by Dezi Hall
Ever since I shared my very first post (an obnoxiously artsy photo of a babbling brook at Lake Tahoe) a few years ago, I've become more and more obsessed with Instagram. The drug hit me hard. Within days I had evolved from a fledgling newbie sharing nature images with a few tasteful hashtags, to a full-on junkie checking the lighting on my Chinese chicken salad, picking up my phone before I picked up my fork.
As the years went on, I met a boy. And we started documenting our lives together. Selfies at concerts, brunch photos, early morning hikes, black and white photos of us snuggling our dog. After our oh-so-perfect beach wedding photos were posted, I started thinking about joining that exclusive club of baby Instagrammers. I let my mind wander with images of a baby sweetly bundled in fuzzy blankets, its hands gently tucked under its chin while it slept. I thought of all the milestone documenting what I would do (Look at the baby taking its first steps!).
But then, I got pregnant and that, as it often does, changed things. This baby wasn't a faceless imagined "it" anymore. The baby was her, my daughter. She was a person. Suddenly, I started to view the Instagram posts of my friends' through a different lens. Sure, the diaper blowouts might seem hilarious in the moment, but I think people forget that babies turn into toddlers, that turn into kids.
See, our babies feel like they are just that- ours. But, thinking of our children this way can be damaging to them in the future. As soon as they come out, we strip them of their right to privacy. We post photos and images of them without taking into account that whatever we post online will be there forever. We are the first generation that really has this responsibility and I'm not sure we've thought about it enough. I'm not sure we're protecting our kids the way we should be.
Not my baby...Pexels
When I say protecting, I don't mean in that abstract fear-based sense of keeping their images private so that predators don't see them. What I mean is that we protect them from the much more likely scenarios of life in the digital age. See, my friends' kids will end up in the same grade as my own kid. Which means that if my daughter is looking through my phone she might come across images of their classmates with poop smeared up their back or their naked butts while they celebrate a successful potty training week. These things seem fine now, because my daughter has only recently become a toddler.
But imagine if someone (anyone) in your middle school had full access to all the most embarrassing images of your childhood. Imagine that your mother had handed them over without a second thought as to how that might affect you. I know I would feel betrayed. So, I don't post anything embarrassing of my daughter. You may call this a contributor to the fakeness of social media that makes people depressed when they engage in life comparision. But, protecting my daughter's right to privacy is more important than anything else. I never want her to think I put her in an embarrassing position because I didn't think of how things would affect her in the future. So, as soon as she came out, I set my Instagram to private and only allowed family and very close friends to follow me. And even then, I only post images of her that I feel a future employer would be fine with seeing.
Not my baby...Pexels
Something the other day stopped me in my tracks. Someone on Facebook had a post about how their 11-year-old son had had a terrible nightmare the day before and how he could only sleep after crawling into bed with her and her husband. The post had an air of Yes, raising children can be tiring, but it's so worth it sentimentality to it. While I appreciate the idea of cherishing even the less-than-ideal parts of parenthood, all I could think was what if one of this woman's friends told her own child about this? All it would take was a careless comment of "Oh, poor Patrick had a rough night last night…" to her own child to open up a world of teasing.
I feel very strongly about my position, but plenty of my friends think I'm overacting. They think I'm being a dreaded sanctimommy (like this woman). And maybe I am being one. But here's the thing. Kids can be mean, and rifling through their parents' friends' old social media accounts can be a super easy way to find a treasure trove of embarrassing things about someone. I am not a perfect mother. I make all sorts of questionable decisions all the time. I swore my child would never know what a screen was, and then I realized watching a clip of baby ducks helped to calm her down sometimes. So the baby ducks win. But the social media thing? That's something I can't go back on. No matter how tempting it might be to share every little detail of her babyhood. Her future privacy and self-esteem is more important that my fleeting desire for likes.
Did I take pictures of her first diaper explosion? You bet I did. Will you ever see them? Not in a million years.