If you've ever scanned your Facebook feed and wondered what possessed your old college suitemate to post a full-color photo of her fresh, glistening placenta, well, Blair Koenig feels your pain. As the founder of the site STFU Parents, Koenig has been combing through such examples of parental overshare since 2009, when she founded the site. With thousands of daily readers since then, STFUP has grown into a destination with a dual purpose: It offers individuals (both with and without kids) a place to vent their generally good-humored frustration at insufferably childcentric social-media moments; it also serves as a series of teachable moments for people wondering whether or not it's a good idea to post a detailed status update about their baby's explosive diarrhea. (Hint: It almost never is.)
This week, STFUP makes the jump to book format, with the paperback STFU Parents: The Jaw-Dropping, Self-Indulgent, and Occasionally Rage-Inducing World of Parent Overshare (Perigee). We asked Koenig to share what she's learned from the site and its now-notorious reputation so far. (We also have two spanking-new copies of STFU Parents to give away, so read to the bottom for details.)
You started STFU Parents four years ago. At what point did you realize that you'd tapped into something massive?
I knew that people might be experiencing a similar oversharing trend in their social media feeds, but the feeling was confirmed when I received submissions the first day the site went up. And I've gotten them every day since! I guess that constant stream of new content reminds me that oversharing on social media is a universal phenomenon. I've received lots of emails from readers who "thought they were alone," and some people email me just to complain. I enjoy playing digital therapist and highlighting the freaky things people choose to share online.
Most of the coverage I've seen of STFU Parents in mainstream media seems to take pains to point out that you don't have children yourself, as though that's the only reason one would take issue with parental oversharing. Have you gotten other feedback to that effect? How do you respond?
The mainstream stories you're referring to all hit around the same time, and they were [really] manipulated by the media. It was sort of hilarious to watch it play out. First, I went on The Ricki Lake Show and was profiled in the New York Post on the same day. Ricki Lake didn't paint me as evil, but the Post did. After that, every outlet pointed out my "childlessness," implying that it's not only absurd that I write the site since I don't have kids, but also that parents hate the site (and me). But the funny thing is, parents love the site, and I received hundreds of e-mails from people who'd seen those press mentions and felt offended that parents weren't "allowed" to enjoy the blog. I think the media paints parents like they're humorless or don't find oversharing equally as annoying as non-parents do, but in my experience, that's not true.
That said, some people hate the blog. One mom blogger wrote a whole post about how I must spend my life "hugging porcelain" and partying and talking shit about babies. Another wrote a scathing post on a very large parenting site and the headline said "Mom-bashing blogger," which isn't at all how I view myself or the site—I got the feeling she hadn't really read through it. And then there were some women who claimed that I "would finally get it" when I have kids myself. But I'm confused by what they mean, because I never plan to post photos of my child's diaper blowout on the Internet.
Has anyone every recognized themselves in one of your posts?
About 20 or 30 people have recognized themselves over the years. The reactions vary. Some people say, "I love your blog but don't want to be on your blog," and I very sadly remove the post. Some people say, "Please cover my first name, but the post can stay up," (I always remove last names and cover faces in submissions). And then of course others tell me that I'm a giant asshole, but usually we find some common ground.
The purpose of the blog (and book) has never been to mock individuals so much as to point out what's annoying about modern parenting trends. If someone is upset, I'd like to think we could work something out. Sometimes parents get into the comments and tell off every single commenter and it's like watching an episode of Judge Judy. A few oversharing parents have been excited to be featured on the blog, which is disconcerting. And then I also give out the "Mom's Gold Star" award, which is a reward for funny status updates written by parents. Those people are often aware of their friends' submitting, or they've submitted themselves!
You live in Brooklyn, which has over the past decade become the first place people point to as a locus of insufferable parental shenanigans—"yoonique" names, preschool-admission mania, babies in bars. How has living there informed the site? Do you think it would it be different if you lived in a different city, or not a city at all?
I think the site is informed by my living in Brooklyn because I see the sanctimommies up close. I know what it's like to negotiate a tiny restaurant with three sets of parents who just walked in with their double-wide strollers and sass faces. Some parents have given me nasty looks for all kinds of stupid reasons, several of which I'm probably unaware of. Maybe their kid hates the color orange, which happens to be the color of my scarf. Who knows?
I think New York shines a spotlight on a lot of the trends on the blog and in the book—helicopter parenting, alternative parenting, and just a general sense of entitlement—and it might be different to write about annoying parents if I lived in another city. But I'm not the type who gets annoyed by crying babies or kids acting like kids. I get annoyed by parents who don't parent very well. And you definitely see a lot of that in Brooklyn.
Finally, after looking at thousands of examples of oversharing, do you have a short list of things that are never, ever acceptable to share on social media, for the good of all parties? What's on it?
Of course! Here are some things you want to avoid:
- No pictures of your kid's poop. Take it a step further: No pictures of bodily fluids or anything coming out of [anyone's] body. That includes labor.
- Don't mommyjack. That's when you hijack a friend's status update just so you can talk about your kid. Know when to mention your kids in the comments.
- If you ate/buried/made art out of your placenta, keep it to yourself. Trust me, no one really wants to know.
Want your very own copy of STFU Parents? Post your favorite stories of social-media oversharing (parental or otherwise) in the comments, and we'll pick two favorites to win a copy of the book.