Since When is it OK for Grown-Ass Adults to Snark on Children?

I don't mind a little snark, but it is never, ever, ever cool for adults to say mean things about children. And yes, 16 years old counts as "a child."
Publish date:
August 3, 2012
Reality Tv, gossip, internet drama, Gabby Douglas, what is wrong with people

Opinions: people have them. And they especially have them On The Internet.

You xoJane readers have many opinions about many things, and that’s cool. One of the things I love about this site is that the commenters engage with us, the writers. Sometimes you disagree and you present your case and you make me reconsider my position on an issue, and that is amazing. Sometimes you get a little bitchy, and I’m OK with that, too.

But for the most part, I find the commenters here to be whip-smart and respectful. But that’s not the case in all comments sections of many, many blogs, news sites, and social media outlets.

I don't mind a little snark. But please don't snark on my sweaty face here. It's like 100 degrees.

I once read this great piece by Stephen King on why we watch horror movies. He calls it keeping the alligators fed; within our brains is a door, behind which are a mass of snarling, hungry alligators. We have to throw the gators some fresh meat (horror movies) to keep them from getting out and I don’t know, going on a murderous rampage.

This is kind of how I feel about celebrity gossip sites and full-on snarkfests like Gawker, Regretsy and Go Fug Yourself. While I often find these sites horribly depressing, I also must occasionally feed my inner alligator. Even if they are huge, mean time-holes that it can take hours to dig oneself out of.

But one thing I will never, ever, ever tolerate is snarking on children. Maybe I feel this way because I’m a parent, but I like to think it’s because I’m a reasonable adult who knows that an adult making fun of a child is always wrong. ALWAYS wrong. Always. (Always.)

So I found it really horrible that some adults on Facebook went apeshit about a five-year-old reality show cast member. The Real Housewives of New Jersey Facebook page posted a photo of Real Housewife Theresa Guidice’s daughter, and asked fans of the show if they missed the little girl in the last episode. The resulting shit storm of comments was so depressing. Some of the commenters said how ugly the little girl was. Multiple people called her “a brat” or “evil.” Several hinted that a good beating might do her some good. Yes, folks, grown-ass adults on the Internet, basically threatening a five-year-old.

The Facebook post has since been removed, but not before many of the commenters outed by Jezebel deleted their comments. Perhaps after the news of their bad behavior broke, these commenters realized, “Hey, what I say on the Internet is out there, for everyone to see, just as if I’m speaking in public!”

And it feels like it’s public, because it is. Sure, you can create a clever username and no one will ever know your true identity, but you’re still a person, and maybe you are participating in bullying, name-calling or generally rude or hurtful behavior. And even if the target of your comments is a celebrity, entertainer or whatever, that target is still a real person, with feelings and junk. You can remove the face-to-face interaction, but there is still interaction.

Have we, as a society, devolved to the point where it is actually OK to hurl insults at children, so long as it’s done within the relative anonymity of the internet? It’s bad enough that we insult other adults, both online and in real life . But kids?

Another item involving inappropriate commentary by adults about a kid is the apparent atrocity that is Olympic athlete Gabby Douglas’s hair. I would like to take a moment to point out that Gabby Douglas IS 16 YEARS OLD. She’s a child. Sure, she’s an older child who may or may not know how to operate a motor vehicle and who is now an Olympic gold medalist, but she is still a kid.

I acknowledge that my only point of reference is my own 16-year-old-dom, a time fraught with body insecurities and face insecurities and the belief that I was basically the most hideous person on the planet and that everyone else in the world had everything figured out already, and here I was, poor dumb/ugly Somer.

When I see people talking smack about a 16-year-old’s appearance, I have sort of a PTSD moment. Because we each view these issues through the lens of our own experience. And my experience is that 16 years old is still a child, and grown-ups have no business snarking on children.

The only comment I want to hear on Gabby Douglas’s physical appearance is how effortless she makes those uneven bars look, because that shit is amazing.