In the Ninth Edition of my “Week of Lists” I tackle the high level topic: Offline versus Online Parenting, exploring the collision of ideas parents face when seeking to participate and bridge gaps between themselves and other parents… while avoiding ruining their kids lives by oversharing or mild exploitation. I’ve been dad-blogging for ten years in various forms, so I’ve thought about many of the pros and cons, like…
3 vs 3 Parenting Blog Trends that are Hurting (or Helping) Parents
Almost exactly ten years ago I started an epic journey. Yeah, I was about to be a dad, a new baby growing inside my partner’s belly just newly announced, along with everything that came around with that little life change. But little did I know that prying open my six-year-old personal all-about-me blog to start writing about the topic of all-about-fatherhood, that this would become almost equally meaningful.
I’m only half joking.
Sure the arrival of The Girl and the nearly ten years since has changed and defined my life and outweighs virtually everything I’ve done since (and probably before) but like many other things I do, I was naturally inclined to write (extensively) about that change. The ups. The downs. The ins and the outs. Everything.
Ten years later, I also wish I’d known that being one of the early parent bloggers could have — should have — been an opportunity to shape the trends in the kinds of things parents post online today. Some of these things are great and are helping the many parents who are just seeking and reading and watching and absorbing the information we post. Some of these things… well… not so much.
Helping #1: Telling Stories
I look out of my window and I see dozens — even hundreds — of people wander by. I drive down the road and look at the thousands of houses. I click through the net and see the millions of user accounts. Every one of those people has a story. Is a story. Can tell a story.
We are a culture of narrative. We are a collection of anecdotes. We are people of plot, thick and thin, trivial or world changing.
I find it strange and sad that simple storytelling isn’t a bigger thing. People explaining who they are, how they became, where they think they are going. None of this needs to have a moral or a conclusion of any kind. The simplest stories told with purpose or passion, honesty or obscurity, all of these can be compelling and add to a tapestry the could define who we are as people. As parents.
Writing this kind of thing helps build a tapestry, weave together a community of the very human act of trying to be a good, purposeful parent. It’s by its very nature inclusive, and open to interpretation, and bends authority from the simplest of ideas that we are just writing exactly what we know: exactly what we experienced.
Instead we have too many parents…
Hurting #1: Giving Advice
I dance around this so much my feet hurt. It should be seen as clearly ironic that in an article that is technically giving advice about parenting, my advice is that giving advice through blogging is hurting the craft.
Yet writing that I think this kind of content is crap, even (maybe especially) the stuff I write, is a controversial notion. Idealistic. Naive.
The internet of parenting blogs has become a place of opinion and commentary, people with kids and ideas peddling their ideas through their kids. Leveraging words into thou shalts into clickthroughs into sponsorships and ad revenue.
And most of the advice, even (maybe especially) the stuff I write, is bunk and making the act of raising a kid into a barely navigable world of information overload and poorly constructed insights. Too much of this content is neither professional information or researched data. Too much of this content is clickbait lists of second hand ideas. Too much of this content is ideology over intelligence, thought-experiments over practical input. Parents writing words to fill space to generate volume to maintain traffic to earn a few pennies from their blogging efforts.
I do it too but at least I can still say I’m not making any money writing this stuff.
Helping #2: Humour
Few of us are comedians, I admit, and it would be a slow news day around here if I were to attempt to persuade anyone that I could wear such a hat. Yet, parenting is inherently many things, and one of those things is funny.
Beware the parenting blogger who takes himself too seriously because they’ve probably missed the best parts.
Hurting #2: Pranking
Yet, as recent internet history has proven comedy probably has some common sense limits when it comes to writing about kids.
In just the last couple weeks the story of the YouTube family who was crushed by their own success (and related behaviours, of course) made a few quiet ripples in various corners of the web where I hang out. I don’t want to use names or account information here because this isn’t about them. It is about the fact that they took something (in my opinion) a few steps too far, however. They jumped on the bandwagon of creating humour through humiliation, and then begged the forgiveness of a scornful internet when their pranks bordered on abuse stumbled into the realm of plainly unfunny and landed them in the middle (and eventually losing end) of a very real custody battle.
Helping #3: Building Communities
Which leads to the heart of the problem. Why are we even doing this? Why put yourself, your family… your kids.. out to the world at all? Why not hunker down and pretend that privacy is a real goal, or that non-participation in society is a desirable outcome?
The truth is complex.
For many of us who blog, share, vlog, post, whatever: everything we do is about communicating, reaching out, and finding people to listen to us and maybe talk back.
In it’s truest, purest, most genuine form (and this is probably just the naive dreamer in me writing now) this would be a lovely community of parents sharing ideas, making light of the strange, holding candles to the darkness, and offering a digital world where the best ideas about raising kids flourish. It takes a village, the saying used to go. That village is — could be — may be something that is now online. So why not try to help build that?
Hurting #3: Adding Subscribers
Instead, and too often, it’s become about making money. Again: Ads. Subscribers. Clickthroughs. Sponsorships. Selling crap. Getting free stuff. Becoming the millionaire blogger who works behind a camera instead of doing a real job.
Again, call me a naive dreamer, but I’d rather give this away, set my own limits on what I say and post, and do it all for free maybe only reaching five people, I’d rather that than turning this space into something I couldn’t stand myself to stand behind.
As optimistic as that may read, the web is already too cluttered with click-bait and free giveaways and people (parents included) peddling something in an attempt to strike it rich. Perhaps it is naive. Perhaps it is entitled to assume that people have the means to give away their time this way. Perhaps it is foolish for me to pro bono my ideas to the world every day and not just jump on that bandwagon myself.
I’d rather put my time into building something that helps, rather than something that hurts. Writing towards that parental tapestry, weaving together a community of the very human act of trying to be a good, purposeful father… whatever that means anyhow.