Public Shaming – Parenting Win or Abuse?

There is outrage on the internet which I’m sure comes as no surprise.

A thirteen year old Tacoma girl ended her life by jumping off of a bridge. Many are blaming the girl’s father for her suicide due to a 15 second video posted on YouTube in which she is shown blankly staring at into the camera with her newly cropped hair. The camera pans to a pile of long dark locks laying on the floor of what looks to be a garage.

The reasons for the hair cut aren’t clear and there are few words said on the video but apparently the girl, Izabel, did something her father found unacceptable and this was the consequence he chose as punishment.

There are reports that Izabel’s father is not the person who uploaded the video to the internet, that it was a family friend. Some of the people chiming in with their opinions didn’t even know Izabel. There will always be people looking for their fifteen seconds and, as a side note, shame on them for choosing a thirteen year old girl’s suicide to find it.

Perhaps it isn’t my place and the story is still developing but I am going to go out on a limb and suggest that there may have been other issues that contributed to Izabel’s suicide. Perhaps this was just the proverbial straw. Only time will tell.

Regardless of who uploaded the video, this is an episode among many of a new found way of punishing our children – public shaming. We’ve all seen the cute little kids in the ‘get along shirt’ and it gave us all a good laugh and we mentally high five the mom because it’s just too damn cute.

But we also see older kids and teens on the street corners or in front of a school with posters and sandwich boards publicly shouting out their infractions, their faces grim and who knows what thoughts reeling through their heads.

At what point does this public shaming become harmful, maybe bordering on abusive? When does this punishment actually fit the crime? What unseen damage is being done?

As a parent, I would never choose to publicly humiliate my child. I believe in consequences but I’m not going to condone adding public, and sometimes possibly viral, humiliation to the tween and teenage psyche that is perhaps already riddled with angst and confusion. That seems to me like throwing fuel on a fire.

When one of my children was younger, they walked out of a store with a pack of gum in their pocket. They have been taught that stealing is wrong and when we do something that isn’t right, there are consequences. I turned the car around, brought my child back to the store, and I waited at the door while they went to the counter and returned the pack of gum to the cashier with an apology. Was that embarrassing? Yes. Did they learn a lesson? Yes. Was it followed up with a good talking to about consequences for their actions? Yes. Was it splattered all over the internet in pictures or video? No.

I understand that the things some kids are doing are more serious than a stolen pack of gum but my point is this:

There is a better way to handle things than putting their face in front of a crowd and risking them feeling that the world sees them as ‘bad’, so why bother to try and be good. Kids will make mistakes, and again I reiterate that there should be consequences, but is adding insult to injury the answer? Or does it only cause more harm?

It is our job to love and protect our children. It is also our job to teach them. Can we not teach them without the world being witness and increasing the feelings of inadequacy, insecurity, or failure they may already be feeling?

I just have to ask…

How many times does this method actually work?

How many times does it backfire?

Perhaps, most importantly….is it worth the risk?

 

Photo credit: greyerbaby on Morguefile

On the Blog Road: Original Bunker Punks

On the quiet morning I sat at my desk working and he entered my thoughts with dogged determination, I stopped what I was doing and started a search. My first stop (isn’t it always these days?) was Facebook and I found nothing. So I dug a little deeper, a special skill I have, and I found a list of men with his name and picked the one with the correct birth date. There was only one problem.

Today, the rest of the story is being told at Original Bunker Punks. I’d love to see you there.

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Come As You Are

Every single relationship in my life for a solid decade was toxic. My relationship with my parents was always a best excuse for self-harm in the form of reckless abandon. My friends, which is a term I used loosely, were a means to an end. I used people for what they could offer me whether it be validation, consolation, or simply a place to party. Every day I chipped away a little more at the person I wanted to be, knew I could be, but didn’t believe I deserved to be.

The SisterWives

mask2

There have been a few moments in my life when I have found myself at a critical crossroad. I find myself asking myself the simple questions:

Are you happy?

Is it worth it?

Unfortunately, a few of those times landed right in the middle of an alcohol and drug addiction, when I was already living in constant moments of weakness and my self-esteem was in the toilet. And so, I often stayed at the metaphorical party too long and the damage became very close to catastrophic.

Several times.

I was married to a man I met in rehab when I was twenty one years old. He was tall, gorgeous, funny, and had all kinds of fucked up just simmering below the surface. I found him the perfect match to my own brand of crazy, also lying in wait and doing pushups, waiting for the day I opened the door and…

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What Lies Behind the Filter

It started with an over-filtered photo on a social media tag.

I was tagged for #stopdropandselfie on Instagram. I saw the notification while I was sitting in the car line, bored to tears. I had my hair pulled back in a ponytail, accentuating my big forehead, but I had taken a shower that morning and did at least have some makeup on. I wasn’t scary so I figured…why not?

I don’t take a lot of selfies. If you check my Instagram feed you’ll certainly find a few but mostly you will find photos of my kids, my dog, books, and pints of Ben & Jerry’s. I took the photo, posted it and went about my day.  Later, when I put on my glasses and really looked at the photo I looked fuzzy. And plastic. I looked like me, but flawless me. So…not me.

Filter
I absolutely do not look like this…well, I do…but not really.

Later that evening I felt compelled to make this right. I took picture after picture and still couldn’t figure out how to edit out the editing. Then, I saw it. The little profile of a woman’s head at the top of the screen. I tapped it and slid my finger left, relinquishing perfection for honesty. I still look a little airbrushed but that’s due to the fact that I was apparently sitting next to a good lamp and still had makeup on. I have freckles that are covered by that makeup but this is me….dark circles, forehead wrinkles, lines around the eyes earned with each day of my 47 years.

No filter
That’s a little more like it.

Two photos. One overly airbrushed nonsense and one real with no smoke and mirrors, just a touch of Dermablend.

Pictures are wonderful snippets of a view into our lives, a highlight reel if you will, and can certainly tell a story. But is it the real story?

We spend time creating an idea that what we are doing, and more importantly how we are doing in the time it takes for the click of the camera and to add a few filters is so much better than it really is.

We mask internal pain by smiling brightly then removing the flaws, the parts that make us real, show us as we truly are. We add a filter, adjust the light, and perfect the contrast as if our measure of happiness lives and dies in that one moment.

On social media, we decide what we want others to see and what we don’t. Photos are filtered and words are edited because we want to look as if we’re living better on the outside in order to hide what is dying on the inside.

I will admit that my life looks better on social media than it does in the real world. I edit photos. I am more apt to share the happier moments. I leave out altogether the less than stellar moments that aren’t easy to make pretty.

I don’t do this because I’m vain. I do this because I was raised to believe you don’t ever show, much less spotlight, the bad side. You stuff your feelings and hide the truth. Always put your best face forward and if you can’t say something nice, say it behind closed doors.

That was much easier to do in the decades before social media. Today, we can get up to the minute status updates and photos with the push of a button and swipe of a finger. Or the push of a few buttons and a few swipes of the finger, a little editing and filtering….it has to look or sound just so.

Everyone has that one Facebook friend. The friend who is always happy. The friend whose kids are headed for epic greatness. The friend who travels the world, eating the best food and swimming in the bluest oceans. That friend whose husband never passes gas and sends flowers weekly. They never, ever have a bad day.

I scroll through Pinterest and see the amazing things people do to their homes, the meals both edible and beautiful, the fun DIY projects, endlessly perfect bodies, nails, hair, makeup….the list goes on….my eyes glaze over, my mouth waters a little, and I wish for a prettier everything.

Instagram is full of more spectacular edited and enhanced moments. I scroll through some days and feel less than…less exciting, less pretty, less happy. Worse, some days I feel envious which, in turn, makes me feel ashamed.

Being a writer, these social media outlets are necessary evil. When I am actually doing this thing I love, I use them every day. Those are the days I can scroll through and I am inspired and genuinely thrilled for the many successes of others.

Other days, I resent them. Like a semi-stalker, I will scroll through and feel the cracks in my self esteem widening. I forget my own accomplishments and the fact that somewhere, someone may feel the same way about my own feed from time to time.

Since I purged my social media of friends and family and use it only for my writing now, I feel a little less inhibited. I don’t have to fear the phone calls and feigned support which is usually just a dig for information. I find the network of people I write with to be more open and I am find it easier to write freely and the more I do, the easier it becomes to show my true self.

Still, the simple truth is that on social media, life is often filtered. We share the pretty parts and sometimes the ugly. Hell, sometimes even the ugly may not be the whole truth, only a concocted fiction, either in whole or in part. People love a good story and morbid curiosity will always be a draw.

Do I believe that everyone that writes a blissful status update or posts smiling photos on social media are wearing masks? Of course not. I read statuses every day that express unhappiness, anger, frustration, and guilt. I’ve even seen these negative emotions in photos, albeit rarely.

The truth is we never really know.

I recently read an article about a young girl whose Instagram and Facebook feeds were filled with candid shots of her seemingly happy life. She was a college freshman at an Ivy League school and the real truth was that she was extremely depressed and having a very difficult time. Her family and friends knew things were different, off somehow,  but she looked so happy in her Instagram photos. She took, and filtered, a beautiful photo of holiday lights in the trees at Rittenhouse Square in Philly an hour before she jumped from a nine story parking garage and ended her life. This young woman filtered out the demon of depression which, as many of us know, hides so very well.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to totally rid myself of some type of filter. I have years of practice hiding my true feelings, putting my best face forward, and burying truths. Just today I shared some personal news with some friends online that I trust wholeheartedly. I typed the status six times – six! – backspaced it out, typed it again and hit enter, deleted it, and then finally typed it, hit enter, and left it.

I felt sick.

I was worried I would look weak, desperate. Ironically, it was in a moment of weakness and despair.

So, the truth is…

I have moments where I fall to pieces. I cry, I rant, I throw things, and I look like shit because I haven’t showered in four days.

Things in my life go wrong and don’t make sense.

My kids aren’t perfect. They are real jerks sometimes.

I get jealous of my peers when they are writing brilliance and I can’t put three words together.

And, the truth is….

I am a strong woman but I am human. I get depressed and angry and tired and fed up and scared, but you will likely never see it.

My kids are brilliant, I love them fiercely, and I am proud of them every day, jerks or not. That you will likely see a lot.

I am proud of my friends for their accomplishments. Writing is a bitch of a thing whether you do it as a hobby, a passion, or to make a living. Getting it noticed is monumental. I applaud you. I will try to let you know that more often.

I made a conscious decision when I started this blog to be honest and to write free. Sharing these words on social media takes that one step further and, aside from the unfortunate Barbie-like selfie, I think I have held true to that promise. I do it in hopes of trying to form real connections, something that isn’t very easy for me.

But I keep trying.

So use your filters wisely. Make your pictures prettier, hide a few superficial flaws. There is nothing wrong with it.  Show the world your best but don’t hide your worst. You don’t have to show it to the world. But show it to someone.

In times of despair, or just the need for human connection, relinquish perfection for honesty.

I will leave you with this short video from my beautiful friend, Hasty. She sums it up so eloquently in just 15 seconds:

Can I Avoid Disaster?

I remember where I was and who I was at 23. I read the passionate plea from Sarah and know that this is not something that needs to be ignored. As a member of The Sisterwives, this is what we hope for. Not the pain..the reaching out. It is never an easy thing to do but when someone does, like Sarah, we don’t ignore it. We send in the troops and today the troops are led by Michelle whose emotional words of wisdom are honest and, with hope, heard loud and clear.

The SisterWives

It is too easy to get caught up in the process, sometimes, of what we do. We forget why we started in the first place. This letter, from Sarah, arrived for us one day, and we all wondered what we might have to say to someone who was so earnestly seeking advice.

Quite a bit, it turns out. Today, we will hear from Michelle, who wrapped her arms around it in the way that only she can.

Thanks, Sarah.For reminding us.

DearSarah

I’m Sarah. I’m 23. And I was wondering if you could help me answer a few questions.

Some background: I’m working on recovering from the frighteningly non-unique mess that is childhood sexual abuse followed by self harm. And I want to be beautiful, and strong, and kind. But stereotypically, early to mid 20 something’s are kind of the opposite of all of those things. I don’t want to suck…

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