My friend, Lauren, had twins about eight months ago, bringing her family of four to a family of six very quickly. Liam and Lola have always been extremely photogenic and adorable and our group of friends have been able to watch the little angels grow up with their two amazing big brothers over the past months. It's one of the better things about Facebook/Instagram/technology in general – to see young lives grow and change over time. When Abby was growing up, most of it was out of our home state of Kentucky. Since we moved to Oklahoma and then to Alaska, our group of friends has grown in size and also distance. Having outlets like Facebook and Instagram have helped tremendously for us to keep in touch, share Abby's life/progress, and share our adventures as a family.
I've often said there are three groups of people on social media and I got the idea largely from Patton Oswalt when he's referring to comedians at an open mic night:
1. Someone with something topical, insightful, impassioned, inspiring, or just plain funny to say. It's the best of social media and not everyone can be 100% on all the time but a person who is thoughtful can generally provide thoughtful content.
2. Someone who doesn't have much to say (and that's okay). As Oswalt put it, "Yeah they have something to say but who gives a shit?" Grass is green, sky is blue, yes, the Kardashians are famous for being famous. All self-evident stuff is being posted but it's your page, so post away. I post "Captain Obvious" or mundane stuff sometimes because, as in #1, not every day is inspired…some days you just want to laugh at and share a viral video of an ape sniffing his fingers after scratching his bum. Spoiler alert: he faints because his bum is stinky – tee hee hee!
3. The batshit insane idiots that have an agenda and God help you if you disagree with their assessment. Oswalt says, mocking these people in terms of an open mic night: "Oh look, a stage and a microphone – now the demon monkeys that live in my head will have their message heard!" I'm paraphrasing but I don't want to steal his content, either. In any case, these people exist en masse on Facebook/Instagram/Twitter/whatever is out there these days. These people will always exist but before the emergence of social media, they didn't have so much of an audience as before – it was usually limited to whomever could hear them yelling on street corners waving signs that the end was near or those they passed pamphlets out to in bus stations about the dangers of microwave oven radiation. Actually, I think those assholes at PETA still do that. Listen to Wyatt Cenac's piece on the Westminster Dog show sometime – it's hilarious (46:10 in the video)
Laura (an amazing photographer here in Anchorage, Alaska) and Lauren got together to do a fun photo shoot of the twins. In lieu of the more traditional "smash cake", they chose burgers to suit Liam's chubby baby rolls in direct juxtaposition to his petite twin sister, Lola, who was actually bigger than he was at birth. Lola's photo shoot was equally adorable but Liam's garnered a huge amount of attention.
Unfortunately for Laura and Lauren, they encountered a good deal of the crazies of #3 for the past few days as the post of little Liam went more and more "viral". An Australian Yahoo news outleteven did a piece about it, which you can view here. The comments poured in more after that: good, bad, and ugly alike. Does everyone have an opinion? Yes. Does everyone have the right to voice said opinion? Yes, because this is America (although some idiots think that because we're in Alaska we're not technically "a part" of the United States *insert eye roll here*). Everyone is entitled to think whatever crazy thing enters their brainpan and speak it. Where there's a fine line is when you go after an innocent baby, his/her mother, and an artist personally from in front of the comforting glow of a computer screen. Saying a baby is going to develop diabetes or other diseases isn't a verifiable medical fact – it's a hateful opinion. Saying a baby is fat when he's just healthily plump isn't science – it's scurrilous. Big badasses, calling an infant fat, right? Wrong.
Laura, exercising her right as a private business owner and citizen, deleted the more abusive comments but not before our group of friends had a crack at them. Turnabout is fair play so if you're going to voice your stupid, ill-informed opinion about someone's infant child and their parenting prowess on the internet (without even knowing who they are), then your life/profile/practices are all subject to scrutiny, in my opinion. One woman asked "why this was being shared so much", ostensibly because she found it distasteful. Lauren was quick to post screen shots of the same woman in a suggestive situation with a buck naked stripper for her 40th birthday. Stones and glass houses, people. Most of the ire came from mothers who would "never" let their child have McDonalds. Perish the thought! I personally let those people know that their mom trophies are in the mail. I try not to engage too much in online debates because they're largely fruitless but going after my friends and innocent babies? Nope. Hell nope. Shoot – Abby had McDonald's the other day and she's insanely healthy. I had a bacon chicken BBQ sandwich, myself – and then I went to work out. Is McDonalds "ideal" culinarily and health wise every day? Maybe not but moderation does not a child abuser make.
Let's be clear here – just because the child is surrounded by cheeseburgers as a joke photo shoot for fun, it is not indicative of his home life. Hell, from personal knowledge I know the kid was eating cage-free organic eggs yesterday with a big ol' smile on his face. He has actual doctors' visits where he is given a clean bill of health. If his adorable chubster rolls don't alarm a medical professional or CPS (who would be contacted in cases of actual obesity), then it shouldn't alarm ignorants on the internet. I also know that, during the photo shoot, he was playing with the burgers and licking them, not eating them. In actuality, he was more interested in the pickles. Now, if it were a home video that went viral where Lauren was force feeding her 8 month old McDonald's cheeseburgers, I'd probably be like "Whoa…that's excessive." I might even privately bring her aside and have a chat with her about how that might effect his overall health over time if she feeds him fast food cheeseburgers all at once like that. But, since Lauren isn't a moron and she's an amazing mother to not one but 4 kids, I'm pretty sure I'll never have to have this conversation with her. And, even if it were the case that I did feel the need for that conversation, it would only be after some soul searching on my part on whether or not it was my place to do so (e.g. is the child being harmed, is it illegal, could I contact a professional for their opinion before voicing my own?, etc.). As someone with professional experience and educational experience/a degree in criminal justice, I'd say I know what child abuse looks like but I still leave room to confer with other professionals for further education/clarification.
Want to know the real super kicker to this? Laura (photographer) is a freaking vegetarian. She isn't one because of any grand moral reason and I've definitely eaten meat (McDonald's chicken nuggets, actually) in front of her before. She doesn't raise her children vegetarian as she considers it a choice – she just chooses not to eat meat but she doesn't expect others to do so, either. This photo shoot was her brain child and I think it was brilliant. She has a different lifestyle but she doesn't expect others to adhere to it. She is the height of non-presumptive, non-pretentious thought that is very lacking in modern society where everyone seems to think "my way is the best way because I'm special and perfect".
The corresponding photo shoot for Lola? Fruits and veggies, of course! Kid was going to TOWN on a rutabaga (or was that a beet? I don't know). Because of the backlash from the "sanctimommies" (sanctimonious + mommies = sanctimommy), Laura made sure when she posted to her Facebook that they know that Lola's food was organically grown fresh produce from Alaska grown in "imported soil" and "watered with angel's tears".
Keep doing what you do, Laura and Lauren. You have our full support. Let the naysayers eat their bitter kale salads of hatred, dressed with their tears. To crib Patton Oswalt (again), "[They're] going to miss everything cool and die angry."