Beware the parental overshare

Posted at 5:50 AM, Apr 03, 2013

(CNN) — Do you dare to overshare your kids’ exploits on social media?

From bragging “mommyjackers” and smug “sanctimommies” to pictures of poop-smeared kids and placenta art, blogger Blair Koenig has seen it all. In fact, she’s made a career of cataloging examples from the worst parental offenders on her website STFU, Parents.

Koenig has collected examples of the most frequent and flagrant Web etiquette violations into a new book, “STFU, Parents: The Jaw-Dropping, Self-Indulgent, and Occasionally Rage-Inducing World of Parent Overshare.”

Read an e-mail Q&A with Koenig below, edited for clarity and brevity:

CNN: What inspired the website?

Koenig: I started the site in March 2009 after noticing a lot of “kidformation” in my Facebook newsfeed. Several of my friends were new parents, and my feed was suddenly filled with updates about fluctuating fevers, diaper changes and nap times.

I began thinking this was something others might be experiencing when a friend (and mom of two) sent me a few screen shots of her old college friends talking about their “perfect” children in their status updates.

I had no idea back then just how much parents truly overshare about their kids. The examples that inspired the site now seem very tame. But regardless of what gets posted, the purpose of the blog has always been to highlight modern parenting trends while having a laugh. I’m interested in discussion and etiquette, but I also want it to be entertaining.

CNN: Who contributes the photos and notes?

Koenig: I’ve heard from everyone you could possibly imagine being Facebook friends with: friends of friends, co-workers, siblings, old high school acquaintances.

For a long time, the majority of submissions came from nonparents, often people who worked with kids, like nannies, baby sitters and teachers. But a couple of years ago, I started getting a lot of submissions from parents, many of whom have parent friends that they find annoying.

More often than not, the person does know the “offending” parent and has been pushed to the edge. If a submitter says, “This person never usually overshares,” I’ll take that into consideration and might not run the submission. But most of the time, that’s not the case. Once a poop picture oversharer, always a poop picture oversharer.

CNN: What are some common types of overshare?

Koenig: The aforementioned poop pictures are probably the most common type of submission I receive. I have categories within subcategories because I get so many submissions about poop and potty training.

But aside from that, I consider “overshare” anything a person probably should have kept to herself.

This can include hostile complaints about the UPS man waking the baby (Woe Is Mom), self-righteous updates about being a “supermom” (Sanctimommy) and hijacking a friend’s status update to talk about your baby in the comments (Mommyjacking). I also get a lot of graphic labor and delivery pictorials. Some people have no filter.

CNN: Do parents ever share their own overshares?

Koenig: I get e-mails from parents who say they’re “reformed” and submit old examples of their oversharing ways. I’ve also heard from parents who say they read the blog because it makes them feel better about their own parenting!

CNN: How do you tread the line between being antagonistic to parents and just highlighting when they go too far?

Koenig: To me, humor isn’t good if it’s hateful. The trends I highlight are inherently ridiculous, and I try to emphasize the difference between sharing and oversharing. If you’re just posting a cute picture of your kid eating ice cream, it won’t get featured on STFU, Parents.

CNN: Do you ever get backlash against your posts from parents?

Koenig: If there’s a backlash, it’s not really from parents. It’s more general, like people who just disagree with the blog’s existence. The mom blogger community has unleashed some fury against me and the site, but even in those cases, I think it was just one segment of that community.

I’ve rarely received hate mail, fortunately, and I get a lot of nice e-mails from parents. One parent did send me a death threat, though. It involved killing me with a piano.

CNN: Do you think social media has created a whole new breed of oversharing or just provided more immediate access to it?

Koenig: Social media is the gateway drug to oversharing. Give people a Facebook or Twitter account and tell them to post whatever they want, and soon you will see a total devolution of acceptability. After all, you’re behind a computer or on your phone, and you’re almost tricked into thinking that what you post can simply be erased later. But in reality, once you post something online, it’s there forever.

CNN: Some of the blog’s content has to do with sharing potty training pictures. What’s the most disgusting example of oversharing that you’ve been sent?

Koenig: That answer depends on the person, because some people don’t find poop disgusting but are completely repulsed by vomit or long strands of green snot. You name it, I’ve seen it.

Bloody noses, diaper blowouts, crowning newborns, and I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that I have a whole folder dedicated to “finger-painting with poop” submissions. Some people will even make art prints with their placentas to frame and hang in their homes. It’s all pretty gross.

CNN: What does the book offer that the blog doesn’t?

Koenig: The book is broken out into 34 short chapters that each represent a different category. It’s like a funny field guide to parent overshare, and I think it’ll be an essential baby shower gift.

It also includes a glossary of words you might encounter in modern parenting culture (like birth art, dipe and Nevaeh), and there are helpful pointers, lists and a quiz to help you determine if you overshare. The blog is great for random doses of laughter, but the book is a cohesive guide that can be used like a “what not to share” manual.

CNN: Do you think your perspective or tone will change if you choose to become a parent?

Koenig: There are two kinds of people on social media: those who post too much information and those who don’t. The ones who do aren’t in the habit of considering their “audience” when they post. They just see social media as a digital scrapbook of their lives. I see it as a way to connect and share relevant information, and I don’t think a child’s poop texture is of any relevance to people other than a child’s parents.

I also think there’s a difference between crowdsourcing the best type of car seat to buy and crowdsourcing an toddler’s mysterious, full-body rash.

CNN: Many people baby their pets. Do you have any plans to start a STFU, Pet Owners site?

I’ve been collecting pet examples for over three years, and I can report that “pet parents” can be just as bad as human parents. Some people even take pictures of their pet’s poop. None of it makes sense to me, and I’m excited to share my confusion with readers.

For instance, I recently received a series of submissions about a “dog mom” who celebrated her dog’s birthday and documented the whole shebang on Facebook, “tagging” him in every photo. That kind of stuff deserves to be seen.

Follow Blair Koenig on Twitter @stfuparents

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