Once I began consuming my news online, I operated by a simple rule: don’t read the comments section of any given article. Because everyone knows that if you do, you inevitably lose a little faith in humanity (I had a few hilarious examples, but it revealed too much about my politics).
But the comments section tempts you. You reach the end of your article and before looking away you see “COMMENTS” mocking you from the bottom of the screen; daring you to click. And you do click, don’t you? And sure, you see some comments affirming your own views. Relief! But there are also always comments that are seemingly there to purposely enrage. You know the ones. The commenters who cherry pick data or abstain from using facts altogether (despite being stated so matter-of-factly). Or the commenters who twist innocuous sentiments into bellicose tirades—obscuring truth and obfuscating logic. Yet despite the confrontation, the trite, and the inflammatory remarks that lurk in the comments section, you click. (Isn’t there an overused cliché referring to the definition of insanity?)
So after I break my first rule, I have a second rule: don’t comment. One of my favourite quotes is by Mark Twain: “Never argue with a fool; onlookers might not be able to tell the difference.” Despite my failure in the first rule, I was pretty successful at adhering to the second. That is, until Baby Center.
For those of you who don’t know, Baby Center is the online pregnancy and baby bible. It guides you through your pregnancy, telling you your baby is the size of a banana one week and a green onion the next (what? No, seriously). It tells you what to expect each week in your fetus—and then your baby’s—development. I’m pretty sure that every mom has visited Baby Center at some point during and/or after her pregnancy.
In addition to the development guide, Baby Center is where moms and moms-to-be go to ask their questions to the other moms and moms-to-be. A forum designed to air insecurities, share knowledge, and compare notes.
The forum is a good idea in theory. In practice, it is often plagued by the same issues as the comment boards from the news articles I read. Yet—despite knowing all of this—I still click. And I read. And I get angry because some mom has told another mom that her son is going to grow up with abandonment issues because she lets him cry it out, or another mom’s daughter is suffering because she has chosen to formula feed. You are putting your child to bed too late; he’s going to have lifelong sleep issues. You are rocking your baby too much; he will get too clingy. You aren’t rocking your baby enough; she feels lonely. You should be breastfeeding on a schedule so your baby can develop a routine. No, you should be feeding on demand because your baby is hungry. Essentially, here is a bunch of anecdotal evidence why my parenting style is better than yours*.
Don’t get me wrong. Some of the commenters are empathetic and try to offer support and encouragement. This can provide reassurance and comfort. But doubt creeps in when you read the not-so-supportive comments. And because the stakes are higher (it’s your child after all), I often feel the need to respond to these antagonistic comments, backing a mom’s intuition that she really does know what’s best and rebuking naysayers (only the aggressive know-it-alls). Thus, I break my second rule.
I have recently established a third rule: never look back. Once I add my two cents I never go back to check whether other moms have responded for fear of getting baited into an unproductive argument (remember what Mark Twain said). It’s a write and run type situation. But hopefully the OP (original poster in chat room language) reads it and feels the mom solidarity I’m trying to convey.
*Even if research is cited, there is often no universal agreement on many of these issues in the scientific community.