About a month ago, I made the decision to stop publishing photos of my kid on Facebook or anywhere else online. And though I’m aware that this development may disappoint all of the friends and family who love seeing pictures of her adorable little mug, I don’t plan to change my mind any time soon. Here’s why:
1. Many of My “Friends” on Facebook are Actually Complete Strangers
Strange as it may sound, I’m now connected to a lot of people on Facebook I don’t know, people I wouldn’t recognize if we literally slammed into each other on the street. In my industry – marketing, social media, and whatever the heck else I do these days – that’s the norm; we all hang out on Facebook.
For the most part, blurring the lines between my personal and professional lives doesn’t bother me. If my 640 “friends” on Facebook want to see how I’m grouchy because my muffin tops feel bigger than usual this week, that’s fine with me. But when it comes to my kid, things are different, or at least they should be. No one other than family and friends should see photos of her on vacation or getting a haircut. They certainly shouldn’t be able to see a photo of her full on naked, in the bathtub and eating ice cream, which is exactly what mom blogger Kelle Hampton posted recently on Instagram for her, oh, twenty five THOUSAND followers.
I know Facebook tries to allay our concerns. It lets users create lists of who can and can’t see our content. Great. I’ll make those friend lists, right after I clean out my refrigerator, alphabetize my book collection and arrange my sock drawer by color. In case you were wondering, this means it will never happen.
2. My Kid Thinks She’s Jennifer Lawrence Being Followed by Paparazzi
My daughter now makes Kim Kardashian look camera shy. She expects to have her photo taken, everywhere, all the time. And you know why? Because I took photos of her, everywhere, all the time. Whether dancing at home or giggling with friends, I felt compelled to whip out the phone so I could capture every cute and semi-cute moment. I became so preoccupied with the posing, the photo retake (three times, what the hell, can’t she keep her eyes open?), the upload, and checking for all the likes and comments that the moment itself no longer mattered as much. At least not as much as all the virtual ooh’s and ah’s from my friends, family and even strangers.
And each time I published a photo it felt a little sad, I have to admit, as if I needed every happy second of life with my kid stamped with my friends’ and family’s Facebook seal of approval. I finally asked myself, why do I need to show almost 640 people how wonderful my kid is? I already know she’s great – isn’t that enough?
3. For Now, I am her Online Guardian
We all want to believe that Facebook takes parents’ concerns about privacy seriously. But the truth is that Facebook is a publicly traded company that cares first and foremost about making its shareholders happy. We have no idea how far it will go to do so, especially since the company is not extraordinarily profitable right now. But what we do know is that Facebook is pushing our boundaries now, often, to see just how much of our privacy we’re willing to give away.
While Facebook's financial forecast remains uncertain, there is no doubt that it is collecting data on each and every one of us - tidbits of information that it plans to split off or cobble together and use to make money. The data it has on me comes from my activities, as well as from photos that I or others have posted. Some of those photos are of my child, with my name tagged to it (a common practice among parents and our well-intentioned loved ones). This means, thanks to Facebook’s facial recognition technology, that my daughter’s face is stored somewhere, with my name on it. Guarded fiercely? We hope. Hope but will really never know for sure.
Which means I have to ask myself: will my daughter be a young adult who posts pictures of herself doing keg stands in college (please, no)? Or will she be a private person, much like her dad, who does not want pictures of herself at three, in a bathing suit, stored on some website whose future direction as a business remains uncertain? The truth here is that I don’t know. So until she can make her own choices about what she shares with the world, I have to safeguard her identity both online and off. And that starts with no photos of her on Facebook, Instagram or anywhere.
Call me paranoid or call me over-protective, but for now I’m done sharing photos of my kid on any social media. If you want to know how great she’s doing, ask me. Trust me, I can go on for hours. And maybe, if I trust you, I’ll send you a photo the old-fashioned way. Over email.
If you like this post, come join me over on Families in the Loop's Facebook page. I promise, I won't ask you for any family pictures.