Thursday, November 21, 2013

The "Ugliest" Word & Social Media

Ahhh…Facebook. How I love to hate you.

Now, first a bit of full disclosure: I am an avid user of social media and some might say an almost pathological FB Poster. I imagine many have “unfriended” me given my prolific and at times picayune status updates. But, as the father of a child with craniofacial differences, the unfortunate posting below led me to the realization that social media will only add to the enormity of the challenges our “special” kids face.

Think before you post.
The oddity of this whole thing is that Nathaniel, our son with TCS, never even saw this ridiculous cartoon. But his Grandfather did. A description would help: My dad is and will forever be a “MAN’S MAN” at 6’ 4” and well over 200 lbs. Bearded. Even at age 69 his hands remain callused from 30 years of hardcore construction work. His body is somewhat ravaged by a life spent working to provide for his family. And I mean real work…not the stuff I’m blessed to do because he afforded me a better life. Paradoxically, this Man’s Man carries around a Chihuahua name Daisy. But more importantly, his love for his grandson Nathaniel knows no bounds. He’ll never show it, but I know at times this love brings him to his knees, like when he can’t take away the pain and struggle that facial differences cause his Grandson. He knows he can’t make the surgeries go away. He knows that some people will hurt Nathaniel despite our best intentions and this knowledge must cut him to the core.

So for a second—just one second—try to imagine his pain when one of his “friends” posted the above cartoon. Imagine his pain when others “liked” it.

Ever since the day Nathaniel was born that word sends a fire raging through me. And to think it now causes my father and the rest of my family such pain, I’m left wondering: How do I—do we—react? Should I fire back on Facebook with some missive on the pain that word causes? I wonder are they even talking about kids like ours or even considering them?

And it’s not just kids like ours; it affects others outside our community. What about the Mom or Dad whose unaffected child just isn’t handsome or pretty enough as deemed by society? Is this post about their kid? What about the kids struggling with adolescence and concerns about their image? Is the post about them? In some way our craniofacial kids can handle this stuff better than most, but what impact does this word UGLY have more broadly? I can’t even begin to imagine. Did the creator of this meme even for a second, one single second, consider the pain he or she was causing?

This social media situation is all made more ironic by Nathaniel’s appearance on the NatGeo program Taboo. Now made even more prescient given the producers chose to title the episode "UGLY." The point of that show, and I suppose my current rambling, is the ongoing sentiment that anything different is UGLY. currently has the following definition of the word UGLY:
·         very unattractive or unpleasant to look at; offensive to the sense of beauty; displeasing in appearance.

But I would like to propose a new definition of the word UGLY:
·         the complete inability to see the beauty in everyone and everything;
·         an insensitivity to anything different or outside the norms of the conventional;
·         to act in a way that shows complete indifference to the feelings of others.

The power of social media is enormous and at times its power has wonderful results. One only need witness the CHOOSE KIND movement and the impact R.J.Palacio and the book Wonder has had around the country. But, with great power comes great responsibility. Unfortunately, we see far too many instances of social media’s power causing great pain and sorrow. So, as the father of an amazingly beautiful boy I hope and pray that we have the bravery and fortitude to respond to “UGLY” when we see it.

Collectively let’s make a promise to one another…

As we continue to “CHOOSE KIND” we will remind the world the pain their definition of UGLY causes. 

And as we approach Thanksgiving, let’s be ever more thankful we know the true meaning of the word.


Today's post is from Russel, a CCA Dad from Matthews, NC. Russel and his wife Magda have two sons,  Nathaniel and Jacob.


  1. Love, love this Russel... Thanks for the blog contribution and for sharing this story!

  2. I like your new definitions for UGLY - seem much more appropriate. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Love your thoughts as always. In our house, we always say only words are ugly (and how they can be).

  4. Well done and well stated. Thanks for the insight!
    Darin D

  5. Russel, I am SO proud of you, your wife, and your amazing and beautiful son. I am honored to be a part of this incredible family

  6. Russel, I hope you remember me. I was the h/r person at the Hartford and loved how much you fought and cared for your child in every way, no matter what. Love is love and God gives people what they can handle and you my friend, were blessed with an extraordinary gift we all admire, especially when we watch you. Happy Holidays and may we meet up again one day. Stay strong.

    1. Of course I remember you Lauren. Find me on facebook or linkedin and lets connect

  7. Russel, your essay is pointed and so heart-warming...I hope it restores the wonder that being beautifully unique brings to our world. And hopefully, those who posted and "liked" the horrendous cartoon will take a look in their own mirrors... perfection?? Someone let me know when it's found. I've read and reread WONDER by R.J. Palacio several times on my own with total admiration - for both her deep characterizations and the unbelievable craft she uses to share her messages - and it has become a primary read-aloud and mentor text in my 5th grade classroom as we study social issues. Did you know WONDER is being developed into a movie?

    1. Emily, thanks for your kind words. Yes, we are aware it is being made into a movie. RJ is terrific and we keep in frequent contact. Be well


We welcome and encourage all readers to post feedback, however, we reserve the right to remove any comments that are deemed offensive or unrelated to the topic of discussion. Thank you for understanding and for helping us to foster a healthy environment for the families that we serve.