I haven’t written in what feels like a really long time. The truth is, for the past three weeks or so, the internet has been a really, really demoralizing and hurtful place to be, and I’ve been trying (mostly unsuccessfully) to distance myself from this crazy vaccine war that’s raging on social media.
I don’t want to publicly discuss my position on vaccines and the decisions Ryan and I have made for our family, with the full support of our pediatrician. I am more than happy to talk about it privately for anyone wanting to engage in a respectful conversation, but in my experience, internet debates go nowhere and many times escalate to nasty very quickly.
It’s the nasty I’m concerned about.
WHY do people think they have license to be so cruel just because they are behind a keyboard and computer screen? Why is it ok to literally tell a stranger that you hate her, that she is a horrible, selfish mother and should have her kids taken away just because of a choice she’s made for her family? Why do people think it’s acceptable to wish harm on someone’s child because she thinks his mother is a crazy anti-science idiot (but has no clue the journey that family has been on or that family’s medical history)? It’s bullying.
It’s been said a million times, but it probably needs to be said a million more: we are all doing our best. The medical decisions we’ve made for our family (especially Grayson) are the result of hours of research, consulting with medical professionals, prayer, and intuition. I have many friends who have done the same; some of them vaccinate fully on the CDC schedule, some selectively or delay, and some don’t vaccinate at all. We all love our children fiercely and are doing what we feel led to do. You don’t have to agree with, or even respect someone’s choice, but no one deserves to be the target of hate speech. And really, do hateful words ever change anyone’s mind or bring them over to your side? No.
Please just know any time you post a snarky comment, meme, or article that attacks a group of people (on whatever issue, not just this one), it’s hurtful. And just because you didn’t write it, doesn’t mean you aren’t being unkind by posting it. A video featuring magicians screaming obscenities at parents who don’t vaccinate their kids isn’t funny, nor is it an effective means of changing anyone’s mind. It’s mean. Surely you yourself wouldn’t scream obscenities in my face, so why would you post a video for me to watch of someone else doing it? As Glennon Doyle Melton so eloquently says, “If you aren’t kind on the internet, then you’re not kind.”
And for the record, posting your views online on whatever issue you are passionate about is fine with me. I love to read other people’s views on a variety of topics, and honestly, social media has been amazing at opening my eyes and even changing my mind on several things- when it’s done respectfully. But belittling and lashing out at someone just because she parents differently than you do (and even if you believe her parenting decisions are dangerous for whatever reason) is wrong.
I’m really at a loss what to do with my participation in social media, and even blogging, right now. Facebook has been such a positive in my life for so many ways- a lifeline at times- but right now, it just feels like a hostile war zone. I’m also so protective of my blog and it’s been my therapy for many years now, but I’m a little scared and resentful about it right now. It just doesn’t feel like a safe place to be anymore. And it’s started creeping in to other parts of my life- this week I’ve found that I’ve felt like a failure in many areas of parenting and have been dwelling on those (oh, Charlotte’s had way too much screen time and has eaten far to few vegetables…)- and I’ve been beating myself up over these things instead of celebrating and enjoying the many, many joyous moments of our week. The internet is getting to me, and not in a good way at all.
I know all I can control is my reactions, and I am ultimately accountable and responsible for anything I do and say, online or off. I probably can’t change anyone who is determined to be nasty, but I need to figure out how to limit my exposure to it.
But please, I beg you, whatever you say, or post, just be kind.