In an Instagram post that has gone viral for all the wrong reasons, well-known blogger Katie Bower shared that her under-performing son is the least-liked child she has on social media.
Right off the bat I’ll say this: I think social media is a tool that can be used for good. I’m happy about all of the things that I’ve learned on various platforms over the last decade. My views on everything from parenthood to politics have been developed because of the sharing of thoughts and information, and it’s all thanks to the internet. People receive support and comfort in tragedy and hardship. They find meaningful relationships and stay in touch over long distances. It can be good.
That said, there’s a dark side, and in my opinion, it’s only growing. People have begun to hinge their self-worth on the number of comments, likes, or shares they get. They search their lives for content that is clean, beautiful, and nice to look at. It’s become not only a past-time, but a job. Sometimes, a money-maker. Because of that, there is pressure to share more, to go deeper, to get more personal.
Worst of all, children get brought unwittingly into the worlds their parents are creating. They can’t give permission and have little idea what consequences come with all of this sharing.
Katie Bower is a popular Mommy Blogger who chronicles the life she and her husband, avid DIYers, live with their five children. In her original post she shares, “Guys, I’m gonna be perfectly honest…Instagram never liked my munchkin and it killed me inside,” and that, “from a statistical point of view, he wasn’t as popular with everyone out there.” She goes on to ask the internet for as many likes as they can give, because “my Munch deserves alllllll the likes.”
I should add that these comments were made on his Happy Birthday post. He was turning 6.
Katie also shares that she’s going to read all of the comments out loud to him.
In a follow-up post once the backlash began, Katie said, “I revealed this feeling, because I know one day he will see the numbers and have to learn that his value is not in online approval.”
I don’t think I’ve picked my jaw up off of the floor yet.
Starting with the basics: There is no reason a six-year-old should be concerned with a stranger clicking a virtual ‘like’ button on the internet. There’s actually no reason it should have any effect on their life whatsoever, and certainly shouldn’t cause self-esteem issues. He will never care if nobody tells him how this works. And no, he doesn’t have to see the numbers.
This is a problem created by adults, but we’re feeding it to our kids.
I feel sad when I think about the way this has unfolded, because ultimately there is a lot going on behind the scenes, in this mother’s mind and heart. Over time, her own worth has been determined by other people deeming her interesting, pretty, or a good mom with cute children. Because she’s tracking her statistics and her posts’ performance, she’s noticed what (and more importantly, who) doesn’t perform. It’s probably gotten under her skin and made her sad. I get it. I am a mama bear, too.
But it has got to stop.
We have to stop oversharing about our children on public platforms without their consent.
We have to stop letting engagement, or lack thereof, steal our peace.
We have to stop looking to strangers to tell us who we are.
The post has since been deleted, but not before everyone from national news outlets to celebrities picked up on it. Some Twitter users even commented that this situation compelled them to delete all photos of their young children from their social media accounts.
Whatever we do, let’s hold our children’s welfare tight and with the highest regard. With numerous studies showing that those of us who abstain from popular social media platforms are more emotionally satisfied, perhaps we should evaluate our usage. After all, we are the first models of behavior our children have. Let’s show them we know where our worth truly lies.
Rachel is a wife and mother living in Raleigh, North Carolina. She’s a fan of good coffee, wearer of gray t-shirts, and is constantly starting books she will never finish. Her family is her joy, and she loves to engage with other moms and dads on matters of parenting. Her blog posts have also been featured on the Today Show Parenting Blog and Scary Mommy.