"She should have her children taken away."
"Somebody needs to tune her in big time. Who does she think she is?"
These are just two of the hundreds of comments directed toward a mom in Ontario. Her two young boys were misbehaving on the bus to and from school so she made them walk to class carrying a sign explaining they had been rude to their bus driver. She then posted a video showing how she had chosen to discipline her children and an incredible amount of reaction followed.
There are tens of thousands of videos posted by parents displaying the techniques they have used to curb or change their children's behavior. They are proudly posting it and, of course, opening themselves up to the torrent of mostly harsh comment coming their way. Why anyone would post videos of disciplinary action against their own children belies my understanding, yet there they are, ready for every neighbor and stranger to comment on. But what is hard to justify is why parents trying to discipline a child get vilified, while parents setting out to make fun of their children get praised—and emulated.
I can take a joke. Honestly, I can. I love to laugh and have fun, but somebody please explain to me why we spent weeks—weeks—watching parents throw slices of cheese at their babies and we called it...entertainment.
The first one, posted by a father, then deleted, was re-posted by someone else, and after receiving over 10 million views was also taken down, when in his words things "genuinely got way out of hand." But by then, of course, countless people had followed suit, tossing cheese at their babies, recording their reaction, posting it and waiting for the likes to come rolling in.
There are always strange, occasionally humorous, but sometimes dangerous challenges floating around the internet urging people to get in on the action. While in some instances the biggest loss has been dignity, in others the damage has been far more consequential. The car surfing challenge that encouraged people to stand on top of a moving vehicle and pretend to surf, or the fire challenge that had people pour flammable liquid on some part of their body and set themselves on fire, resulted in injury and death.
There's no question people have been doing dangerous stunts and taking ridiculous risks from the beginning of time. Any one of us can likely tell a tale or two. But what these challenges do is add the element of trying to attract a global audience to witness the spectacle, and in order to attract attention amidst the digital glut, there seems to be little choice but to up the ante. And so the absurdity ramps up and we find ourselves inundated with videos of people putting 100 layers of makeup on their face, or trying to get their lips to look like Kylie Jenner's, or eating as much cinnamon as possible in 60 seconds. For a reaction. A fleeting moment of notoriety…or…because everybody else is doing it? Hmm, sounds like something parents used to caution their children against. Now parents are throwing food at their children because others are doing it.
Isn't life just a bit short to spend time wasting it watching strangers jump out of moving vehicles or hold detergent pods in their mouths? The numbing nature of constant exposure just keeps the cycle churning and drives a commentary that becomes increasingly vicious and shaming. But as long as an audience keeps creating a demand there will most certainly be a steady supply.
It's actually not that hard to disconnect and re-engage with the world around us. If people were to reclaim the hours spent observing the lives of others, just think of the time it could free up to get back to living their own. That's my outlook.