A while ago, I read an article entitled, There’s Someone Missing From My Facebook Photos. When I first clicked the link, I thought, maybe somebody has put into words how I feel about Facebook pictures! It’s a great article about bringing your children’s nanny into your online life. Really, go read it. I’ll wait.
Though starting a terrific and needed dialogue, that article didn’t address my situation. I’ve had a nanny. Now I don’t. But my Facebook policy has remained the same. And it has nothing to do with caregivers.
The someones missing from my Facebook photos are my children. I tell stories on Facebook and Twitter and here, using the boys’ ages or their online names. Currently we have 9/10yo Eldest, 8yo Middling, and 6yo Third. I post the stories because they’re funny or sweet. Some could quite possibly be deemed embarrassing for the boys as they age. Their day to day victories and achievements and losses, those are less commonly found online.
It would be rare indeed to see a photo of any of their sweet, ornery faces on social media. Here are a few photos of their backs.
My baseline rationale: My kids have the right to create their own online identities in due time. I’m the mom who believes that kids will always find a way to be mad if they want to, so I choose the path that I find most defensible. My kids can have their hair cut any way they like. When they’re older and can pay for extras like coloring, it’s their decision and their money. They need to make their own decisions. Hair seems like a fairly low risk exercise in decision making. So, if they color it fifteen colors and weave it into a basket and later ask, ‘why would you let me do that?!?’, I will calmly remind them that it was their choice. And if they wear the same exact style for 18 years and later ask, ‘why didn’t you let me do ____ with my hair?’, I will calmly remind them that it was their choice.
Likewise, when they eventually begin to build their online identities, their choices will be their own. They may (most likely will) make some terrible decisions as to content, but they will learn from it. I don’t post pictures now because their identities don’t belong to me. I don’t use their names now because their identities don’t belong to me. The things I want to remember and share are things I treasure in my heart and sometimes post to social media. But who they are – that’s just beginning. I don’t feel I have the right or the privilege to make it my own.
It’s easy enough to figure out who my children are. It’s easier than my comfort level desires. If you want the dirt, you can find silly stories on my social media. You can look up birth certificates. You can scour my family’s and friends’ pages. You can find names. You can probably find photographs. But, as far as I’m concerned, their names and their likenesses are pending their own distribution.
Sometimes the desire to post a great picture is so strong! I still my electronic hands and refrain.
Kids will always find a reason to be mad if they want to. Will one or all of my kids eventually say, ‘why didn’t you post pictures of us’ or ‘were you embarrassed of us’ or ‘you cared more about your life than ours’? Maybe. And I’ll say this: You were/are in my analog world every single day, and now you have the whole digital world in which to create yourself. And I may remind them that: Your online persona is not everything you are but a tiny fraction of your life and work and love. And if they’re still mad, well, kids will always find a reason to be mad if they want to.
As parents, we make the decisions we do for so many reasons. I’m not an advocate for this way of online living. You live your way, and I’ll live my way. The point is, we both live.
Just don’t confuse online presence or absence as a reflection of importance. So little of who we are is reflected in zeroes and ones. This analog world, where my kids are saying the things kids say and doing the things kids do, where our family dreams and celebrates the small victories, where we mourn our losses, where we make decisions and learn how the world works, this is where we live.