Saturday, September 27, 2014

Walt Mossberg: Apple Made a Big Misstep With Faulty iPhone Update

Walt Mossberg: Apple Made a Big Misstep With Faulty iPhone Update

Walt Mossberg: Apple Made a Big Misstep With Faulty iPhone Update

Posted: 27 Sep 2014 10:23 AM PDT

Walt Mossberg famously began his first tech column for the Wall Street Journal in 1991 by writing, “personal computers are just too hard to use, and it’s not your fault.”

Twenty-three years later and now working at his own tech site, re/code, Mossberg doesn’t see the situation as having changed that much.

“People still have guilt that they’re dumb,” Mossberg said at the Nantucket Project on Saturday, “because they pick up their smartphone or tablet and can’t get it to work, so they think they’re idiots.”

This is one of his biggest concerns about the tech landscape. He points out that even Apple, to his mind the most user-friendly company, made a big misstep in pushing an iOS 8 software update this week that caused some iPhones to be unable to make calls or send texts. Facing thousands of customers furious over the flaw, Apple apologized, and hastily released a fix a day later. “That’s kind of basic,” Mossberg says.

Nevertheless, Mossberg thinks Apple has finally begun to show new momentum under Tim Cook, who took over as Apple’s CEO following Steve Jobs’ death in 2011. He expects Apple is the company that stands the best chance to revolutionize digital payment in the next two or three years, thanks to its existing credit card database and its promise never to send users’ real credit card numbers to the cloud.

With so much changing so quickly, Mossberg says, artificially intelligent “assistants” like Siri and Cortana (Microsoft’s Siri competitor) “are all excellent for what we have now. [But] they’re all going to look ridiculous in not 10 years—four years.”

Outside of AI and sensors (Mossberg says “we’re still in the first inning of wearables”), he predicts two technologies must—and will—change drastically in the next few years.

One is cars. In terms of in-cabin electronics, he says, “until a few years ago, when you opened the door to your car, it was like stepping into a time machine to 1957.”

The other: television. Every tech company knows how to redesign the current interface, which he says is the worst of any that we use—“That’s low-hanging fruit.” That is, until you get the networks and distributors involved, which is where Apple, Intel and other tech companies making a go of things in TV have had to hit pause.

The FBI and NSA Hate Apple’s Plan to Keep Your iPhone Data Secret

Posted: 27 Sep 2014 09:11 AM PDT

Apple released the iPhone 6 with a new, powerful encryption setting that should make it much harder for law enforcement and surveillance groups like the FBI and the NSA from accessing users’ emails, photos and contacts. After the Edward Snowden revelations last year, privacy-minded users may be happy about the new feature, but the law enforcement community is decidedly not.

Speaking at a news conference Thursday, FBI Director James Comey criticized Apple’s encryption, which scrambles information on the new iPhone 6 using a code that could take “more than five-and-a-half years to try all combinations of a six-character alphanumeric passcode with lowercase letters and numbers,” as Comey said.

Comey accused Apple of creating a means for criminals to evade the law, the New York Times reports. “What concerns me about this is companies marketing something expressly to allow people to hold themselves beyond the law,” he said.

In kidnapping cases, when seizing content on a phone could lead to finding a victim, Comey said there would be times when victims’ parents would come to him “with tears in their eyes, look at me and say, ‘What do you mean you can’t'” decode the contents of a phone, the Times reports.

A senior official told the Times that terrorists could use the iPhone 6 to store their data and evade law enforcement. “Terrorists will figure this out,” along with savvy criminals and paranoid dictators, one senior official predicted. Another said, “It’s like taking out an ad that says, ‘Here’s how to avoid surveillance — even legal surveillance.'”

However, major U.S. tech companies like Apple and Google argue that they can’t do business if customers believe their data isn’t secure, particularly in foreign markets like China and Europe, where consumers fear American tech products might come pre-loaded with ways for American surveillance agencies to access their data. On top of that, a security expert told the Times that law enforcement complaints about Apple’s encrypted were likely exaggerated, as access to call logs, email logs, iCloud, Gmail logs, as well as geolocation information from phone carriers like AT&T and Verizon Wireless and other data is relatively unfettered, particularly if police get a warrant.


US-Led Planes Strike Fighters Attacking Syria Town

Posted: 27 Sep 2014 09:04 AM PDT

BEIRUT — U.S.-led coalition warplanes struck Islamic State fighters in Syria attacking a town near the Turkish border for the first time Saturday, as well as positions in the country’s east, activists and a Kurdish official said.

The Islamic State group’s assault on the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani has sent more than 100,000 refugees streaming across the border into Turkey in recent days as Kurdish forces from Iraq and Turkey have raced to the front lines to defend the town.

Nawaf Khalil, a spokesman for Syria’s Kurdish Democratic Union Party, or PYD, said the strikes targeted Islamic State positions near Kobani, also known as Ayn Arab, destroying two tanks. He said the jihadi fighters later shelled the town, wounding a number of civilians.

The United States and five Arab allies launched an aerial campaign against Islamic State fighters in Syria early Tuesday with the aim of rolling back and ultimately crushing the extremist group, which has created a proto-state spanning the Syria-Iraq border. Along the way, the militants have massacred captured Syrian and Iraqi troops, terrorized minorities in both countries and beheaded two American journalists and a British aid worker.

The latest airstrikes came as Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem told the Lebanon-based Al-Mayadeen TV that airstrikes alone “will not be able wipe out” the Islamic State group. Speaking from New York where he is attending the U.N. General Assembly, al-Moallem said in remarks broadcast Saturday that the U.S. should work with Damascus if it wants to win the war.

“They must know the importance of coordination with the people of this country because they know what goes on there,” al-Moallem said. The U.S. has ruled out any coordination with President Bashar Assad’s government, which is at war with the Islamic State group as well as Western-backed rebels.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the coalition’s strikes near Kobani came amid heavy fighting between the Islamic State group and members of the Kurdish force known as the People’s Protection Units, or YPK.

The Britain-based group, which relies on activists inside Syria, had no immediate word on casualties from Saturday’s strikes. The Observatory reported Friday that 13 civilians have been killed by the strikes since they began.

Kurdish fighter Majid Goran told the Associated Press by telephone from Kobani that two bombs were dropped over the nearby village of Ali Shar, at 6 a.m. (0300 GMT), but that the positions they struck were empty.

Turkey’s Dogan news agency reported Saturday that the sound of heavy fighting could be heard from the Turkish border village of Karaca. The agency said Kurdish forces retook some positions they had lost to the Islamic militants a few days ago. It did not cite a source for the report.

Dozens of people wounded in the fighting arrived in Turkey for treatment on Saturday, it said.

Another Kurdish fighter, Ismet Sheikh Hasan, said the Turkish military on Saturday night retaliated after stray shells landed on Turkish territory, firing in the Ali Shar region. He said the Turkish action left Kurdish fighters in the middle of the crossfire.

He said that on Friday, the Islamic militants were attacking the Kobani area from the east with tanks and artillery, advancing on Ali Shar and Haja. He said some 20 people were killed, including Kurdish fighters and civilians, while another 50 people were wounded.

The fighting around Kobani sparked one of the largest single outflows of refugees since Syria’s conflict began more than three years ago. The Syrian Kurdish forces have long been one of the most effective fighting units battling the Islamic State, but the tide has turned in recent weeks as the Islamic militants have attacked with heavy weapons likely looted from neighboring Iraq.

The Observatory said other coalition airstrikes targeted Islamic State compounds in the central province of Homs and the northern regions of Raqqa and Aleppo. The group said 31 explosions were heard in the city of Raqqa, the group’s de facto capital, and its suburbs.

The Local Coordination Committees, another activist group, said the strikes in the east hit the province of Deir el-Zour as well as Raqqa. The LCC also said the coalition targeted grain silos west of Deir el-Zour city.

It was not immediately clear why the silos were targeted.

Max Blumenfeld, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command, said the U.S. airstrikes “don’t target food or anything else than can be used by the civilian population.” But he said that until the military reviews images from planes that participated in the strikes, he could not rule out that silos were hit.

He said the airstrikes are aimed at specific Islamic State targets such as command and control centers, transportation and logistics, and oil refineries, “but not food that could have an impact upon the civilian population.”

“Our targets are structures that combatants would use,” he said.

In recent days coalition warplanes had struck oil-producing facilities in eastern Syria in a bid to cut off one of the Islamic State group’s main revenue streams — black market oil sales that the U.S. says generate up to $2 million a day.

The coalition striking Syria includes Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Jordan, and the strikes are an extension of the U.S. campaign in neighboring Iraq launched in August.

Near the capital Damascus, Syrian troops meanwhile entered the once rebel-held northeastern suburb of Adra after days of clashes, Syrian state TV said. The advance came two days after troops captured the nearby Adra industrial zone.


Hong Kong Protesters Brace for More Police Confrontations

Posted: 27 Sep 2014 08:27 AM PDT

HONG KONG (AP) — Thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators at Hong Kong government headquarters braced for a second night of confrontations with authorities Saturday after police arrested dozens during a chaotic protest against Beijing’s refusal to allow genuine democratic reforms in the semiautonomous city.

Wearing goggles and plastic wrap to protect against police pepper spray, the protesters — most of them students — occupied a street outside government headquarters. They defended their position with metal crowd-control barricades originally brought in by authorities, placing them at both ends of the street.

Earlier in the day, police arrested 74 people who had stormed into a courtyard in the government complex late Friday, some of them scaling a tall fence. They refused to leave until police cleared them out by early Saturday afternoon. The protesters, the youngest of whom is 16, were arrested for offenses including assault and disorderly conduct.

The standoff follows a weeklong strike by students demanding China’s Communist leaders allow Hong Kong fully democratic elections in 2017. Thousands of university and college students who had spent the week boycotting classes were joined Friday by a smaller group of high school students.

At least 34 people have been injured since the protest began, including four police officers and 11 government staff and guards, authorities said. One of the officers suffered a gash after being poked by one of the umbrellas the protesters have been using to deflect pepper spray.

Police issued a news release urging the protesters to leave peacefully and avoid obstructing officers, saying that otherwise they would “soon take actions to restore public order.”

Ingrid Sze, a 22-year-old student at the Hong Kong Institute of Education, said she joined the demonstrators after seeing the police take action.

“I didn’t participate in the boycott all week. But I saw what was happening to the students live on TV and I thought what the police were doing was so outrageous I had to come out tonight to support the students and my friends,” she said.

Hong Kong Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok told reporters that police acted appropriately and gave students sufficient warning before starting the process of clearing the square.

China, which took control of the former British colony in 1997, has promised that Hong Kong can have universal suffrage. But tensions over the Asian financial hub’s political future boiled over after China’s legislature last month ruled out letting the public nominate candidates, instead insisting they be screened by a committee of Beijing loyalists similar to the one that currently picks the city’s leader.

Hong Kong’s young people have been among the most vocal supporters of full democracy in recent years, fueled by anger over widening inequality. They also fear that Beijing’s tightening grip is eroding the city’s rule of law and guaranteed civil liberties unseen on the mainland such as freedom of speech.

“We really want real democracy, so we’ll stay here and fight to get what we want,” said Jo Tai, a 28-year-old teacher. “We don’t want everyone else to decide our future; we want the right to decide our future for this generation and the next generation.” She and others said they were prepared to be arrested.

Demonstrators chanted slogans including “Fight to the end” and “Free the protesters” and carried placards calling for civil disobedience. Supporters dropped off piles of water bottles, energy drinks, bread, chocolate, biscuits, fruit and other provisions.

Organizers said those arrested at government headquarters included Joshua Wong, a 17-year-old leader of the activist group Scholarism, who was dragged away by four officers. Wong, a recent high school graduate, gained prominence two years ago after he organized protests that forced Hong Kong’s government to back off plans to introduce a Chinese national education curriculum that some feared was a form of brainwashing.

“Our movement is peaceful and does not use aggression,” said University of Hong Kong students’ union president Yvonne Leung. “Students who decided to storm inside (the government complex) knew about their legal responsibility.”

The student protest was organized independently of Occupy Central, an alliance of pro-democracy activists planning to blockade Hong Kong’s financial district to call for genuine democratic reforms.

On Saturday, several Occupy Central members joined students protesting outside the square.

Benny Tai, a key leader of the Occupy Central movement, told reporters that the group would “stay with the students until the end and risk getting arrested ourselves.” Tai criticized the amount of force police used on students.

Occupy Central has hinted that its blockade will begin Wednesday, China’s National Day holiday. But the organizers canceled a planned announcement Sunday to confirm the timing, saying they wanted to focus on supporting the students.

Hikers Trapped After Japanese Volcano Erupts Violently

Posted: 27 Sep 2014 08:05 AM PDT

A volcanic eruption at Mount Ontake in Japan injured several climbers Saturday and sent massive plumes of ash and stones into the sky.

Up to six inches of ash spewed onto a large area surrounding the 10,120-foot peak in the mountain’s first eruption since 2007, the BBC reports.

“It was like thunder,” a woman who runs a lodge near the summit told Japanese broadcaster NHK. “There are 15cm (six inches) of ash on the ground.”

Three missing people are believed to be buried under volcanic ash, while a fourth who was rescued remains unconscious. A hospital nearby said it sent an emergency medical team to the mountain, where flying rocks have fractured bones in at least two people.

“We expect a lot of injured people so we are now getting ready for their arrival,” said an official at the hospital.



FBI Says Chicago Air Control Fire Suspect Planned His Attack

Posted: 27 Sep 2014 07:01 AM PDT

The man suspected of setting fire to an air traffic control center Friday near Chicago sent a Facebook message shortly before starting the conflagration saying he would “take out” the facility, the FBI said.

“Take a hard look in the mirror, I have,” 36-year-old Brian Howard’s message said, according to and FBI affidavit. “And this is why I am about to take out ZAU [the three-letter identification for the control center] and my life . . . So I’m gonna smoke this blunt and move on, take care everyone.”

The fire shut down operations at Chicago O’Hare International and nearby Midway Airport, leaving thousands of passengers stranded throughout the country. Flights resumed Friday evening at a “reduced rate,” the FAA said, though reports indicate many Chicago-bound flights are still being canceled Saturday morning.

Howard has been charged with one count of destruction of aircraft or aircraft facilities, CNN reports. After setting fire in the control center’s basement, he was found lying on the floor and slicing his throat with a knife, police said.


Why King Coal Will Keep Its Crown

Posted: 27 Sep 2014 07:00 AM PDT

This post originally appeared on

For climate change activists and those hoping for an energy future dominated by renewables or even less-polluting natural gas, the death of coal cannot come quickly enough. But with coal still the dominant form of cheap electricity throughout the world, it is unlikely the bogeyman of climate change will disappear anytime soon.

That’s because the price of coal, compared to other fuels, is just too good to refuse. Just look at China, where the country’s double-digit economic growth has largely been fueled by coal, which fulfills 60 percent of its energy mix.

According to a chart showing the levelized cost of energy — the price at which electricity must be generated from a source to break even — coal is the second-cheapest form of energy behind hydropower, at $40 per megawatt hour.

Compare that to the cost of nuclear at $60, natural gas at $70, and solar — which at $280 per MWH, is seven times the cost of coal. Coal is also plentiful, relatively easy to extract — though admittedly dangerous if mined underground — and requires minimal processing. And it can be used for power generation (thermal coal) or steelmaking (metallurgical coal).

Of course, coal-fired plants have exacted an enormous price on air quality, and the Chinese government – which has declared war on pollution — recently banned the use of coal in smog-cloaked Beijing. Last week, it was announced that for the first time in over a decade, Chinese coal imports and coal consumption both dropped.

While that may seem like a dart in coal’s balloon, coal’s continued use elsewhere is more than making up for China’s restraint.

Germany doesn’t like to talk about it, but the world leader in the use of renewable energy, particularly solar, is also a big consumer of coal. As The Economist recently pointed out, Germany’s production of power from lignite coal is now at 162 billion kilowatts, the highest level since the smokestack-belching days of East Germany.

The same article notes that Japan, which has no natural energy resources of its own and is scrambling to meet electricity demand — most of its nuclear reactors have been offline since the 2011 Fukushima disaster — approved a new energy plan in April that includes coal as a long-term electricity source. The Japanese have also invested almost $20 billion in overseas coal projects in the past seven years, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.

In the United States, even though a shale-gas supply boom has seen many utilities shift to cheaper natural gas, the country will still be generating a third of its energy from coal by 2040 (only 10 percent less than now), according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). That’s despite a concerted effort by the Obama administration to force the nation’s coal-burning power plants to reduce their carbon emissions by a third over the next 15 years.

U.S. coal producers have responded to the trend of falling domestic consumption by exporting more coal overseas. A Wall Street Journal chart shows exports of U.S. coal grew from around 50 million metric tons in 2000 to 106.7 million MT in 2013. Most U.S. coal is destined for Europe, with Brazil, South Korea and China close behind.

All of this is not to suggest that coal producers haven’t had their problems. The price of benchmark thermal coal over the past three years has dropped from more than $130 a ton to around $80. Metallurgical coal is also at a six-year low.

Despite a huge cutback in production, the coal market continues to be oversupplied. As pointed out recently, waning steel demand in China has forced mines in Australia to close. Australian producers are also threatened by Chinese plans to build more rail capacity for its domestic coal, which would undermine its coal imports.

In the United States, coal producers are finding it increasingly difficult to lock utilities into long-term contracts that provide stability and protection from price fluctuations. That’s because the utilities want the flexibility to have short-term contracts, or even buy coal on the spot market, since natural gas continues to be a competitive option.

Looking ahead, though, there doesn’t appear to be a declining demand curve for coal. Consider this: in Africa, some 60 percent of the continent’s population, or more than 600 million people, do not have access to electricity. The EIA predicts African coal consumption will rise by 70 percent by 2040. In India, another big consumer of coal, 300 million people remain disconnected to the electricity grid. The country plans to increase its use of renewable energy by 15 percent by 2020, but still faces the challenge of energy demand exceeding supply by 10 percent.

Coal is a likely contender to fill that gap. A recent article in Australian Mining states that by 2025, India’s electricity generation from coal will be reduced from 60 percent to “only 50 percent of installed generation – but that doesn’t necessarily mean less coal generation.”

In the end, it all comes down to price and government policies. If the economics of coal can be beaten by other electricity sources, the old-school fuel will face pressure, as it already has in the U.S. But as market forces continue to drive the various options available for utilities, coal use — particularly in developing nations — is almost certain to go up. Unless governments enact American-style laws to sharply curtail coal power plant emissions, expect King Coal to retain its crown.


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Here’s Why Europe Is OKing Fecal Transplants

Posted: 27 Sep 2014 07:00 AM PDT

It’s an undeniably unusual donation from a healthy stranger—a sample of their digested waste that would otherwise be flushed down the toilet—but instead is infused, via enema, into a willing recipient suffering from a potentially life-threatening infection. The medical reason, to recolonize the disturbed gut bacteria introduced by the bacterial infection, is pretty logical, but this time, with healthy bugs. Still, the very idea of swapping feces may strike some as more gross than amazing.

That’s part of why they’re not a mainstream way of treating Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) infections, despite growing evidence that they can be effective. In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has struggled with how to regulate the controversial therapy, deterring a lot of doctors from doing them out of concerns for safety and hygiene, among others. But for the first time in Europe, such fecal transplants have been endorsed as a recommended treatment for the infections, as outlined in new guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, a U.K. body.

Infections of C. difficile are among the most common in hospitals and can result from prolonged use of antibiotics. They cause patients enormous distress, including severe diarrhea that can lead to dehydration and other complications that make recovery from surgery difficult. Cases have been proliferating in Europe, and new antibiotic-resistant strains are emerging as well, according to data from the upcoming United European Gastroenterology Week meeting in Austria.

The infection is notoriously hard to treat, and if the standard first-line therapies of targeted antibiotics fail, patients and their doctors are willing to try anything to shut down the rampant growth of bacteria. Enter the fecal transplant, which involves doctors taking feces donated by a generous healthy stranger (who doesn’t harbor C. difficile or other infections), liquefying it in a solution of saline, water, or even milk or yogurt, straining it and delivering the resulting solution to another patient via colonoscopy. People generally feel better just a couple days after the transplant, and many recent studies show the treatment cures around 90% of C. difficile infections.

There’s little question that it works, but only a few facilities, including the Mayo Clinic in Arizona, perform fecal transplants in the U.S. because it isn’t standardized yet. Though Mayo Clinic screens donors for months through blood and stool tests, for example, not everyone does. “You don’t really know what’s in this concoction that you’re putting into somebody, and the FDA really doesn’t like that,” says Robert Orenstein, associate professor and chair of the division of infectious diseases at Mayo Clinic in Arizona, which began the performing the procedures in 2011, and now attracts patients from all over the world for the treatment.

MORE: The Latest Thing From Pills? Ones Made from Poop

Another cause for concern: there’s no long-term safety data. “It’s assumed that manipulation of the gut flora may have a lot of other downstream effects,” says Orenstein, like affecting inflammatory or metabolic diseases like diabetes. “Nobody knows that if you took the microbiome from one individual and placed it into another, whether some of these things might evolve.”

Though his facility has performed about 120 fecal transplants so far, Orenstein still calls the procedure “medieval.” Instead of relying on the physical swapping of fecal samples, for example, he anticipates that if the research on the role that microbes can play in our health continues, we may soon have microbiota pills—super-evolved probiotics, basically—that will recolonize places like the gut or respiratory tract with the right microorganisms. “We’re just in the beginning,” he says. “In a couple years, we’ll have almost all of this figured out.” In the meantime, we can learn from Europe’s example—and hope that those pills come soon.

See Chelsea Clinton’s Life in Pictures

Posted: 27 Sep 2014 06:34 AM PDT

Cut Parents Who Overshare on Facebook a Break

Posted: 27 Sep 2014 06:30 AM PDT


This story originally appeared on

Up until about a year ago I would heartily roll my eyes and snigger whenever a cutesie photo of my husband’s sister’s boss’s baby would pop up on my Facebook feed. I’d exclaim with annoyance while scrolling past yet another indistinguishable ultrasound picture. “Who would post that? Nobody cares what your baby looks like in utero!”

Basically I was the definition of STFU Parents’ target demographic — mid-20s, bored, cynical and dismissive of the totally average children of my acquaintances. But all that changed when I got pregnant with twins and had to fight the urge to Instagram my caesarean pictures.

STFU Parents is a hugely popular blog that parodies the oversharing, mommy-jacking, placenta-picture-posting parents of Facebook. It’s become a cultural phenomenon in the five years it’s been around. The levels of snark on the blog and comment sections are unparalleled, remarkable and often venomous. From mocking babies with “yoonique” names to defending the rights of people to make trite “I’m Pregnant” April Fools’ Day jokes, no parenting behaviour on social media goes unchecked and ultimately ridiculed. Everybody is a potential target, and the threat of appearing on the blog hovers over new parents, silently policing our Facebook statuses before we even post them.

Countless gallons of digital ink have been spilled on mommy blogs about how hard parenting is, about how much it changes you and about how inconceivable the experience is. At the risk of adding to that ink, it’s all true. In my three decades I have never experienced anything more wholly transformative than giving birth and becoming a parent. Certainly, the experience of having twins was probably a bit more intense than most. But becoming a parent felt like, after never seeing water before, I’d been dropped in the middle of the ocean and told to swim away from the circling sharks.

It’s hard to explain just how extreme this transformation is. You know it’s going to be tough going, but it’s the relentlessness that really surprises. The newborn phase is rough. It felt almost menial. I’d gone from attending events where Chelsea Clinton spoke about gender rights in June, to attending to somebody’s dirty diapers in January. My life became a 24/7 cycle of feeding and cleaning. I also had to get used to having my whole day dictated by these two tiny babies — how they felt determined how I felt. I could be well rested and happy but if my babies refused a nap, that good mood was lost in a matter of minutes.

Somebody once asked me why I was still stressed out when my babies were now sleeping through the night and the best way I could put it was that it was like I had misplaced my “off” switch. From the time those babies came into my life, I have been “on.” After I’ve put them to bed and cleaned up after them and made dinner and cleaned up dinner and prepared their food for the next day and expressed milk and finally put myself to bed, I’m lying in the dark waiting for that cry on the baby monitor. I’m worrying that I’ve run out of baby rice for their breakfast. I’m feeling guilty about moving them to their own room before the SIDS safe recommendation of 12 months. I’m doing anything but sleeping. Because I can’t turn that damn switch “off.”

And then the loneliness creeps in. Mothers’ groups can be great, but in those early days of engorged breasts, hormones run amok and two babies who just wouldn’t sleep, the thought of having to put my best foot forward to a group of single-babied strangers was a bit too much for me.

While we were incredibly lucky to have our families come from overseas to help for many months, they had to leave eventually. When they did, the little temporary village I had constructed around myself crumbled. So I turned to the one village that is accessible to anybody with an Internet connection — Facebook.

I’ve struggled with the unspoken rules of social media parent behaviour from the beginning. When you’re part of a generation that’s come of age posting pictures of our morning muesli on Instagram, having to be tight-lipped about two babies coming out of my body was the most surreal and repressive feeling.

I’m now a pretty active member of parenting groups on Facebook, in particular ones for multiple births and parents of premature babies. They’ve provided endless comfort, reassurance and wisdom for me, from people who understand what this road is like. These are people who I would never have met without the aid of Facebook. But it took me a long time to even join these groups because I’ve been so afraid that my friends would see me contribute there and label me an “STFU Parent.”

While I don’t doubt the title “STFU Parent” is well deserved for people who post pictures of their baby’s poop, it’s important to see the ripple effect its had on standard, non-over-sharing parents who are struggling but are too afraid to say anything. In a world where we are becoming more individualistic and isolated, and standards of parenting are becoming more and more rigorous and unattainable, a blog like STFU Parents can serve to just reinforce that solitude and those unfair standards. We’re already pretty alone, now we can’t use social media to reach out? We can’t share certain kinds of pictures, we can’t share pictures too frequently, and we can’t name our children certain things. Add this to the other myriad expectations we already face around breastfeeding, sleeping, baby-wearing, vaccinations, introducing solids, meeting milestones, discipline and countless other things, and modern parenting looks more and more impossible.

So this is a plea to give us a break from time to time. We might be a tad insufferable, but we’re trying our hardest to navigate parenthood and to do our very best for these little humans we created and love so dearly. Sometimes we’re oversharing because we’re struggling and we need help and reassurance. Sometimes we’re oversharing because we’d like advice. Sometimes we’re oversharing because we’re proud of our survival. As my dad tells me every time I roll my eyes at a My Family car sticker, loving, proud families are far from a bad thing.

Taryn Charles is a crème brûlée connoisseur who lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband, two daughters and two cats.


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