Late at night certain people stalk the Internet, doing irreparable harm to their psyches and those of their families. They cruise from site to site, soaking up fantasy after fantasy, and with each click of the mouse they take one more step away from reality and one step closer to a life of dissatisfaction with their own circumstances. I am referring, of course, to women who blog surf. (Who did you think I was referring to?) Now before you get your modems in a twist, let me say that I have several friends who find blog surfing very edifying. They search out or stumble upon people facing enormous challenges with great faith and courage. It is not these to whom I refer. I am talking about those of us who plop down at our computers, the remnants of dinner still in our hair and the chaos of a maddening day still ringing in our ears only to reach a new personal low by visiting site after site depicting picturesque families, all wearing color-coordinated clothing, strolling through apple orchards and tenderly ministering to the elderly. Now if I actually knew these families and could put these picture-perfect days in the context of so many not-so-picture-perfect ones, this would probably not be a bad thing. Sharing in the memories of my friends, right? Certainly it is not the intention of these bloggers to make me feel inferior or subhuman. (Okay, maybe some of them do actually intend to make me feel bad, but that is a small minority; and we all see through their pettiness anyway, right?) Whatever their intentions, however, this harmless pastime can easily slip into a sinister addiction. One minute you are catching up with old friends, the next you are blog-stalking perfect strangers. Look! I did it just now. I got stuck on what to write next and started thinking about someone I wanted to know about. Soon I wandered away from her blog to read about the Thanksgiving traditions of someone I don’t even know! This is not just a harmless pastime—this is mommy porn!

Now perhaps you think pornography is too harsh a term for what you might call “taking a more than passing interest in the lives of people I don’t actually know.” But to me, it is the effect of this “passing interest” that lands it in the destructive rather than constructive category of ways to spend your time. What is it about sexual pornography that erodes fidelity and wreaks havoc on so many lives? Isn’t it the supplanting of reality with fantasy, the replacing of the real with the unreal? Let’s be honest here. One of the main reasons men (and I suppose women, too, though the idea really does take a stretch of the imagination for me) look at pictures of surgically-created and airbrush-perfected bodies is to escape the child-bearing created and age-imperfected bodies of their spouses. (I recognize this to be an over-simplification but let’s save psychoanalysis of the male mind for another day, shall we?) Similarly one of the main reasons women take such strong interest in the lives of strangers is to escape the all-too-imperfect and often mundane world in which they dwell. It really doesn’t matter whether or not the people whose lives they are peering into are celebrities or everyday folk. Maybe they read endless articles about whether or not Brad and Angelina are going to adopt triplets from Malawi or they obsessively follow Sue-the-Supermom’s trip to Washington D.C. with the kids and hubby this summer. In either case it’s just the siren call of something different, something outside of ourselves.

The reality is that Brad and Angelina get up every morning and put their pants on one leg at a time like the rest of us, albeit very expensive and excessively small pants. And Sue-down-the-street may have had a family bonding experience that was out of this world but that doesn’t mean that she isn’t yelling at the kids while making oatmeal right now. So maybe rather than lusting after the adventures and successes of others, we should look for the little stand-out moments in our own lives and take pleasure in the reality right in front of us. While there is something intoxicating about the unobtainable, there is something to be said for the bird in the hand. After all, that’s the bird we have been given even if it might not be a perfect bird and it might even bite our hand or poop on us now and then. Maybe we should start a new blogging trend—the color-uncoordinated, picture-imperfect blog. The posts would be all about the time the three-year-old laid down in the middle of the grocery store aisle and refused to budge. Or the story behindyour beautiful Christmas card picture—how you let one kid out of timeout early so he could get back in the picture or you made one cry because you lost your patience and asked in a less than kind voice why she was ruining the picture and finally ended it all by bribing them with early morning slushies if they would just all smile. Or…maybe not. Just remember Brad, Angelina and even Sue-the-Supermom get pooped on too. They’re just smart enough not to blog about it.


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