Internet Hate

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.

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11 thoughts on “Internet Hate

  1. Well…. I had a long comment… then poof…

    So here is the shortened version. My child is vaccine injured and was compensated in the US vaccine court. I have already sacrificed my child for the “greater good” – so instead of wishing my children dead or thrown in CPS custody, throwing me in jail, etc., people should be saying “thank you.”

  2. Oh man, this is EXACTLY what has been going through my mind lately. It is BLOWING ME AWAY how mean and hateful people have been lately. I mean, SERIOUSLY, would you say those awful, ridiuclous, hateful things to someone's face? It's just…demoralizing .. and sad. ;(

    I just wanted to say that I, for one, would BIG TIME miss you if you quit posting here. And ditto on everything in this post.

  3. Okay – please delete the comment above. Someone else signed in on my computer last night and I forgot to sign her out before commenting!

    At any rate…
    Oh man, this is EXACTLY what has been going through my mind lately. It is BLOWING ME AWAY how mean and hateful people have been lately. I mean, SERIOUSLY, would you say those awful, ridiuclous, hateful things to someone's face? It's just…demoralizing .. and sad. ;(

    I just wanted to say that I, for one, would BIG TIME miss you if you quit posting here. And ditto on everything in this post.

  4. I feel you. 100%. I am actually taking a FB break right now because i was so sick of reading stuff about vaccines (for so many reasons). I wonder how anyone can think they are changing anyone's mind when they use such hateful language. And if the point is not to start a productive dialogue, what is the point? Sometimes I wonder what people are trying to accomplish with their words. Clearly they have no idea (or they truly just want to hurt). It's really upsetting.

  5. “You don't have to agree with, or even respect someone's choice, but no one deserves to be the target of hate speech. ” – YES & AMEN!

    If we were all the same and all parented the exact same way and made all the same choices, life would be so dull and boring. Differences are a good, good thing!! But for the love . . . differences don't give you a green light for being a bully.

  6. Please know that for every one person who posts those negative things there are 50 more out there that enjoy reading your blog and are thankful that you allow us to travel along with you. You have been an inspiration and I and many others would miss you if you stopped posting.

  7. If it makes you feel like a better parent, I will confess that my child has *never* eaten a vegetable 🙂 We all do our best, and we all have life experiences that color how we feel about the vaccine debate. Since my child comes from a country where vaccination is often unavailable and desperately needed, I have strong feelings but I try to air them respectfully or not at all. I hope the debate dies down and the internet returns to a happy place for you. I am always glad to see you post.

  8. I couldn't agree with you more. I am constantly perplexed that there can be any parent that isn't familiar with the middle ground on this issue. Vaccines have done great things for us but they are not without risks. I simply can't imagine seeing the matter in the simplistic terms that so many are expressing. And where does the anger and vitriol come from? I don't know.

    Perhaps one of the best things about the internet is that you can always just shut off the screen and walk away.

  9. You may find this hard to believe, but I have not read a SINGLE thing on this topic. I know that the measles are going around, yadda yadda yadda, but it doesn't affect me so I am ignoring it. My FB feed is full of bait but I could care less. I vaccinate my kids – but we thought long and hard about every.single.one because of my mom's auto-immune disease. We discussed a delayed schedule with our new pediatrician after being told by our old one that they'd kick us out of their practice if we didn't follow the CDC schedule. All we wanted was a discussion on what we could do as parents to limit the possible effects of vaccines, and we were treated like we had two heads. So after all of that, I am still exhausted from the vaccine debate and actually just priced in my “the Vaccine Book” for a consignment sale on Saturday. D-O-N-E DONE!

    Why can't people just mind their own business? If your kids are vaccinated, what do you care that someone else didn't vaccinate their own kid? It makes no sense.

  10. I take social media breaks all the time because things bother me. I say hide those that bother you, it makes your space much happier! I worry terribly about the internet and how ppl are so unkind and Well just plain rude, I sort of fear for humanity….

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