Me

Determined to be Offended?

offendedYesterday, I woke up feeling absolutely rubbish. It was 5:30am, and I had a stinking cold. I had to get up to catch a train to Blog On Win in Winchester, but I had a headache and was still awfully tired despite having had an early night. I toyed with the idea of just not going; I could still have my sister take care of S, and I could spend the day in bed recovering. But I really wanted to go to this event; I’d never been to a Blog On event before but I’d heard good things about them. And I knew there had been a waiting list for tickets so I felt like it would be a bit rubbish for me to have a ticket and then not use it, without giving someone else the opportunity to go in my place. So I got up, took a handful of cold remedy pills, and went on my way.

It was freezing cold and although my train journey was over an hour, it involved a change half way through – so I couldn’t even settle in for a nap on the train without fear of missing my stop. I was not best pleased! And then a family got on the train and sat at the other end of my carriage. The children were shouting; my head was throbbing. It was not a winning combination, and I posted this on Facebook:

I am on a train at 8 am. I have a cold and have not had coffee. There is a child shouting.
These facts do not work well together.
I think having S has made me less tolerant of children shouting in public. I tend to think, “my child doesn’t shout like that; make yours stop!”

Posted by Single Mother Ahoy on Saturday, 3 October 2015

Now, after what ensued afterwards, I feel I must qualify this statement with the following:

  • Never in a month of Sundays would I have even dreamed of telling the parents to shut their child up.
  • I could have moved to a different carriage, if it was bothering me that much – but I was too tired (and lazy) to move.
  • Yes, the child may well have had additional or special needs. I am aware that you cannot tell purely by look or sound whether a child has additional or special needs. I am also aware that whether or not a child has additional or special needs does not make 8am shouting on a train any less jarring on the ears.
  • I had chosen not to have coffee as I only had an hour or so with S yesterday morning, and didn’t want to spend that time saying “wait, mind the coffee, it’s hot.” I chose to cuddle with my child instead of drinking coffee. My mistake. Upon reflection however, I am not convinced coffee would have helped with my headache or the noise level on the train.
  • My child doesn’t not shout because I am able to control her in any way; she’s just one of those children who doesn’t shout much. That said, if she was shouting in a confined space, I probably would try to distract her with shiny things for the sake of other passengers. I am not saying that the other child’s parents were not trying to do this.
  • I am aware that my sniffing and nose blowing antics were probably just as irritating for those sitting around me as any shouting child.
  • I was not judging the child, the parents, or anyone else. I was just stating that it was not much fun for me to be listening to this noise, when I felt awful.
  • My comment “my child doesn’t shout like that; make yours stop!” may well have been controversial, but it was not meant to be; just honest. I have been blessed with a child who rarely cried as a baby, didn’t really have “terrible twos” and has probably had fewer than 10 tantrums in her three years. While I am aware that makes me extremely lucky, it means I don’t really have experience of children who do make a lot of noise. I only have experience of my own child, and sometimes it’s a bit of a culture shock to realise other children aren’t like this.
  • The child was not having a tantrum. When I see or hear a child having a tantrum, I tend to feel bad for them having a hard time. The child was just shouting. It was just jarring to my ears when I already had a headache, was not feeling my best, and had been looking forward to a quiet train journey.

Thankfully, the people who normally interact with me on my Facebook page understood what I meant; they liked and commented on the post with their own thoughts.

What was strange though, was that people whose names I didn’t recognise – who are not regular commenters on my page, who don’t interact with me, started commenting. I am apparently judgemental, unfeeling, uncaring. I have no empathy, tolerance or consideration for parents of children with additional needs. I need all the help I can get; God help me. Judgey and selfish.  I should get more bloody organised and have coffee before I leave the house. I shouldn’t put down a fellow mother who is having a worse time than me. I have a small mind. If I don’t want to be around children having tantrums, I should stay at home. The words “bigoted” and “small minded” were also thrown about – though to be fair to the commenter, I’m not sure if these were aimed at me, or someone who was attempting to defend my words. Either way, I don’t think it’s acceptable to call people names on Facebook when you don’t even know them.

I find it strange that people can be quiet lurkers online, happily scrolling past a picture or positive update, saving their words and energy for negativity.

When did we all become so determined to be outraged and offended?

Yes, on reflection my words may have been a bit grumpy or judgemental – but if you read them carefully I did not mention tantrums, additional or special needs, hating children or thinking myself better than other mothers. My status was actually liked by several parents who I know have children with additional or special needs; they weren’t offended by it, and didn’t feel the need to remind me that the child I complained about may have additional or special needs. I think it’s safe to say conclusions were leapt towards with vigour yesterday.

Social media seems to have become somewhere to take our own bad moods or shoulder chips out on each other. I am sure that if your child tends to shout on trains then you will feel overly sensitive to someone complaining about a child shouting on a train. Sometimes I see things in my newsfeed that push my buttons, and sometimes I toy with the idea of having a go.

Realistically though, it’s social media. If you disagree with someone that much, why wouldn’t you just delete them as a friend or “un-like” their page? Or at least disagree calmly and politely, making your point in a way that might persuade them to change their mind? Why the arguing and name calling?

I think perhaps sometimes, if someone is having a bad time with their partner, their child, their mother in law, their boss, next door’s dog barking at 3am, they go onto social media and take it out on a Twitter account or Facebook profile that can remain safely faceless – rather than deal with the issue – or person – at hand.

The twenty-first century version of kicking the cat after a bad day at work: we go online and look for something to justify that feeling in our stomachs; something to outrage and offend us, so that we can release that pent up bitterness and rage at someone else who we don’t know and are never likely to see in the street. I can’t shout at my child; I can’t start a fight with my mother in law and I daren’t argue with my boss, so I’ll transfer my outrage to someone else. Something else I don’t even see as human because we’re separated by a screen. Where I don’t have to worry about whether my argument makes sense or whether I’m being impolite or out of order or justified in feeling so outraged by three sentences posted in haste by someone who may well have been having just as bad a day as me, but chose not to take it out on the people around her either.

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Vicky is a single mother, a blogger, a podcaster and a social media trainer. You can find her blogging, business and social media tips at VickyCharles.com.

18 Comments
  • Rachel C

      REPLY

    Love this!!! I saw the post yesterday, and thought that it was just honest and the comments were ridiculous. I know that I would have felt the same, but probably even less tolerant! Everyone seems to be offended by everything these days, which is ridiculous. Whatever happened to freedom of speech? Your page, your facebook, your opinions and thoughts. End of! Rachel C recently posted...PlaygroupMy Profile

    1. Vicky Charles

        REPLY

      Thanks Rachel. I thought people who knew me would find it funny that I hadn't had coffee and was stuck in a confined space with a shouting child. The people who do know me did find it amusing - or at least commisserated with me. The ones who were outraged are people who never comment on my posts!

  • Ojo Henley

      REPLY

    Being one of those parents, you know the elitest special needs ones. I found nothing offensive in your update! For gods sake, it was 8am, who wouldn't be pissed off by a child shouting? It doesn't mean you were offended, or judgementql. Just bloody tired!? The whole comment thing pussed me off, to be fair xx Ojo Henley recently posted...Day 3My Profile

    1. Vicky Charles

        REPLY

      Aw thanks Jo. It's silly isn't it. I was just knackered and grumpy and actually thought it was a vaguely amusing status to put up and that people would have a laugh at the idea of me stuck on a train in a grump with no coffee and a shouting child! How wrong was I!

  • Hannah Atkinson

      REPLY

    You. Are. Kidding. Me. Bloody keyboard warriors. Do people have nothing better to do than to be offended by someone with a headache mentioning that I kid was shouting? It's 8am. Whether the child had special needs or not, it's still noisy and it's still 8am. You are more than welcome to find it jarring. Going up to the mother. Complaining about the noise. Judging the family etc....not ok. Silently wishing that the noise wasn't happening and mentioning it lightly on Facebook without naming and shaming is perfectly fine. I'm quite flabbergasted and off to read what people wrote. Yawn Hannah Atkinson recently posted...Feature Friday’s Link Party | 2nd October 2015My Profile

    1. Vicky Charles

        REPLY

      lol thanks Hannah. It was ridiculous - I didn't find the comments until I got home and was completely confuddled by it all!

  • Helen

      REPLY

    Very well said, there are some truly nasty people out there!! What you said was not awful and I would never have jumped to any of those conclusions!! I hope you're feeling slightly better today!! Look after yourself!! Xxx Helen recently posted...The Way Forward!My Profile

    1. Vicky Charles

        REPLY

      Thanks Helen. I suppose what I posted hit a nerve but I will never understand the desire to start a row on a Facebook page - especially when you don't know the original poster or any of the other commenters!

  • Patrice M Foster

      REPLY

    I felt the same way kids screaming and crying on the plane ....In a normal setting It is tolerated but if I am sick or in pain this can become unbearable for me. I have never attempt to talk to the parents about their child. You mentioning what happen is perfectly find ...no shaming . Its just social media more shares! Patrice M Foster recently posted...You’re not selfish Be YourselfMy Profile

    1. Vicky Charles

        REPLY

      Thank you Patrice. It's not like I would ever tell the child to shut up, or the parents to shut their child up or something. It was just irritating!

  • Hannah

      REPLY

    I think its really sad that you feel you have to defend yourself against strangers :( People forget there is a person behind the blog with feelings. I saw your facebook post yesterday and didn't find it offensive in the slightest. I hope your feeling better today x Hannah recently posted...{The Ordinary Moments} #40 ‘Love’My Profile

    1. Vicky Charles

        REPLY

      Thanks Hannah. I just put the post up and went to my event; there was no wifi there so I was completely oblivious until I got home, when I found all these ridiculous comments. And I really didn't understand - I still don't!

  • Dawn

      REPLY

    I have to admit that I am a secret lurker on Facebook. While I read lots of posts and consider commenting, I decide just to scroll past. Not because I don't have my own opinion, but because I'm tired of having my opinion beaten down. It's just my opinion people! Not once do I say "this is the gospel truth and you MUST agree with me". I find it sad that you posted a commented about your day and got beat for it. When I read your original post, what I read was a single parent that is struggling. With sickness. Probably with leaving your child. Struggling to go to an event that you already paid for and not wanting to waste that money. When I read that post, not once, did I think you were judging that child or the parents for that behavior. You were just stating a fact, of how annoying it was in that moment, combined with your sickness. Had you not been sick, you would probably not have even noticed the child. I really wish that we could stop judging each other. If you can't support someone, just move on. My mom used to say "if you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all". That is such a lost idea today. I don't know if it's people not teaching their kids that or something about the internet, but I'd love to see that change. When I read something that I disagree with, I just scroll past. If you post too many things that I disagree with, I will most likely stop following you. It's really not rocket science, but that there is no value in arguing with everything that you disagree with online. Just move on people.

    1. Vicky Charles

        REPLY

      Thank you Dawn, you've articulated my point perfectly - if you disagree, you disagree. If you continually find yourself disagreeing with something coming from one page or source, then just unfollow. Life is too short to deliberately put ourselves in the position to be reading things we know we'll disagree with. That's like me buying the Daily Fail every morning when I know I hate it, and the feeling is mutual.

  • Alice

      REPLY

    Wow! I think what Dawn said is right - we've all been in the situation where we really don't want to do something but feel we have to because we're making the most of our spare time, but in that moment every little thing can bring you down. As a single parent too I have such little time without my children that when I do take myself into a situation to be alone sans kids (a train journey, an airport lounge, a quiet pub.) I find it quite jarring to be around other people's, especially when they're being noisy. Never mind if they are misbehaving or not (and when I had someone to share the burden of parenting it wouldn't have been such an issue) but when you need that headspace (and coffee!) you blimmin need it. Hope you're feeling better. Alice recently posted...How Do You Know Your Family Is Complete?My Profile

    1. Vicky Charles

        REPLY

      Thanks Alice, I think you've hit the nail on the head there! I wasn't being rude about anyone else, more complaining purely about my own situation!

  • tattooed mummy

      REPLY

    Oh FFS, surely this comment was about you and your feelings? not the child? People will get offended about anything these days - you mention toast and people shout "what about me I can't have toast, I'm gluten free! think before you talk about toast", you mention anything and someone will launch in with why you need to think before you post - IMO they should think before they post. I wonder how much of a chip you need on your shoulder to assume tweets/FB statuses etc are about you ...and how much of a nosy parker you are to comment on behalf of someone else 'in case they are offended' tattooed mummy recently posted...Blog on Win - my review of a blogging event.My Profile

    1. Vicky Charles

        REPLY

      Oh, this comment did make me smile! A couple of years ago my sister, who never interacted in any way on Facebook, told me I had been putting too many photos of my daughter on Facebook deliberately, to get at her because she couldn't have children. That was the first I'd heard of her not being able to have children - or of the internet being entirely about her! I think people tend to go around feeling like they have the right to tell you to censor yourself just because they have that ability to comment. Bonkers.

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