I’m a social media addict. I spend so much time looking at my laptop, iPad and phone that my eyes are throbbing even as a type this. I have been known to react with the same level of panic when my phone battery is at 20 percent that I do when there’s a severe weather warning in effect (either way, get me some spare batteries STAT). Besides the fact that I make my livelihood online, scrolling through my Facebook feed and posting status updates about how my 3-year-old twins are taking to potty training or loving the pool this summer is how I stay connected with those I love, even from afar.
As parents, we’ve gotten so used to using social media to share images of our kids with friends and family that we don’t even think twice before we hit that “post” button.
But there’s one place where I’m drawing the line: photos with naked hinies.
The other day my boys were having a splashing good time in the tub when I snapped a photo of them that was so adorable it looked like it was taken by a professional photographer instead of a woman who has never taken a selfie that didn’t feature a triple chin. My boys were laying belly-down in the tub with giant grins on their faces and their entire bodies coated in bubbles except for their adorable little tushes, which stuck out of the foam like pale islands. It’s the kind of picture that captures the joy of childhood in a single image, one that you look at and know instantly it’s a keeper.
I pulled the photo over to Facebook, added a couple cute hashtags and briefly fantasized about the image going viral and perhaps maybe, just maybe, getting to meet Ellen because of it.
But right as my finger hovered over the post button I, suddenly remembered a picture from my own childhood. I realized that if I posted this bathtub image, I’d be making a huge mistake as a parent.
I was, without a doubt, an awkward kid. All of my school pictures from grades four through seven are mortifying to look at now; but the one from fifth grade is particularly cringeworthy. My perfectly round and now horribly unfashionable glasses cut deep grooves into my chipmunk cheeks, my forehead is already showing the beginning stages of what will prove to be a particularly stubborn case of cystic acne, and if that isn’t bad enough, my hair is both frosted and feathered. Oh, and I’m wearing a Catholic school uniform.
I loathe this photo of myself. My mother kept it in a photo album with all the others where she would pull it out and show it off to my friends and boyfriends as I grew up. I was mortified every time the picture reappeared, but consoled myself with the thought that even though they laughed hysterically when they saw it, only a few people on earth had seen the picture.
That is, until a couple years ago, when in honor of my birthday, my mom posted it online, along with her happy birthday message. I’m sure she thought the picture was cute because I’ve changed so much since it was taken, but for me that photo was a reflection of all my adolescent insecurities, captured for the world to see.
When I think about that photo I feel like I am once again that girl who’s so uncomfortable in her own skin, and while I wouldn’t mind having the chance to go back to age 11 and do some things differently, I never want to feel like that girl again. I hid the photo from my timeline, asked my mom to untag me and explained how the picture made me feel. She apologized and took it down immediately, but the sick feeling in my stomach comes back even as I think about it.
As I sat there about to bare my kids’ bare bottoms for all of my Facebook friends to see, it occurred to me that this photo could be for them what that school picture was for me: an image that seems innocuous or even precious to an outsider, but causes them pain, or worse, shame (not to mention the potential — albeit slim — chance for pedophiles to get a hold of it).
They’re so young now that it’s easy for me to forget they won’t always be, and when they’re old enough to Google themselves (or even worse, if a bully Googles them), I don’t want them to find images of themselves that could embarrass them. I always planned on asking for their consent before posting stories about them or pictures of them once they’re old enough to understand what the internet is, but it hadn’t occurred to me before that, until they reach that point, it’s my job as a parent to give or deny consent for them, and that what’s best for them might not always line up with my silly goals of getting as many likes and comments as possible.
I deleted the post without ever actually posting it, and emailed the picture to myself with the subject line, “To print for photo albums.” Maybe one day I’ll actually get around to filling those albums with pictures, and I can embarrass my kids in front of their future romantic interests the old-fashioned way, by handing them a heavy book full of snapshots.
This way, if any of the images truly bother my boys, we can get rid of them without having exposed them to the entire world via the internet. What’s more likely is that I’ll never get around to printing the picture out and no one will ever see it. But maybe that’s the way it should be.
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