I don’t generally post photographs of my children on social media or other publicly visible web sites and services. I have been asked why I do not (not many times, it’s not that urgent). However, the question got me thinking about it. So here is an offering in the public domain; make of it what you will.
I write about me; perhaps the only topic I feel comfortable writing about. I have always assumed the people that ‘follow’, connect, friend, subscribe, whatever me are vaguely interested in me, what I might think, and what I might say. I am a parent and I occasionally write about my experience as a parent. Avid readers will note that I do not journal my children’s activity, I try to talk about me and my being a part of it. Being a parent is a crucial part of my life and occupies a great deal of my time. Much of what I do ultimately goes to helping my family.
However, being a parent does not complete me. There, I’ve said it. If I was only a parent, I think I would be quite miserable. Besides being a parent, I also identify as:
- Company Director
- School Governor
- STEM Ambassador
- Video Game Player
- Armchair Philosopher
I want my children to know that Dad is all of those things. They are all roles, identities and responsibilities that put me in very interesting places, with interesting people, and doing amazing things. When my children finally emerge onto social media, I think I might want them reading about my antics from a new perspective. Imagine if they mainly saw photographs of themselves. I hope they might wonder what I was doing and/or thinking at the time; the approach I take means they will.
On the matter of editorial, I also like to exercise some discretion over what appears. I understand that most of my existence is vapid and mundane. A lot of what I might share is probably nonsensical – but I do my utmost to tease out the most interesting bits. As to my success, I’ll leave that in the careful hands on those that read it. There’s likely a reason you never sent a copy of each photograph you ever took in the good old days to everyone you knew. The arrival of Facebook et al did not solve a problem you had.
I was recently discussing the benefits of being young before existence was shared on Facebook (amongst other services). Old photographs are largely a means for parents to reimburse your antics in the past with some embarrassment today. You bring friends and potential partners home and they somehow go for the old photographs with all the subtlety of a cudgel, wielded clumsily. Parents can barely contain the chuckles before they have located the box/bag/folder of photographs from behind the dusty ‘spare change box’ at the back of the cupboard. You endure the spectacle and then the photographs are returned to the hovel, steadily gathering dust until the next time.
Forget the dusty cupboard. Childhood now is the focus of some parents ‘timeline’. Every cute, embarrassing, nonsensical, entirely normal, forgettable event is thrown up. When you try to not do it for a while, someone you tagged one time will share the memory when prompted. The modern parent has the family photo album perpetually out on the figurative coffee table, on display, dated and annotated. If you post enough, the social media services will produce a cheesy best-of video too. It is the coffee table and television with the DVD playing.
I had the opportunity to make a first impression. I do not carry my childhood in photographs around with me. I thought I might let my children do the same thing; they can decide what they share about themselves. Being a young person online today is really hard. Despite all the modern conveniences; it brings about myriad opportunities to destroy self-confidence and esteem. When they mess it up, as young people invariably do, the event is announced so quickly it creates massive anxiety.
If I am acting way over the top my approach at least has the benefit of doing no harm.
So what, then?
I take photographs, I use cloud services and share them when asked with those that happen to be interested and whom I know. The collection is default private. I try to limit the spread of my photographs on the world wide web at large.
When the children finally bring a special friend or partner home, I’ll project the old photographs onto the living room wall in UltraMega HD. I won’t record a video of it.