What hate blogs and Honey Boo-Boo have in common (and why we should leave both behind)

I don’t remember how I stumbled across it: The Blog. A so-called “hater blog,” dedicated to exposing “the truth” about a popular mom blogger.

All I know is that within one post, I was hooked.

I don’t actually know the mother whose life, business ethics and personal morals were dissected and torn apart on The Blog in scintillating (and extremely accurate) detail, sometimes going back years. I’d only been aware of her peripherally; even though we have a few things in common, we run in different circles online.

I don’t know any of the “hater blog” authors, either. Or its passionate commenters. (Well, I assume I don’t — most of them comment under pseudonyms.)

Not knowing any of the players made reading The Blog feel less…dirty. More like a sociology experiment or a whodunit mystery. Fictional, or at least far, far removed from my reality.

So I found myself justifying my regular check-ins. What does it matter?  Who cares if all these women I don’t know at all are right about this other woman I don’t know at all?  What will it hurt either party if I read it and believe the haters to be insane or the blogger to be a sloppy, lazy, dishonest, hypocritical, bad, bad, bad mother?

I tried to tell myself that, no matter my shortcomings and failing as a mother and blogger, I couldn’t possibly rival this woman’s train wreck of a life…if her critics were right, that is. Otherwise, the readers who filled the comments section of each post with thousands of opinions were either nuts or just plain mean. In either case, not my problem!

I tried to tell myself that I was reading the blog as education. After all, as a pro blogger, I need to know what readers are talking about, and ethical issues that might come up … right?

In the end, though, I knew deep down that all my justifications were baloney. The Blog was simply giving me a mindless outlet; something to read when I’d once again seemed to reach the end of the internet, or was just too tired to go looking for new and novel forms of entertainment. It scratched my deeply imperfect human itch for drama, particularly the sort that I don’t have to get personally involved in. Drive-by drama.

Which sort of reminds me of certain types of reality TV, fueled by judgment, outrage, and cringe-worthy parental hijinks.

Honey Boo-Boo, anyone? Yes, the latest reality show shocker is a tempting target. It’s also intentionally shaming, and low-hanging fruit. We really don’t need to raise a moral outcry about it; it’s so ridiculous it takes care of that itself (whether the moral outcry is about the baby-pageant industry or ratings-at-all-costs television, I’m not sure).

At my blog The Happiest Mom I take care to maintain a kind atmosphere where mothers don’t unfairly judge one another, who don’t hurl insults or sling accusations or take “passionate” (read: hurtful) public stances on hot-button parenting issues (outright abuse excepted, of course; but even then I wouldn’t allow it to be used as entertainment.)

But kindness isn’t just about what we do in public when others are watching. It’s not just about the things we say to one another out loud or in writing. It’s also about the things we do secretly, in our living rooms and home offices; the inner lives we lead; the attitudes we nurture within ourselves.

Yes, Honey Boo-Boo’s mother and possibly, sketchy parent bloggers might “deserve” the criticism heaped upon them. But that doesn’t mean it’s OK for us to use their worst moments as our personal entertainment.

And, while I’m still not sure which side I’d fall on if forced to make a choice — the blogger who is so disliked, or the dis-likers who feel so betrayed by her — the point is that I don’t have to choose. I’m not personally invested. It’s just gawking. Yuck.

In 2007, when Britney Spears’ life seemed to be spiraling out of control (much to the glee of certain celebrity bloggers who posted embarrassing or incriminating photos daily, complete with snarky and cruel commentary) I decided that, as hilarious as some of that commentary might be, I’d had enough.

I decided to completely cut off my daily dose of snark – not because my reading celebrity blogs was really affecting Britney much, but because I owed it to myself to be a better person than that.

So one day, I removed the blogs entirely from my reader, reset my browser cache, and never went back again. That was five years ago, and I’m happy to say I’ve not read a single paragraph of celeb gossip since.

Likewise, I’ve been slowly weaning myself off of The Blog for the last month. But I think I’m ready to leave it behind, for good.

I’m guessing most of you reading have some version of The Blog. Maybe it’s a site you read only for the indignant thrill of reading nasty comments. Or a blogger you would have given up on long ago, if not for the “train wreck” factor.

Perhaps it’s a TV show you watch only because the people in it are so ridiculous that you can’t help but feel superior.

I’m not suggesting I’m better than you. Actually, I’m right there with you.

But I am suggesting that this kind of “entertainment” isn’t teaching us anything about how to be better people, or better parents.

It doesn’t matter if the blogger in question “deserves” the treatment, or if the “reality” show parents are, well, unreal. It doesn’t matter if they deserve the outrage, the snark, the judgment. It really doesn’t.

What matters is that we’ve got better things to do. Better people to be.

I believe that, anyway — and I’m ready to prove it to myself.

Are you with me?


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