If you’re ever feeling like you need an antidote to the smell of a tiny baby’s little round head, the trusting look in the eyes of a fluffy puppy or the way the sun hits your kitchen table on a perfect sunny morning, I have just the thing.
If you’re in the mood to get grumpy, to get bitter, to decide that people are the Actual Worst, I know where you can go.
If you just want to wallow in the shallow hatred and petty jealousies of people who wish their lives had turned out differently, I can give you directions.
You see, earlier this year, I spent three months hanging out in some of the most negative corners of the internet. And I’ve only just washed off the stench.
I was writing a book. It’s a novel actually, which is exactly the kind of wanky statement the women in these forums would detest. Sorry, guys.
I was writing fiction about three imaginary ‘mummy bloggers’. In my book (which you can buy here, as of today, and at all good bookshops, thank you very much), the women who write online are all nominated for the same award, and in order to win it, the stories they create to keep their blogs gaining followers just get bigger and more outrageous as the awards grow closer.
I spent a lot of time in mummy blogger land while I was writing. Mostly, it was an excellent place to hang out. Women sharing the truths about their lives is a gift to other women, and the communities that are built around them – just like Mamamia’s – are something to behold. Just a solid core of reassurance and support, a chorus of ‘me, too!’ and a whole lot of sharing of wisdom.
But then, of course, there are the haters. I spent three months lurking in the closed groups of women (almost entirely women) who had organised themselves specifically to whinge and complain about one blogger or another. It was a deeply sobering experience.
Here are 11 things I learned in those groups. Consider it a Public Service Announcement.
1. You are smug and ungrateful. If you are a mum who adores your children, would do anything for them, and takes vocal pride in how much joy and pleasure they give you, you are SMUG. If, on the other hand, you are a mum who complains from time to time that raising small people can be difficult, stressful and exhausting, you are UNGRATEFUL and don’t deserve them.
We are challenging women to stop gossiping about one another and reach out, instead. (Post continues after audio.)
2. You are definitely too fat. Unless you’re too thin. If you’re too fat, then you are lazy and a terrible role model. If you are too thin, you are vain and selfish. And you definitely should be spending that gym time on improving play-doh sessions with your offspring.
3. You definitely didn’t want that baby enough when you had him. Don’t you know there are mums out there who would just love to have a baby like yours, and the fact you say your labour hurt, rather than tickled, and that this whole breastfeeding thing is more difficult than it looks, just goes to show you have no respect for the women who have struggled to create a family.
4. That food you’re giving your kid, it’s going to kill them. You took your kid to Maccas? You let him have an ice-cream on a Friday night? Don’t you even care about how long your child lives? Are you some kind of monster?
5. You’re horrible to your husband. Just the worst. Don’t you know there are people out there who know how to treat a man right, and don’t go around criticising them for not spending enough time with the kids or for coming home drunk and smelly. You should just be grateful anyone married you at all.
6. Your house is a pig sty. Don’t you have any respect for yourself? It’s clear from the background of that photo you posted there’s just no love and care going into that house. I mean, really, who can live like that?
If your house does not look like this, why are you even here?
7. You're such a bogan. Look at you, with your instant coffee. This isn't Wentworth, you know.
8. You're such a snob. Too good to talk to us, you with all your privilege.
9. It's completely fine for me to be abjectly awful to you, but if you try to defend yourself, you're a thin-skinned weakling and shouldn't bloody write on the internet.
10. You're not mean enough. Every so often, in one of the main Facebook 'hate' groups, the administrator would do a sweep of anyone who was lurking, but not writing (ie: bitching), in the group. I got kicked out a couple of times. This is exactly the same tactic employed by gangsters to get kids to commit a petty crime to make it into their gang. It's the behaviour of bullies.
11. You can't win. You just can't. The only solution is to back away slowly and then run like the wind.
Have you ever been part of an online 'hate' group?
- I'm not naming names of individual bloggers in this story. They get enough grief already.