a matter of privacy

Last night I had an unsettling dream, not uncommon as the subconscious plays around while the body rests. In this dream someone was tweeting me and commenting on this blog (weird, I know!), the problem was that the person kept using my children’s full names, a blatant disregard for mine and their privacy. As we all know, once something is on the internet, ’tis there forever just waiting to smack you in the ass and say, “ha HA!”.

A long time ago, when I first broached the subject of blogging and tweeting, Mr and I came to the mutual agreement that I would not post any pictures of the kids’ faces or use their real names. They were, and are still, not of an age to make that decision. As their parent, it’s my duty to protect them how I see fit. Their identity is part of that. In fact, I did not post a picture of the ever adorable Miss N on my Facebook account until last June, despite maintaining an account since before she was born.*

I am sure this seems cruel to my loved ones who do not live near me, especially in an age where everyone posts every blessed detail of their life online. (At the risk of insulting anyone – ultrasound pictures creep me out. We get it, the kid is loved.) The fact is, privacy agreements are constantly changing with these social media sites. What you once thought private, may no longer be and it is really up to the individual to stay on top of it. Do strangers need to know every detail (says the blogger)? Not really. That’s why we talk on the phone with my mom and brother, use Skype and send photos.

This is not me knocking people for their own views on internet privacy. I still remember when another blogger suddenly revealed her son’s name and the fact that she had been using an alias for him. Most importantly, the reveal was at his insistence. To me, this is an ideal situation. No longer a child, he thought it through and realized he was at an age to make such a decision and I have a tremendous amount of respect for how she handled it. I also think it’s very cool when people use a “real” name for the child, instead of a nickname.

We make decisions every day meant to maintain the safety of our children, their place on the internet happens to be one of those. For now, I am only going to post pictures of the back of Miss N’s head or the Boy’s hand reaching up to snag a cookie off of a tray, because that is my comfort level with the internet. I am telling my story and they are part of it, I’m not going to reveal their narrative for them.

In doing research for a paper last semester, I discovered the issue of privacy to be one of the main contentions with “mommy-blogging” was that the narrative of the mother swept the child into it. It is true, mommy blogging is about storytelling, giving women who are in a unique (and often ignored) position the chance to use her voice. It is vital we hear the stories of women (yes, and men), so that they are not lost to the annals of time. Blogging, in its own unique way, is creating such a record of the diverse lives of the 21st century mother. As a side note, in so-called “mommy-blogging” there are limited numbers of women of colour, lgbt and adoptive mothers bloggers, if you are aware of any such blogs, sing their praises in the comments.

Just as there are many, many approaches to food, parenting, politics, religion – anything you can have an opinion on, there are multiple views on privacy. For our family, our online life is private within the crush of the public. It’s like walking quietly through a crowded market by yourself, the solitude within the many.

*Disclaimer: I did have a folder of baby pictures on my account that I deleted once FB began fiddling with their privacy settings and I felt I couldn’t trust it.

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7 thoughts on “a matter of privacy

  1. Tammi says:

    I 100% respect your decision and have toyed with this idea for a long time myself. I periodically put up and take down photos of my family and never quite find myself completely on either side of the fence. It poses an interesting dynamic for me because my photography portfolio includes clients’ photos and that is how I get business – past business results. While there is a model release form it also paints me in a bad light if I feel it is okay to post photos of children that are not mine (so long as the parents agree) but if I don’t post my own childrens’ photos then…tricky!

    • Ms. Joy says:

      I thought of you instantly when writing this post! You ARE in a very tricky situation, you have models at your disposal to bulk up your portfolio, but then… they’re your kids. I think you handle it really well, every once in a while I see a picture of one the boys but it seems to me, mostly through FB which is private. I don’t think it really paints you in a bad light, privacy is a personal matter. The fact that the internet comes into our home (which is private) but then exits into the public sphere makes it weird and we have to maintain some kind of control. We take our kids out in public and they are entitled to their privacy while out, right? Not all parents have to sign the release form if they want to keep their photos just for themselves. Miss N was (and is still) a ridiculously beautiful baby and it always disappointed photographers when we would decline the forms that allowed them to use her photo in advertisements/portfolios.

  2. SusanBytheSea (@OhSusannah63) says:

    We live in such a digital age, and a very small community within the maritime region. The other day I made a comment to another local tweeter regarding his identity, which I discovered , he seemed to want to keep private.His blog mentioned his g/f by name. his line of work so I realized he was one and the same person. He got angry, began DMing me,demanding I take off any reference to his identity in my tweets. I reminded him I got the info from his blog initially in the first place and perhaps he should be much less forthcoming with such personal details.In all honesty, I think women and especially parents/caregivers have to be more careful to protect their own families from any digital intrusion.Its a slippery slope when you’re online,because everyone’s recognizable at some point.Very good blog!

  3. Tammi says:

    It is a double edged sword 🙂
    By nature I take photos because I want to share what my eye has seen. I want to allow others to view the beauty and emotions I try to capture in those frames. Not being permitted/feeling comfortable in showing them in a sense feels like silencing a voice, the freedom of expression through a visual medium is harnessed. I guess the important question is if I stopped sharing my childrens’ images, what would happen? People would be upset, sure. But the implications of sharing them seem to outweigh the reasons to keep doing it – there are other less public ways of doing so when the intended audiences will be the sole recipients of things we wish to share.

  4. catseatsocks says:

    I’m always a bit shocked to see how many photos people put of their children up online, and without much privacy set either. I would never say anything to certain friends since I guess it’s none of my business. I do know some friends and family who make a point to not put a lot about their kids out there. I think it’s wise for a lot of reasons. I think my kids (that I never plan to have) would be pretty embarrassed if they grew up to find out I put their whole life online without their permission. Plus there’s just the fact that you don’t know who can be looking at your stuff. I try to be careful about my own things too. I could probably be more careful.

  5. Crystal Pebbles says:

    Great post. I don’t have children, but it’s definitely something I think about when others post pictures of their kids online. Once something is online it’s available for anyone to see and share. You can’t know where it will end up or in whose hands.

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