I love my 16-year-old daughter very much. She’s a good student, a kind person, an athlete and a musician.
Her father and I are divorced, both remarried and she has a solid relationship with both families.
The recent abortion debate has created a divide, and she’s posted on social media a flurry of memes and screenshots expressing positions that are opposite to our family’s beliefs.
I’m less concerned with her beliefs being different, than with the callous, inflammatory, insensitive nature of the particular posts.
These posts called whole groups of people horrible names, mocked people, and made jokes about abortion.
I was shocked and embarrassed by what she posted, as were her stepfather and her grandparents. I reminded her that “the internet is forever.”
I asked her to delete them, and to replace them with a calm and thought-out statement of her opinion on the subject if she wished. She wouldn’t - she simply put up more!
Her father says her posts “aren’t that bad” and “represent half the country” and that I’m trying to “control” her by asking her to delete them.
He’s wrong. While I do disagree with her views, I’d like her to express her opinion without adding to the vitriol.
Many relatives and friends are dismayed by her posts.
Colleges and future employers regularly look at social media to determine if people will be a good fit for their culture.
Besides offending family and friends, I believe her lack of judgment at posting these will harm her future chances with universities and employers.
With this situation, I feel like she’s running fast toward a cliff and I cannot stop her.
Should I even try? Or should I let her experience the natural consequences of alienating and offending others? Right now, I don’t even really want to be seen in public with her.
Daughter’s Offending Views
Not be seen in public with her? This isn’t about your views, they’re about hers – a teenager’s thoughts on a highly controversial topic, intended to cause a reaction, including from those closest to her, like you.
Without my even knowing the content of the opposing views on abortion between you two, it’s clear from a relationship perspective, that she wanted attention and chose a way guaranteed to grab it.
More important, she hoped to be appreciated and followed by others that currently matter more than you – her age cohort, social media followers, and those who love to challenge the accepted wisdom and longstanding beliefs of their parents’ generation.
Don’t debate her on the topic itself. Back off trying to get her to delete the posts and soften her views to more-considered, calmer ones.
The more you react, the more she’ll write in this vein.
Let the nature of social media take its course. She’ll inevitably receive darker posts from people with far more extreme views and even uglier ways of expressing them.
Given that she’d grown up to be well-rounded in interests and “a kind person,” the attack mode of those who revel in inflammatory positions, will most likely (hopefully) turn her away from the battle lines on abortion.
Meanwhile, she’s a teenager who’s awakened to political ideas, and that’s a good thing.
I believe that if you stop reacting heavily, she’ll find a different level for expressing herself.
By the time she applies to universities and employers, any moderating views will also be part of her “record” on the internet.
FEEDBACK Regarding the girlfriend who suffers major anxiety and depression (May 21):
Reader – “She’s insisted that he cut all ties with female friends, has “violent panic attacks” from unwarranted jealousy, and has mentioned suicide.
“She’s extremely controlling and manipulative.
“I suspect that if the genders were reversed, your advice to a woman would be to “run” before control becomes abuse.”
Ellie – You’re correct about the controlling and manipulation.
Her boyfriend hadn’t known that she’s had mental health problems for several years.
Her insecurity triggered the onset of panic/anxiety attacks and attempts to control him.
Meanwhile, he still loves her and worries that she’ll harm herself.
No, I would not tell a woman to run if the genders were reversed, not if she similarly felt love and the desire to try to help him.
I advised that he insist on her getting appropriate therapy. He wrote that if she doesn’t, he won’t be able to stay with her.
Tip of the day:
Advise teenagers that internet posts live on. But let them learn some lessons (barring risk of legal and physical danger).