I read this article recently about why no parent should ever post anything online about their children, from pictures to stories to experiences with them. It recommends researching the availability of your child’s name as a domain before ever settling on a name, and then, once your baby’s appropriate name is chosen, buying all associated domain names to protect them, setting up social media accounts on every major site, and keeping them active without ever posting anything. All this, it suggests, allows your child to enter technological maturity with no history, complete anonymity, and the power to build their online identity however they see fit.
I get that. Of course I want my children to have every opportunity to define their own identity, online and otherwise, and I’d hate for something I posted to affect which school they get into or which career they choose or who is willing to date them.
But really, whether I post or not, I come from a circle where people will know too much about them anyway, and possibly even judge them based on their opinion of me. A close church circle is very much like a small town, and that has both pros and cons, which is not what I’m getting into here, suffice to say I’ll probably scare away a few unsavoury dates whether I post pictures of them on the toilet or not.
The worry is that sharing now will allow them to be searched in the future using much-hyped facial recognition technology that will locate all images of them online, past and present. Based on the fact that Facebook recently wanted a friend of mine to tag her 5-year-old with the name of another 30-year-old friend, I think we know that is never going to be a 100% accurate piece of technology.
But, you may ask, why risk it? Similar to GPS chips in cell phones, this is an actual possibility, whether we think about it or not. Why not just avoid posting anything publicly? What if, one day, my child’s potential employer engages facial recognition software and finds a photo of my 5-year-old daughter sitting on her little brother? Will he think she’s aggressive, abusive, too domineering, and pass her over for the candidate with no pictures, or, better yet, the one who only has pictures of her reading books and playing the piano for elderly people?
I suspect you may see where I’m going with this.
Yes, people judge. And people are curious. And a lot of people are bored. That’s life. Always has been, always will be.
Yes, maybe facial recognition technology and Google searches are going to make it easier than ever to be curious and judgmental from a distance, but nothing has changed. Your personal impression still needs to be what matters most, it needs to be what you spend the most time working on. Your online persona is becoming more and more important as it becomes more searchable, but that is only because people are posting things worth knowing as an employer or potential mate. If your online statuses run the gamut from “I hate my boss” to “Just got out of jail today – yaaaah #earlyparole”, I can see where you have serious concerns. This whole Big Brother fear of the internet is based on the premise that you have something to hide, or that everyone wants to know everything about you. I think we can safely assume that the second one isn’t true unless you’re a pretty major celebrity, and if the first one is true, ok, stay off the internet, it’s not a good place to hide.
Anonymity should not be our goal, responsibility should.
Blogs are about sharing. They are different from websites in that they are personal, honest, open, and real. I cannot share me without also sharing a little glimpse of my children. My kids are smart and fun and talented and happy and healthy and unique, and that is exactly what I hope anyone can understand from any pictures or stories I share about them. Sure, we have our days when no one listens and we’re tired and impatient and selfish and unkind to each other, but we’re a family, so we pick up the next day and make it a better day. I am thankful every day for the beautiful, unqiue personalities of my children, and they are a part of me. If someone will judge their current self based on their childhood pictures, that person is not worth having in their lives.
I can’t say any of my reasons are really fantastic, but they are my reasons, and I’m comfortable with them. I have a blog. That means I am willing to share parts of myself, of my choosing, on the internet. My children are not yet old enough to make that choice, so I am extremely aware of the responsibility I have in choosing what to share, whether it’s pictures, stories, or thoughts.
I will carefully consider what I post, and I will protect their reputations to the death, but I believe anonymity is irrelevant in today’s world.
What do you think? Is anonymity still something we should strive to protect, or is it a thing of the past? Would you share your family online?
Great post! I agree, my children are a huge part of my life. Keeping them completely separated from my blog would feel weird and like splitting my life into parts.
Well… I for one am extremely thankful that you post about your kidlets…. I thoroughly enjoy the small glimpses into this side of your life!
I post photos of my kids. As they get older I am more careful of what I post. If they don’t like it, I won’t post it. It is true what you write that it would be pretty hard to write about our lives without writing about our families.
That’s a good point that as they get older I can check with them if it’s ok to post…I definitely had a stage where I wouldn’t have wanted anything shared! I was just checking out your blog too – I love it! Your photos are beautiful, and I love the glimpse at your family.
I’d share my kids… part of the privilege of me being home with them is all these memories we have to share. Obviously some moderation is involved… but if someone is lucky enough to google a glimpse of my kids they can consider themselves privileged to get to share in a little of there goodness:) Privacy is important.. but if internet is the ‘new age’ why wouldn’t we share our most important assets on it?
I agree – as a stay-at-home mom, their memories are our memories, and vice versa!
I feel the same way as you. I never understood why people get a little freaked over privacy protection to the point where they are against security cameras in public places. If it is a public place, why do you have to hide the fact that you were there?
On the other hand, we do need to respect that other people feel reluctant to post things online. They may have their reasons.
I agree, if someone is very uncomfortable with it it’s an easy thing to refrain from doing. And I do like to control what’s posted, so I don’t love if other people take/post pictures of my kids without my knowing. For that reason, I wouldn’t post pictures from a birthday party or something where other people’s kids are heavily featured unless I mentioned it to them first.
Nice piece Anna :)
Anna, this is well-thought out, and I agree with you. I too belong to a church community, a neighborhood community, and it’s a balancing act about how much to reveal. I have neighbor who not allow anyone to take pictures of her children and post them on facebook. I enjoy seeing facebook pictures of my nieces and nephew and following their lives as they live in another state. It’s a scary world no matter what and we all proceed with caution and common sense.
It is a great, easy way to keep in touch with far-away friends and family, and even to open up another side of yourself to those close communities you’re a part of. Thanks for your understanding comment!