On the Tuesday after Labour Day, I logged into my Facebook account to post an update on the Dharma Wanderlust page. Although I do not typically browse my newsfeed, I had a few spare moments and decided to scroll down after seeing an adorable photo of a friend’s daughter ready for her first day of the new school year. I clicked ‘like’ and continued to scroll down, clicking ‘like’ on many similar photos of children starting kindergarten or Grade 1. I enjoy seeing updates about friends’ children. Then the realization dawned on me that of all the parents on my Facebook Friends list, Mr. Wanderlust was one of the very few who did not share a picture of our kids donning backpacks and big smiles.
We consciously choose to not share pictures of our children. In fact, if my personal Facebook account were public, to a scrolling stranger who does not know me or anything about my family status, I might look like a woman in a dating relationship. I’m a parent who occasionally blogs about her family, without sharing too much personal detail.
As part of my Mindfulness practice, I think thoroughly about the subject matter of my blog posts. After I write the first draft of a post, before I sit down to edit it, I ask myself:
Why did I write this? Why do I want to share this? Who is my audience and what might they think of this story? How would the publication of this story make me feel? More importantly, how will the publication of this story affect my family?
Social media and blogging have many merits, but they also allow certain aspects of our lives to be opened to a wider audience, inviting various opinions, whether or not we actually care about them. My children do not choose to have photos of them or stories about them shared with the world outside our home, with people they do not know.
Mr. Wanderlust and I connect with many people online via our social network pages. There are many whom we have never actually met, whom we know only through interaction via this blog or through another online community. We are not comfortable with the notion of certain people looking at pictures of our family. We are not comfortable with the idea that a friend of a friend might be reading stories about the silly things our children did when bored on a Saturday afternoon. If and when I do write a story that involves my family, I edit heavily, doing my best to discern the neutrality of the story.
Respect is the core factor. I do not share photos of my family or friends without their permission; my children are currently too young to understand the myriad implications of using social media, so the decision rests with us, their parents. Some might accuse us of being too paranoid. To some, we might look like parents who don’t focus on our children as a priority because we never write about how proud we are of their progress at school, with sports, etc. Nothing could be farther from the truth. We are of the opinion that certain stories are private to us and should stay private, shared only with a select small group of people whom we truly trust and whose judgment matters to us.
When a friend who lives in the same city gives birth to a baby, I prefer the first introduction to be when I visit that friend at home, rather than through pictures posted online minutes after the baby’s entrance into this world. I have cringed many times upon reading a status update or seeing a picture that I have deemed to be too private. I have felt like a voyeur intruding on someone’s privacy by inadvertently getting a glance into that part of someone else’s life.
Several years ago, I used to share photos. Perhaps, I might have been called an over-sharer. It was my mother’s question after I posted a picture of myself rocking a pregnant belly that first prompted me to question my online presence. My mom, who spends very little time on social media, asked me why I would want to share a picture of my pregnant self when those who see me every day already know how I currently look, and those who do not see me every day probably do not need to be privy to certain updates. My mom, in her traditional worldview, reminded me of the importance of protecting what is most precious to me and mindfully creating karma. Every action is a catalyst for a reaction that we often cannot predict.
At the time when I received this advice from my mom, I was taken aback, explaining to her that I shared because I enjoyed the connection with the online community. I feel happy for others when they post their pictures and stories, and at the time, I wanted to also share my own joy with the world. My mom didn’t press further, but her words led me to re-evaluate my habits.
Today, my personal Facebook page is fairly bare, devoid of the pictures and status updates I once used to share. I might not appear very exciting, but I feel comfortable with this. These days, this blog is my connection to the online community and by writing a post only once a week, I not only provide myself with an opportunity to discern, to edit each story several times, but also to create more time to focus on what is most precious to me: my family.
What is your take on sharing photos and stories of your children on social media? What guidelines do you follow? Please leave a comment below.