I already know that this post is going to annoy people. Maybe even make some people mad. So let me begin by offering a few disclaimers: This post is solely my opinion and is meant to serve as a tool for thinking through a common decision many are faced with on social media. This post isn’t me telling you what you should or shouldn’t do or that your choice is right or wrong.
I wrote this post because these are the questions my husband and I have asked ourselves when considering sharing pictures of our son online. I also wrote it because of MANY conversations I’ve had with other moms who wrestle with the same questions.
My husband and I have chosen to keep our son’s pictures off social media for a variety of reasons, and believe me, I’ve gotten plenty of eye rolls and blank stares because of it. These reactions aren’t surprising, really, when you consider the everything-must-be-captured-and-shared-instantly-for-the-whole-world-to-see culture in which we live.
However, I’m asking that we take a step back from these cultural expectations – just for a moment – to consider some of the following practical questions:
Could this picture embarrass my child later?
That picture of your sweet little cherub trying to navigate the choppy waters of potty training is sweet and adorable now…but your little one won’t be so little forever. Just because your child is young, does that mean he/she should have pictures posted without his/her consent? What happens when your child is a teenager and realizes there are 1,534 pictures of his/her childhood that 500 of your closest friends have seen?
Could this photo negatively impact my child’s future?
More and more potential employers and even college/university admissions offices are looking to social media for additional information on applicants. Could the pictures you are posting somehow impact your child’s education or work endeavors in any way?
Does this photo provide viewers with identifying information?
Does the photo include indentifiable landmarks? Addresses? Store fronts? Does your photo caption tell viewers exactly which park you went to and that you like to go to this park every Wednesday at 10 am? Even if you exclude all such information from photos and captions, it’s not particularly difficult to figure out the when and where of a picture. Considering the GPS location tracking in smartphones as well as facial recognition software that exists, the possibility of pinpointing specific locations is not so farfetched. One simple step towards safety in this area would be to disable or deactivate the location services on your phone. That way your family’s location is not being broadcast to strangers.
What is my motivation for posting this picture?
This question might be a little harder to ask (it definitely was for me!), but it’s an important one. Be honest — there’s something kind of thrilling about seeing your photos get a ton of likes and comments. I mean, YOU know that your child is God’s gift to this earth, so others should know it too, right? And we all know that “likes” directly correlate to your child’s intrinsic value as well as your success as a parent.
Am I being facetious? Ok, yeah. But seriously, think about it — is the high of social bragging what fuels your desire to post these photos? Are you posting out of a sense of competition? To show that your life is more “together” than someone else’s? Something to think about.
Who has the ability to see this picture?
This is something to really stop and consider. What are your privacy settings on Facebook or Instagram? Can only your friends view pictures, or are they open to the public? Also consider this — if your friend posts a picture of your child, and she has 500 other followers/friends, then that’s 500 other people you may or may not know who can now see your child.
Now to take it one step further: online predators are far more common than many of us realize. Once a picture is out there on the internet, it’s there forever. A simple “right click and save” or a screenshot, and a complete stranger can gather his or her own personal library of pictures of your children. Please don’t underestimate the weight of this reality. You may have the best of intentions when sharing photos, but predators have no respect of good intentions. Unfortunately this is the world we live in, and it’s no longer realistic to assume that everyone viewing our photos is doing so in innocence.
So What Now?
Here’s where you decide what works best for your family. For Matt and myself, it means that if we really want to share pictures with someone, we usually send them directly to friends and family via text, email, or Snapchat. Setting this boundary has actually been quite freeing for us, and, for me personally, keeping more of our family’s special moments private has been very meaningful — especially in a world where nothing really seems private anymore.
Is it possible for us to post pictures on social media and never have a problem with the above concerns? Yeah, maybe. But when it comes down to it, we’re just not willing to take the chance.
And at the end of the day, I think my 500 closest Facebook friends will be just fine with a few less photos in their newsfeeds.