5 Rules of Internet Commenters


Over the years, I’ve been asked more than a few times why the Democrat doesn’t allow comments on its website.

My standard answer, of course, is that that answer is above my pay grade. It’s one of the beautiful things about being freelance these days; I get to pass the buck.

But if you press me, I’ll gladly throw in my 2 cents. I may not have anything to do with the decision not to allow comments, but that doesn’t mean I don’t support it.

I spend my days working online, and here’s the truth: people on the Internet are cruel, unspeakably so.

Empowered by the computer that shields their true identities from the world, the average Internet commenter will say things online that they wouldn’t dare say in person or even in a letter to the editor that requires their signature.

In fact, after five years working nearly full-time on the Internet, I have come to realize five things about 97 percent of Internet commenters: [Read more…]

Before You Delete Your Facebook Account, Remember You Are Not Alone …

leafAs it is with most things that become popular, it’s become fashionable in recent years to say you’re not on Facebook, to turn your nose up at the daily navel-gazing that occurs on a site that claims to boast 890 million daily active users — on average. I get it.

Facebook is not just something I do for fun; although it is that too. Like most Americans over the age of 13, I use Facebook to pass the time when I’m bored in the doctor’s waiting room or to find out if that old pal from high school had her baby yet. It’s the place I turn when I need 30 people to give instantaneous advice on getting rid of one’s sinus headache or how to convince a 9-year-old that asking one to sweep under the desk in her room does not mean you’re the “meanest mother ever, oh my Gaaaawd.”

But as an editor at an online website who oversees a portion of the social media activity of the site, Facebook is as much a part of my livelihood as it is part of my life. I am on it every day, and yes, someone pays me for that.

The most popular social media site on the planet has forced me to see some sides of humanity that I would rather avoid: the comments written to tear people down, the pages built around hate groups and hateful acts, the incessant need for people to spew angry vitriol at one another under the guise of freedom of speech. [Read more…]

A Change Will Do You Good!

Jeanne Sager Photo

So, you noticed things look a little different on the site? Points to Gryffindor for noticing the obvious!

Inside Out Motherhood got a whole new look thanks to the help of Sarah Kimmel over at Tech 4 Moms, aka the place to go on the web if you’re really web-savvy but not so html savvy. What can I say, she had me at “I’m a Nikon girl.”

So why am I getting all dressed up for the holidays? Let’s just say it was time … and I’ve got a few things up my sleeve.

Some photography things, perhaps? [Read more…]

My 15 Seconds of Fame — Or Was It 10?

I’ve gotten a lot of the same comments this week when I’ve been out and about: “Hey, I saw you on TV!”

Yes, that was me you saw on the TV screen as you munched your breakfast and flipped through the channels, trying to find something worth watching. For about 10 whole seconds, my daughter and I were beamed into living rooms across the nation via Good Morning America. I will forever be known among my friends as the mom who admitted on national television that she doesn’t bother to sit her kid down to eat cereal in the morning; we’re a grab-and-go type.

That’s all I had to say about the decline in cereal sales.

Or at least, that’s all America saw.

I had a lot more to say about the impossible strain American moms put on themselves when they log on Pinterest and see these impossibly perfect breakfasts that uber moms are supposedly making every single morning for their kids.

I talked about the need to balance nutrition against the need to get my night owl kid some much needed shut eye in the morning.
I talked about the strain put on working parents who are trying to maximize time.
I knew very little would make it on the air. That’s how these things go. My daughter was filmed all around our house: eating a breakfast bar (at 9 o’clock at night mind!), playing with the dog, and later “getting” that breakfast bar from me. Yes, they filmed her getting the bar after they filmed her eating it. I guess it’s a good thing I’d just stocked up on more breakfast bars?
He filmed her getting up and down from the same stool some 5 or 6 times.
For folks in the TV industry, this is the norm.
For those of us aren’t in the TV industry, it’s a little strange.
Imagine your dining room being filled with lights and booms and mikes and cameras, your living room being disassembled and reassembled.
And then the same thing happening in your kitchen.
In all, there was a camera man in my house for an hour and a half.
For about 10 seconds of airplay and that one sentence on cereal.

But hey, at least people noticed!

Check us out on GMA:

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When You Regret Giving Up Your Maiden Name

I’m not sure what I expected when I shared with readers of The Stir that I regret taking my husband’s last name. To find other people in my boat, perhaps?

I certainly wasn’t expecting people to feel as though I was insulting him. Twelve years into our marriage, he knows better.

Still, the idea was out there. So when a producer with Word of Mouth, a program on New Hampshire Public Radio, reached out to ask me if I’d talk about my name regret, I jumped at the chance to clear up the misconception.

I don’t regret the name change because of anything relating to my husband. It’s all my baggage, all about my relationship with my maiden name, a moniker that for nearly two decades of my life was intrinsically tied to my identity.

As I told Word of Mouth’s Taylor Quimby, it really comes down to what two people IN a marriage are feeling.

What are your feelings about name changes? 

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She Googled Herself and Found …

And so, it has begun. My child has known about Google for awhile now. She’s searched for important, life-altering things. You know, the name of the My Little Pony queen and the like.
But today I was roused from the seat in front of my computer by the type of shriek that means “Come. Now.”

She thrust her Kindle in my face. And there she was. Or rather, there we were, mother and daughter, the blue curtains of our dining room behind us.

She’d Googled herself. And up popped a photo from a few months ago when The New York Times sent a photographer to our house.

She recognized it. “The New York Times put me on Google,” she announced.

Well, sort of kid. Sort of.

I kept her close as she went further. A photo of her playing in the snow atop a blog post on The Stir about baby names, her baby name to be exact. That was OK.

A photo of the two of us from when she was no more than 2, one I used for years as my profile photo on a site where I was a contract blogger. She liked that one.

And the random shot of her in an over-sized Yankees hat elicited the appropriate Go Yankees response.

But I was glad she gave up the pursuit soon after. It’s not what she’ll find that worries me. I’ve been careful about my “oversharing” over the years. I have rules about what goes out there, and what is linked to her name.

And yet, there are some things I’m not prepared to talk about right now, prepare to have Googled just yet. Musings about what will happen when she’s a teenager, for example. When she’s closer, we’ll talk about them. And some of my more random comments on parenting in general, on kids, on topics that go beyond childhood (ahem, 50 Shades of Grey, anyone?).

We’ll get there. I’m sure we will. I’m not a “let’s lie to the kids” type of mom.

But right now, I’m basking in the 7-year-old-ness of her explorations, the excitement over finding her own photo on Google.

If your kids Google themselves, what will they find? 

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I Have No Shame; I’m a Blogger

There comes a moment in every blogger’s life when she has to take stock of her life and ask: do I have any shame left?

I have admitted a lot over the years, and it’s all out there, ready for a Google search to bring it flooding back. Heaven help my child when I open the parental controls on her laptop.

Yes, I have read 50 Shades of Grey. And the two books after it. The writing was horrible, but I read ’em. So there!

Yes, I got married at 18. And let every reader who landed on the AOL homepage on the day I wrote about it know about it.

I’ve lectured Michelle Obama on talking about her girl’s weight, after admitting I myself was bulimic.
I’ve admitted to watching cartoons. Alone. And liking them.

And yes, I have screwed up as a parent. Loads of times. And I’m not exactly embarrassed by it … .
Ok, I liked. There was that one time when she fell off the front steps, when I was RIGHT THERE. Her face was a mess of black and blue and red, and we had to go to the district attorney’s office the very next day for an interview for this here paper. And my kid looked like she’d been beaten senseless. That one was embarrassing.

But, I once let my child watch six hours of TV in a day. And I was called out as one of the worst parents in America by the parenting expert at Good Morning America for it.

Try inscribing that one on a gold cup! Because I am proud of my foibles, or at least my ability to admit them.

Because I can embarrass myself for the sake of all those other imperfect people out there who are afraid they’re totally alone. You’re not. We’re all screwed up. Some people are just better at screwing up in public.

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Image via Alex E. Proimos/Flickr

My Kid’s a Pompous Windbag, Yours?

Here’s the problem with allowing your kid to be photographed for a major American newspaper: she tells everyone. The guy at the car dealership. The waitress at the restaurant. Everyone.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. It’s a major American newspaper, did she really think people weren’t going to find out? Duh!

Stop the eye roll right there. My brain hasn’t been that numbed by all the Disney Channel and My Little Pony play.

The feature in the New York Times was about something I believe more parents need to be aware of: keeping their kids safe on the Internet. You could think you’re doing everything right by keeping the 6-year-old off of Facebook and making sure she spends more time swinging in the backyard than on a laptop, and still end up as one of the “Oh my God, my kid saw X” stories in the New York Times.

Been there. Done that. Have the bragging first grader to show for it.

Yup, bragging. She’s turned into quite the pompous windbag about this whole thing.
Yeah yeah, I know, that’s what this whole column is, right? I guess she comes by it naturally.
But call this self-promotion thinly disguised as a lesson. What is a 6-year-old boldly interrupting the conversation between Mom and the mechanic to announce “I was in the New York Times yesterday.”?

I’ll tell you what it is. Embarrassing!

She’s lucky she’s missing a bunch of front teeth and favors her hair in pigtails these days. People insist she’s cute. They don’t see her when she’s refusing to clean up her playroom, but hey, I’ll take it. She certainly thinks so.

After her “modeling shoot,” which was more like a news photographer telling her “a little to the right, more toward Mommy,” she’s getting hard to live with. Thank goodness I’m here to bring her back down to the earth, where mean moms make their kids clean their playrooms before play dates. You might be in the New York Times, kid, but you’re still a bit of a slob.

Have you “liked” Inside Out Motherhood on Facebook yet?  

Get a load of the Times features:

So How Do We Talk About This?

Example 1: The Accidental Click

Image via The New York Times

They Wanted to See My Desk. I Gave Them This

This is how photographers camouflage the mess!

Once upon a time, in a land about 15 minutes from my house (on a sunny day when the Sunday drivers were at home sleeping), I had an office.

I shared it with three men, but one little corner was all mine. And when my packrat tendencies rendered it a gigantic mess, I had no one to blame but myself. Although, since I was the only one who bothered to festoon the place with holiday cheer and could always be counted on for chocolate, they gave me a pass.

Ah, those were the days.

The days when my computer, gigantic calendar, pens, highlighters, soda bottle caps, and all the cr…um, stuff, I can’t bear to part with were all I had to worry about. The days before I moved my work to my home, and my dining room table became my “office.” The days before my “stuff” was joined by my daughter’s “stuff.”

I try to keep the place clean. Really. I swear.

There are baskets for the papers, cups for the writing utensils, an honest to goodness can of compressed air at the ready to combat the cheese and cracker crumbs after a working lunch.
But when an email arrived in my inbox last week requesting a “photo of your workspace,” it wasn’t crumbs I was worried about when the “nooooooooo” came squeaking out of my mouth.

It’s the five bottles of kid-safe Piggy Paint nail polish and the non-toxic nail polish remover beside them. It’s a children’s book named A Boy Called Dickens, and the random pink folder with the words “I love Mom” scrawled across the front. It’s the six markers (two left without caps for so long that they’re entirely dried out). It’s the pair of purple socks. It’s the three pages ripped out of a LEGO magazine. It’s the scrap of cardboard advising someone to “Have a Dazzling Valentine’s Day.” It’s the white piece of paper with the carefully printed (but awfully hard to decipher) can’t, doesn’t, don’t and your’s.

Are you getting this?

It’s her “office.”

I just work in it.

And now someone wants to see what it looks like? Oh dear. This may take awhile and a garbage bag or two.

So let’s see. If I move it all out and get back down to just the necessaries (bye bye restaurant crayons, adieu scrap of wrapping paper from that baby shower gift that just HAD to be saved for a craft project), I might be able to look like your average slob yet.

Quick, snap the picture, it’s not going to last long!

Want to see why they needed a picture? Check it out: The Stir is celebrating the Big Number 2!!

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Stop Facebooking Your Way Into a Burglary

Sipping on that Serendipity frozen hot chocolate

When I flew to California last summer for work, I spent my days among women whose every moment was about their social media profiles. When they weren’t blogging, they were Tweeting. When they weren’t Tweeting, they were Facebooking, and so on.

I very respectfully declined the chance to join the party. The world could wait to hear my stories when I was safely at home, once again manning my station in front of my computer and making it very clear that the Sager residence was not going to be empty for huge spans of time.

The uptick in burglaries in Sullivan County is scary. It’s disturbing. It’s disheartening. Whether it’s the sign of the desperation of a failing economy or some people just lack the moral compass and respect for fellow man, this rise in crime feels like a slap at our way of life.

And I’m hoping it will slap people hard enough to wake up and smell their own stupidity.

My apologies to my fellow lovers of all things Internet, but there’s being a social creature with a web savvy and then there’s throwing open the doors of your life and saying, “Hey you, yes, you oh Mr. Robber, if you want to come in and take my flat screen TV, around 3 p.m. would be good because I’ll just be starting my yoga class, and that’s a good hour, then I’ve got to run to the grocery store, so really. . . take your time.”

Tell everyone what you’re doing, and you could be inviting some desperate fool to take advantage of that time he is now absolutely sure you will be spending in Middletown . . . or the Bahamas.

If I sound like a hypocrite, I hear you. Working online means a presence that’s bigger and bolder than even I’m comfortable with at times. I’ve started referring to my child more and more as “the kid,” in preparation for the day in the not-too-distance future when she begins to Google herself.

But on the home safety end, I am especially wary.

I grabbed some cellphone shots of my daughter sucking down a frozen hot chocolate at New York City’s tourist trap, er, hot spot Serendipity 3 on Saturday, but I waited until the next day – when we were all home – to post them on my Facebook wall. I whined about the whackos who snuck tuna fish sandwiches into the movie theater (and decided to start munching the smelly snack midway through the film), but I didn’t specify which theater or who was with me.

But this is only what I can do for myself. I still have the other people to worry about.

The more people who get online, the more risk we’re running that our daily movements are being tracked. It isn’t just our own online updates about our lives but relatives and friends who forget they’re not just telling a pal or two that the grandkids are in Disney or they’re out at Bethel Woods with their besties.

So go ahead, folks, say what you want about your own life. Decide how “safe” you are (or aren’t). But remember it’s not just you you should be worrying about these days. It’s our whole community. Because if we want to protect the country way of life, we need to be watching out for each other.

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