Why I Stopped Sharing My Children on Social Media
I still remember joining Facebook. It was 2005, I was headed off to grad school, and my college was on their list. I had a general idea of what I was getting into; I sometimes went on MySpace and decorated my page.
First, it felt like a good way to connect with people at a new school, in a new city, in a new state. Making new friends is awkward, but friending on Facebook is simpler.
Then the floodgates opened, and we know that story. Sixteen years later, we have a small sense of the effects that social media imposes on our children. Sixteen years ago, I never could have dreamed that I would use this new thing called Facebook in the way I do now. So, who am I to say what I post now is harmless? Who am I to say I know the future?
What I do know is that I needed to take a break from all social media last year. I dipped my toes in first. I deleted the apps, only signing in on my phone browser. I blocked the sites from my phone browser because I’m too smart for my own tricks. I deactivated my accounts because I know how to unblock what I block. I downloaded all my data from Instagram and Facebook, then did the unthinkable- I fully deleted my dear Instagram account. Facebook and I have been friends longer, so I just couldn’t hit that delete button yet. It’s okay, I told myself. Give yourself some grace.
Trying to get off social media wasn’t about anyone but me. It wasn’t about the comparisons to other’s pretty pics, the way it shapes how we document our lives, or the privacy concerns. It was about living in the moment.
Call it nostalgia, but I want to share the joy of my photos and my actual self and children in person. I want to see your eyes light up as you sift through my stack of pics from our vacation last year. I want to hear your comments, in person.
Perhaps it’s ironic that I am making this choice during a pandemic, when we are social distancing and connections are more severed than ever. Or, maybe it’s one of those hidden gifts in the despair. Sometimes, we don’t really need a reason, a defense, to follow our instincts. We just need to be able to hear ourselves think.
In the quiet of the pandemic, it’s been easier for me to turn off the noise of the world. It’s a luxury, I know. But I have been barreling down a path for years, because the days and nights stop for no one. And I just want a breather to reflect, notice, and evaluate.
I’m pausing and looking forward and it’s not difficult to access my fears for my children, in the future. Do I want my child to point the phone camera at another when they make a mistake, do something silly, however innocent it may be? Do I want my child to share it on their page, because by example, I have demonstrated over the years that it’s what we do? So, I take down the video that I love, where I discover two of my kids tossing pounds of flour in the air. It’s not for me, it’s for them. And I take down the picture that I think is so cute, but because maybe my child won’t agree. I figure that though they are little, I won’t have time to stop and think along the way, so I had better chose a path now that I’ll be okay with down the line.
And, it’s not just my children that I’m thinking about- because I feel a responsibility to all our children – I need to understand the ramifications of speeding unbuckled through social media with our kids in the car, before putting my foot on the gas. After the pandemic, after the social distancing, we will be carpooling again. We will be a closer village again. And your children will be mine and mine yours, at times.
So I deleted all the stuff and I stopped sharing all the stuff because I am not a fortune teller. I don’t make decisions out of fear, but I do value a well thought plan. At the end of the day, I trust those I see in the real world to look at my cute pics and hear me tell a funny story. I’ll share that flour video in person, if my kids say it’s okay. I trust us to raise our kids. But I have gathered enough evidence to know not to trust my kids with the Internet, and for that reason, and that reason alone, I’m done.
I am back to signing on Facebook because I have things about me and my work that I want to share. But, I'm making a choice to stop sharing about my children on social media because, thankfully, for now, I live in a world where I can.