Last week, many children found themselves back in school and parents everywhere rejoiced on social media. Whether it was a cute selfie or full-length shot of their children, parents captioned photos with inspirational quotes, declaring the school year will be a success for their offspring. Although the cute explosion on our social media timelines had many of our ovaries screaming and repeatedly saying “Aw,” there were some of us who shamed these parents. Case in point, the elite Black travel community; you know, the people who repeatedly tell you how many times their passports have been stamped. Juxtaposed next to kids in uniforms were memes by the travel elite who wanted every parent to know: “While you look over your child’s homework, I’ll be horseback riding in the Andes,” “While you potty train your kids, I’ll be sipping champagne in Paris” and “While you deal with temper tantrums, I’ll be floating on water in Bali.”
Now, I love to travel and think it’s vital to one’s growth as a person. However, I can’t stand shaming another person’s life choices to make you feel better about your own. I get it, people like to make women feel some type of way for choosing not to have kids and these memes are like a middle finger to societal norms. But sometimes this behavior is also a cry for attention, possibly due to the deep-rooted desire for the thing these travelers seem to be rallying against: having families of their own. Sure, you can plan a trip with friends or siblings but there is a different level of intimacy traveling with a significant other (and the family you’ve both created).
Unfortunately, the latter life goals tend to make others feel defensive about their personal lives. For example, I had a friend who would repeatedly post this meme:
After she uploaded it to Instagram for the umpteenth time, I noticed a pattern. Whenever our group of friends spoke about marriage or building families, the above meme would appear on our timelines with a callous caption. Interestingly enough, this particular friend wanted to achieve similar family goals, but she masked them with subliminal posts like this, which reveals an even bigger issue: competitiveness.
Psychology Today reports the problem with competitive people is, “when they are doing well, they feel great and even superior to others, whereas when they encounter setbacks, they tend to feel shame and self-doubt. This results in anxiety and vigilance around social status and performance. They have to keep comparing themselves to others to make sure they are measuring up and haven’t fallen behind.” In a social media driven society, it’s normal to feel like you’re lagging behind in certain areas of your life. Though when you combine the fear of missing out with competition, scholar Alfie Kohn says, “feelings of self-worth become dependent on external sources of evaluation as a result of competition: Your value is defined by what you’ve done. Worse — you’re a good person in proportion to the number of people you’ve beaten.”
When the traveling elite shame those who are married or parents, they feel victorious because they still have financial or social liberties. Their “victories” help distract them from not feeling like “failures” for not having things society tells them they should when they should feel confident in their decisions regardless. But until then, I guess the memes will just keep on coming.
Have you shamed others for having children or getting married while you sip Bellinis in Tuscany? Come clean in the comments section.