When Facebook started, I had years under my belt of drunkenly dancing without fearing it would end up on the Internet. The Internet was for research, information and email. I could dance on as many tables in as many countries as I pleased.
Then it happened—the explosion of social media. It didn’t take long for people to start posting photos of everything. Not everyone had a good camera on their phone, or the ability to send those photos via text message. It was just easier to share everything all the time.
Right around this time, my friends started having babies. Before knowledge of privacy, birth photos, complete with graphic images, started popping up in my feed. These were my friends. It was safe, even if it was a little TMI.
I am a pretty open person. Most people view me as an extrovert. I love people, I love honesty and I love looking at cute baby pictures on the Internet. I can’t stop an “Awwww” from escaping my mouth when I see parental pride bursting in 280 characters or less.
Yet my son is only on my phone and in printed pictures. His privacy is pretty similar to what mine was in the ’80s (perhaps even more so, because my naked baby bum picture is a classic at family reunions). My partner and I decided to do this consciously, to respect our child.
Sometimes people think this means that we are standing on our high horses declaring, “Hey! We are better than YOU.” Far from it.
Parenting is so different from family to family. Few of us feed our kids the same thing or take them to the same activities or read them the same books. We all do our best. Most of us sit in unified hope that it will all turn out okay.
Social media may not be forever. Perhaps by the time my little man is an adult, we will have moved to something my mind can’t comprehend. (In 1996, I nodded in agreement when adults declared, “The Internet is a phase.”) But perhaps it will be pretty similar, the way my childhood wasn’t dramatically different from my own parent’s childhoods in the ’50s and ’60s.
I don’t want everything that is put out there of my son, years before his consent, to be my version of the truth. I want my son to feel that even publicly, he is the protagonist of his own life. I too am bursting with pride (because, man he is pretty amazing). But my pride is quiet and unadorned. My pride sits at our dinner table and is reflected in the presence that can only be found when our phones are put away and we aren’t recording images for the sake of future nostalgia.
I will always love looking at my friends’ children and I am so grateful for social media for allowing me to see their little faces more often than I am geographically capable of. But I, the extroverted mother, will allow the first pictures that are on the Internet of my son to be curated by him. He may grow up and think that my protection of his privacy was ridiculous. This is me, mothering my son in the best way I know how, with no judgment to a mother who decides on recording these years more potently.
Whether we have hundreds of thousands of pictures or just a few, we are in the same boat. It is fleeting, precious time and we are all doing better, as we know better, every single day.