Last week a blog post from a Texas mom stirred a controversy that scorched its way through social media. It made a brief appearance on a local Facebook page and went on to take the national spotlight, eliciting commentary from the likes of the Huffington Post and ABC Today. The blog underscored how social media can spread a message, and rile up responses, like wildfire.
I read the blog from “Given Breath” reposted on the local Facebook page because it was titled “FYI: If you’re a teenage girl.” Even though I was not part of the targeted audience, I figured living with one teenager and one preteen, and always in need of information, qualified me to at least take a peek. The blog focused on one mom’s advice to a teenage girl that had posted what this mom viewed as a sexually charged “selfie” on the young lady’s Facebook page. The blogger, a mother of teenage boys (formerly Facebook friends with the girl) laid-out her family’s view — literally — of the picture. Suffice it to say, Ms. Hall didn’t pull any punches. Her words were a fair reminder that there is a great big viewing world out there ready to pass judgment, so be careful what you post. Hands down, great advice.
As an aside, “selfie” was not part of my adolescent vocabulary. Pictures typically were taken when the family was decked out looking suitably uncomfortable for an upcoming holiday. My parents’ zeal for capturing my childhood magic may have waned a wee bit after following around my two older siblings. The reality too was that film was not cheap, nor was the cost of development. These days, kids take lots and lots of pictures (no film required) of beautiful sunsets, and lightening as it pierces the night sky. More often than not the pictures are of their own beautiful smiles. Many of the photos make their way to the social network, a relatively recent, and altogether rampant, phenomenon.
While I agreed generally with the message about taking care in posting pictures, the blogger’s delivery left me agitated. Making a point about what her boys should (and should not) view, at the expense of a teenage girl, who I will venture to guess is overloaded with different messages about how she should (and should not) look, risked being more harmful than helpful. The resulting commentary ranged from high-fives and hallelujahs to mean-spirited name calling. One response captured my attention, however. The responding blogger, also a mom, posted an alternative view that was so eloquently written, and so kindly delivered, that all I could think to add was, “yeah, what she said,” and I hit the thumbs-up button on my computer.
The connection between a cyberspace blog and the historic match-up between Bobbie Riggs and Billie Jean King, billed as the “battle of the sexes” that took place 40 years ago this month might seem tenuous. After all, the match aired only on the networks back when twitter still meant chatter between birds. Ms. King recently was interviewed on a late night cable program where she reminisced about the match, laughing good-naturedly about her opponent and the surrounding hype. Her message today about yesterday’s victory had little to do with who won or lost. Instead, she talked about how important it is for both genders to champion each other, male and female alike. After all, she concluded, “we’re in this world together, so let’s make the best of it.” It occurred to me then that the on-line commentary that so deeply impressed me did exactly that. It made a point to champion all involved, young men and young women alike to express themselves in beautiful ways. The responding blogger even closed with a note championing the mom with a different view, thanking her for the food for thought, and for “love-loving her children like I love-love mine.” The message was a needed reminder that as parents we too are in it together, and it’s not always about scoring the victory, but instead about championing the cause.
Cindy Bargell is an attorney and a mom that lives outside of Silverthorne with her husband and two daughters and welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.