Some of you may have been wondering why, for a parenting blog, photos of my children are noticeably absent. I’ve been wanting to write for awhile now about why you won’t see my kids’ faces here, but honestly, I’ve been afraid to do so.
However, this absence has been weighing especially heavy on my heart since Easter. So here goes.
But first, a warning:
This post is NOT about you, or your family, or your choices.
It’s about me, my family, and our choices.
I don’t want anyone reading this post to take it personally. I’m not trying to criticize anyone. I’m just trying to explain why this is how my family rolls.
Growing up in the dark ages (i.e., the 20th century)
I’m guessing that most (if not all) of you reading this can remember a time, even if you have to go back to your earliest childhood, before everyone lived their lives online.
As for all our cuteness, awkwardness, and every other formative stage of our lives in the pre-Internet era, all the photographic evidence remains safely tucked away in the photo albums and wall decorations of our parents’ homes, if they’re still living. Or perhaps a corner of our basement, if they’re not.
The photos of my overweight youth come to mind.
As do all the snapshots I still have somewhere, of a childhood friend who struggled with eating disorders.
There’s still a public record of her struggle on display in the pages of our high-school yearbooks.
But having to hunt down a small-town yearbook to learn about someone’s past is a lot harder than poking around the Internet, where we can learn all sorts of stuff about whomever we want at any hour of the day, all from the privacy of our own homes.
The gift of privacy
When I told my dear husband I wanted to start a parenting blog in early 2014, the girls’ privacy was his first concern. (Closely followed by his privacy and mine.)
Basically, what he wanted for them was similar to what we all want: the ability to curate the public image of our selves (photographic and otherwise) that we present to the world.
His bottom-line argument: Until they were old enough to consent, I shouldn’t use identifiable pictures of them on my blog. Even cute photos of those adorable Halloween costumes I cobbled together for them years ago.
When I thought about it, I realized that he was totally right. I wouldn’t want my youth (including all those embarrassing or awkward moments) accessible to, say, potential employers at any moment.
Or crazy ex-boyfriends. Or, given that I was a teacher before I became a parent, former students. (I was stalked/harassed by both an ex and a student for awhile in my mid-20s. Not fun, and definitely the start of my own personal intense love of privacy.)
Life in the Internet Age
And as early as 2010, one in two employers rejected potential employees after researching them on Facebook, according to one study in the UK.
No wonder advice on how to clean up your online presence when job-hunting is abundant, starting with undergraduate career centers.
I envy all of you who got your college major, choice of future mate, career choice, etc. right the first time.
But only a little; I’ve learned a lot from my mistakes and course corrections. Still, I’m glad at least some of them happened offline, in a pre-Internet-saturated world.
It’s one thing to write about my own steep learning curve as a parent. But with every post I write, I try to think long and hard about how my kids might read that post in ten years.
Not to mention how their tween and teenage frenemies might read it. Or a curious admissions officer considering their college application. Or a potential employer someday.
Growing up female
And while our decision would be the same if we had boys, I think (having been one once) that girls in particular have a hard enough time navigating self-image, without adding the extra burden of a constantly-updated online photographic record to the mix.
Don’t get me wrong. I had an idyllic childhood in many respects, with parents who loved me and took great care of me. (Thanks, Mama.)
But when I try to imagine my own awkward childhood moments all over Facebook, and still out there for the world to see, I cringe.
It’s bad enough that our children learn how to pose for the camera practically from birth. Essie had that “oh, the camera’s out, let’s pose!” drill down from age two. Which is about the age when Kimmie started saying at random moments, “Mama, take a picture of me!”
Is that the only form of validation I’m giving them? That they only matter to me when I’m recording them for posterity? I hope not, but I think it would be a thousand times worse if they started to attach a sense of status and self-worth to every picture I posted of them online.
The safety argument for why you won’t see my kids’ faces
And though I try not to obsess over the dark side of modern life, there is the fact that our online privacy is a field of ever-shifting quicksand. Every time we share about our kiddos online, what we share has the potential to compromise not only their future security, but also their safety in the present.
My own privacy thing, including crazy ex-boyfriend, is why I was one of the last of my friends from high school (or college or beyond) to get a Facebook account. But ongoing privacy concerns for the girls is part of why Super Mom Hacks’s Facebook Page hasn’t been around for nearly as long as the blog has.
As I scrolled through all the gorgeous Easter photos of friends’ families online this past Sunday, a part of me really wanted to put up my own pic of the girls. But deep down, the part of me that wants to protect them by guarding their online identity quickly overruled that urge.
As I wrap this up, I want to reiterate what I said at the beginning:
This post is NOT about you, your family, or your choices.
It’s about me, my family, and our choices.
As parents, we all have to trust our gut to do what’s right for our own families. This is what our gut tells us is right for ours.