of emotions without labelling them “good” or “bad”. Sad and angry are just are important to feel as happy and joyful. We need to help them face their fears, defeat the monsters and maybe in the end make friends with them. We need to teach our girls and boys that it’s perfectly normal to cry, it’s important to cry, but it’s pointless to do it over spilt milk. We need to show them that perseverance is important, that things are worth doing even if they are hard, to not give up in the face of adversity, and to always keep trying.
We can do this. We can have children not afraid of pain but equally not afraid of their emotions. And my hope is that when my son is eventually exposed to unflattering comments or mean sentiments, he will merely shrug them off, perhaps change some of his behaviours for the better, and continue on with his head held high and his self-esteem intact.
As for the “mummy war”, I hope a truce can soon be reached, and the fighting ends. I hope you too can find your resilience in the face of negativity, and know that I will respect and support the both of you.