Having a post get attention on Facebook is part of the point of posting on the social media site. But what happens when that post goes viral, and you find yourself at the center of a storm you never anticipated?
Heidi Johnson recently found out after sharing a handwritten note to her 13-year-old son, Aaron, on Facebook. Suddenly, the 33-year-old single mother became a target of intense mom judging.
The note, which called on Aaron to start paying his share of rent and bills, and do household chores if he continued behaving "like a roommate" rather than Johnson's son, earned mostly cheers from fellow parents, but also attracted a fair amount of jeers. Some users accused Johnson of publicly shaming her son, and condemned her.
“[You're] shaming your child and doing something to him that will last for the rest of his life,” wrote one user called Kevin Weinberg. “You are a terrible mother and you should have your child forcibly removed from your home.”
“It does make me a little sad at times that moms are so quick to judge the actions of another mother [but] I can't let the negative comments that others make hurt me or take them too personally,” Johnson told TODAY.com. “I do appreciate that other mothers defend me. They are the ones that have either been there before themselves, or are able to take a minute and walk around in my shoes.”
Shortly after the letter to Aaron went viral, Johnson wrote a post addressing the controversy, and provided some background information. She said that Aaron had been lying to her about doing his homework, and making money off his YouTube channel. She also referred to the difficulties of raising a 13-year-old boy, shared some of her philosophies on parenting, and called herself a parent who loves her child.
This post also received many supportive comments — and a few attacks. While Johnson, who would only share that she lives in the U.S., is feeling the negative effects of having her post go viral, she is determined to have a positive outlook.
“I don't believe in regrets,” she said. “If you have learned something from an experience that helps you to become a better person, there is nothing to regret."
"I have to believe that some greater good can come from my mistake of making that post public," added Johnson, who believes she's already starting to see some of the benefits. After posting the note, she has received messages from many mothers seeking advice on parenting an unruly child.
“I had one mom message me about her 7-year-old that was having some behavior issues; so I spent several hours one evening compiling some tools and ideas that she could use,” she said.
Johnson says she suffers from chronic health issues that prevent her from working, and the influx of messages from moms asking for guidance has given her a new sense of purpose.
“My post seems to have opened a door, and people feel safe coming to me and asking for advice, venting, or even just have someone bear witness to their experience by listening and opening up and sharing a piece of myself in return," she said. "I am able to help people from my bed by a few clicks and keystrokes.”
Ultimately, Johnson just wants to do her best with her son, and inspire others to do the same, without being labeled.
“I have made loads of parenting mistakes, just as we all do," she said. “You keep trying keys until you find the one that unlocks the door to what will work for your child.”