Parental Whoa-vershare, Ctd

by Phoebe Maltz Bovy

Alex Goldman rounds up some responses to the latest parental overshare debacle, and provides a note of clarification:

The original article was written mistakenly as though the [author] had written about his son using his son’s real name. He was, in fact, using a pseudonym for his son, though critics note that his son’s real name can easily be found online with the information given in the article.

Slightly less nausea-inducing, then, but not much. Goldman sort of defends sharing of this nature, because stigma:

I’m of two minds on this one. It certainly wouldn’t have marginalized the impact of the story had [the author] pseudonymized his son. At the same time, I feel like this conversation has some implicit porn shaming in it that doesn’t acknowledge pornography as something that should be destigmatized (which is, to be clear, hardly a settled matter, rather a personal opinion). I think that Eagle handled the subject as delicately as he could in his article, but I wonder if that’s enough for a kid who is about to enter adolescence and will always deliver search results that include an article called “I didn’t expect to find pornography in my 9-year-old’s web history.” Placing myself in the shoes of this kid, I think I would be annoyed about this article when I turned 15, and find it funny by the time I turn 18. And no sane employer would fault someone for finding an article his dad wrote about him when he was nine in his search results. It’s kind of a matter of perspective.

I was, I should say, good and ready to be done with this topic. But I feel compelled to return, because Goldman’s point is the now-standard defense of these pieces. Sure, the thing revealed about is embarrassing (Goldman hedges on this, but kind of admits it), but it shouldn’t be. That goes for any number of topics broached in such essays – mental or physical illness, body-image neurosis, awkward early-dating woes, why-do-all-my-friends-hate-me middle-school tantrums, and so on. The defense, then, hinges on the notion that, by writing about these sensitive issues, parents shed the relevant stigma, thereby helping both their child and others with the same concern.

The most obvious problem here is that if there is a stigma on whatever it is, even if there shouldn’t be, you’re humiliating your kid. If dude wants to reduce the stigma on porn consumption, by all means, let him tell the Atlantic about his own preferred websites. But how much is stigma, and how much is a matter of privacy? It’s one thing to say that many, many people look at porn, and another entirely to say that the specific porn they look at, or looked at at age nine, is a public matter. It’s hard for me to picture just what this stigma-free utopia would look like where all information about every moment of every person’s life is happily shared at all contexts.