Telling Parents to STFU for Fun and Profit: A Q&A with Blair Koenig

Jen Doll
The Atlantic Wire

Blair Koenig is the 30-year-old Brooklynite behind the four-year-old blog STFU Parents, known for its hilarious commentary on the subject of parental overshare as well as the fact that The New York Times refuses to publish its name, even in acronym form. As a compendium of the TMI things parents post on Facebook, STFU Parents (tag line: "You used to be fun. Now you have a baby") is not just a widely popular blog, though. It's become a statement on the way we raise kids now. And the grand tradition of those that have come before, it's also a book, released on April 2 by Perigee. I talked to Koenig about what it's like to see her Internet baby grow up into print, what she's learned from the compliments and the criticism, and if she ever thinks The New York Times will say STFU.

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What's the difference between the book and the blog?  I did the book in a couple of phases, and it involved me going through every post on the blog—I have about 15,000 posts. It's not a "best of," though. It's supposed to be the funny field guide to the blog, which means that a lot of examples people love on the site just wouldn't work in the book. Then there are the classic examples I couldn't part with and really wanted to have in print. If I couldn't find something that captured what "Kaitlin said mamma" did for the idea of Mommyjacking, for example, that makes it into the book. 

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I didn't fully anticipate how much I'd have to rewrite, but it's good. It's a fresh take. I'd say 75 to 80 percent of the book is different than the blog. When you change from a blog to a book, you know, that hyperlink that was a punch line doesn't work. I would also say, as a point of comparison, the blog is fun to read for daily instances of laughter, wacky stuff I see, and a sprinkling of trends, and the book is a totally cohesive manual, an organized little etiquette guide. They're similar but have different levels of engagement. The blog is a continually evolving look into the world of parenting. The book is, hopefully, a great baby shower gift.  

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How have your readers responded to it? I think half of my readers want to know about the press and buy the book, but a lot of people don't seem to be as supportive as I thought they'd be. I think some people think I'm cashing in on fame. I think some of them are bummed I've had to cut down on blogging to work on the book. I've tried to emphasize that without the readers and submitters I wouldn't have a book, and to say thank you so much, but I get that sense that it's like when you discover a band, and then the band gets really big and you sort of begrudge that. I think that's how some people feel about me, but I am definitely not signing with Warner Bros.

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What's next for the blog? Will you keep posting?

I'm hoping by the end of the year to also launch a STFU Pet Parent site. A lot of people refer to themselves as the parents of their "fur babies," and I've gotten a lot of submissions over the years. I'd love to do a second book, too. New stuff comes up every day.

There are a people out there who think you're a baby-hater. What do you say about that?  In October I got so much backlash, just focused on me being childless. It was something that was purely created in the media. I went on Ricki Lake, and it was positive, and the same day I was in the New York Post in a totally salacious piece [it begins "Mommies, meet your worst nightmare."] The media had the opportunity to focus on the overshare or making me the target of these people who say I'm a bitter, childless person. Everything that came after that was from the salacious angle. But this isn't the reaction of everyone, just the extreme segment that hates me. I think it's funny they think I'm bitter; their reaction has been so much more bitter than mine! I genuinely like kids, and I've always thought I'd be a mom one day. 

What have you learned from the past four years? I am a far more informed person about parenting than I was four years ago. Hopefully this will make me a better parent, not just in terms of what I share online, but also, I just know way more than I ever thought I would. I feel like I've gotten an education. I have gained a lot of respect for parents. You do all this stuff, that's awesome! I'm just mocking what they do online.

What do your parents think about it?  My mom thought at first that I was just crazy. My parents are not on Facebook, and they don't even know how to text. But she started seeing what the trend was about, and now she thinks it's genius. She'll comment, "I went on your blog; I cannot believe that person did that!" She's all for it. I've consulted with her, like, "Did you ever put me on the potty on the beach?", and she'll be like, I don't understand what you're saying. 

Does it blow your mind that this blog couldn't exist without the oversharing it mocks? It kind of does blow my mind. In the acknowledgements, I say thank you for social media, without it we'd have no capacity to understand oversharing. I'd never known that people could share so much information. That's what shocks me the most. It's mind-blowing not that it exists but that people took this opportunity and this is what they did.

Do you have limits or guidelines as to what should go online?   The first check is reading what you just wrote before you hit publish. A lot of people don't even do that. Beyond that, considering your audience‚ whether you're at a dinner party or on the Internet. In social media in general I think it's a good idea to consider who you're talking to. Do your friends need to know this information, would it benefit them, why are you posting it? I think people must see it differently than I do. I see social media as a big public space, and they see it as a bunch of individual private spaces, like I'm coming into the room and telling them what to do. I see it more like etiquette, and they think I've invaded them. 

As for the blog, every single submission (since the first day the blog went up) has been sent to me by someone, people I don't know. A friend of mine was the first post, and it's so basic and innocuous. She'd just gone to see her doula. That one doesn't have commentary, and she told me to leave it up so she could tell everyone she inspired the blog. I'll cover up a kid's name or take a post down, though. I'd rather have a copacetic relationship with everyone. This isn't about calling out individuals.   

Do you think The New York Times will ever publish your blog's (or book's) name? My publisher mentioned he sent over a copy and I think I LOLed. There's no way they're going to review it. I keep imagine them using an asterisk for the whole review. I have noticed that the new public editor, I think she's great for the paper, seems to be erring on the side of modernism. It's nice to think The New York Times will continue to inch toward this more accepted way of dealing with modern culture. If you're going to talk about war and abortion, what about these other things that happen on the Internet? These are the things that are happening! Maybe in 100 years they'll have the word in their paper.