A picture is worth a thousand words.
Unfortunately, a lot of people seem to think the old proverb means “I should spill a lot of words being critical of that thing I see in the picture” rather than it’s original meaning, that a complex idea or story can be conveyed with a single still image. If you visit Imgur where the above photo is hosted, you’ll find the heading “Any girl’s wedding nightmare” and a host of commenters putting their (mostly negative) two cents in about the selfishness of proposing at someone else’s wedding.
One of the more charitable critics stated, “Can’t blame her for this. This is all on the attention craving double d-bag on one knee.” Some took the opportunity to comment on the groom-to-be’s fashion choices…or the fit of the proposee’s dress…or the bride’s dress…or the physical size of each of the women pictured. The profanity flowed freely, natch, and the conversation continued when it was shared on Reddit.
So was the incident in the photo an example of the worst kind of selfishness, or something else?
HINT: it’s option B. The man proposing on one knee? He was the best man at the wedding. The proposee? She’s the sister of the bride. As it turns out, it was the bride’s idea for him to propose at the wedding, because the two couples are incredibly close and she felt it would make the day even more special to share it, along with family and friends.
Hmmm…sounds like a beautiful idea to me.
Social media has done tremendous good, allowing ideas to spread and people to connect in ways we never would have dreamed possible a generation ago. Anyone can have a platform now; we all have the opportunity to find our tribe, regardless of where we are located. It’s a beautiful thing, but…there’s an ugly side to it all that often has me shaking my head.
Case in point: My sister-in-law’s granddaughter was born with club foot. Being a concerned grandma, she did lots of research and reached out to other families in the “club foot club” for information and support, including joining a Facebook group. When her granddaughter received her first pair of shoes – a big deal! – she shared a photo of her with that group. She was immediately blasted by multiple people in what was supposed to be a support group about how the car seat her granddaughter was pictured in didn’t fit her properly. Those people rushed to judgment over the fit of a car seat that turned out to be…a stroller. Oops. So much for that information and support she was seeking.
Did the Car Seat Patrol attack purely because they were concerned about the safety of that little girl? Or did they just relish the opportunity to feel smarter/better than the girl’s poor grandmother?
We share small slivers of ourselves on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, on blogs and elsewhere, and we see tiny slivers that other people share, and our brains put those tiny pieces together and form a picture in our mind of a person, their beliefs, their motivations, their level of intelligence, and a host of other things that may or may not come close to resembling the truth. If we chose not to act on that mental picture, it might not be so bad, but too many people take it a step further and, protected by the anonymity of the internet and completely disregarding common courtesy, rain down wrath/judgment/whatever on that person they think they know but really don’t know at all – people like the ones in that photo above.
Did all those negative commenters actually empathize with the bride whose day was (allegedly) ruined, or did they enjoy feeling superior because *they* would never commit such an obvious faux pas?
It’s impossible to know for sure what the motivations were of the commenters in either of the above scenarios, but I know which way I’d bet – especially considering the comments about the bride’s dress, weight, etc. (doesn’t seem very empathetic to me…). Mobs aren’t generally associated with compassion. This urge to rush to judgment would be bad enough if it were restricted to comboxes and social media which we can (in theory, anyway) just choose to avoid, but it feels to me as if it’s spilling over into society at large – into our relationships with neighbors, colleagues, and acquaintances, the people with whom we interact on a daily basis.
As I said a couple of weeks ago, years of blogging have given me a thick skin.
My mantra for quite some time has been Don’t listen to people who aren’t saying anything, and for the most part I don’t. Even readers who are my real-life friends don’t have the full picture of my family and what influences the choices we make, so a stranger’s commentary on Nathan’s haircut didn’t prompt me to amend his hairstyle, and criticism of my booster seat use hasn’t led me to make changes to our traveling protocol, either. I haven’t been shy about pushing back in the combox when I felt the situation warranted it, nor have I been afraid to admit that a commenter brought up a good point I hadn’t considered. I value the give and take, always…as long it’s true give and take, not trolling or an attempt at public shaming.
If my blog isn’t your cup of tea, that’s okay.
There are countless blogs written by moms, many of whom have children with special needs and/or are Catholic and/or dabble in photography. Find one (or two or three dozen…) that you like and read until the blogger doesn’t resonate with you and move on. If you feel she’s too negative, or too positive, or too issue-oriented, or not passionate enough about the things that you think are important, soak up the good parts or unsubscribe. If you like the tone of her stuff but wish she’d talk more about X or Y topic, ask her. Bloggers love honest feedback.
My blog is about life as I see it, and my view is not only unique relative to everyone else in the world, simply because there is only one me, but it is in some ways inconsistent with how I viewed the world two or five or ten years ago. I am aware of many of my strengths, as well as my weaknesses, and I know that I am both broken and strong. I also know that there’s a lot I don’t know.
Life is a messy business, not limited by Either/Or but instead filled with Both/And.
I don’t have to EITHER be proud of my kids OR sad about what they can’t do. I can be BOTH proud of what my children accomplish AND sad that they aren’t able to do more. Special needs families are too often placed onto one end or the other of a spectrum – sad charity cases or heroes on a pedestal. Believing the former diminishes the joy and ordinariness of our lives; casting us as saints is just as unfair because we aren’t and shouldn’t be judged against that standard. And let’s be honest…Both/And isn’t the exclusive provenance of special needs parenting. Who among us has never once asked ourselves the question, “What if…?”
If you’re still with me, thank you.
I truly do love and am thankful for my readers and as it says in the sidebar, I’m really glad you’re here. But I’ve had these thoughts in the back of mind for quite some time and I felt it was time I shared them with you.