It all started when I showed my three-year-old daughter pictures on Facebook of other kids enjoying snow days. She turned to me in a serious tone and said, “Mama, is that Facebook?” I was surprised by the question; I didn’t know she knew what Facebook was. “Yes,” I responded, not sure where she would go next. She contemplated this for a moment and then asked, “Am I on Facebook?” “Yes,” I said, not thinking much of it and showed her some pictures of her playing in snow, cuddling with our puppy, with Elsa—the usual things people post. She looked at me again then and said, “I don’t want to be on Facebook.”
I am really not sure where this conversation came from. I’m not sure if this was something they discussed at school or that she deduced on her own. But it ignited a lot of emotions and questions for me. I started to feel guilty—for how long was I doing things without her consent? And were there other things I was doing she hadn’t consented to? I am an evolving Montessorian (I say evolving because I am new to the Montessori world but it deeply aligns with my core values) and respect is big for me, so this brought up a lot of emotions and guilt. Was I not practicing what I preach with regard to respecting my daughter as her own person?
It also brought up the question of intentions. Why was I posting her pictures on social media? Was it to share with friends and family innocently? Or was the intention more “sinister”—was I exploiting her for more likes? Compromising my child for internet popularity? Or was I reading into this whole thing too much? I am a self proclaimed over-analyzer and as my dad often says to me, “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”
Nevertheless, this whole scenario really made me think. In that moment I promised my daughter I wouldn’t post her picture anymore—but that has brought up more questions and emotions too. Sometimes there are things I really want to share and sometimes they are stories about her. So are sharing her stories okay? As a writer that is always something I grapple with. Sometimes our stories are not entirely their own. My story is also my husband’s story or my parent’s story or my sibling’s story—and now my daughter’s story. So at what point does their story end and mine begin? At what point is it OK to share things that are important for me while maintaining the privacy and integrity of those in my life?
I also felt guilt about not having a better system with my pictures. This was something I explored before but never took action on. Part of the reason I post pictures is to give them a place to live besides my phone. With a newfound commitment to minimalism and a huge proclivity toward laziness, I have not printed out pictures in years and really have no desire to. But what will happen to these pictures if they don’t go anywhere?
I posted a farewell post from my daughter on Facebook (dramatic, a bit, but I wanted to close the door on the whole thing and let friends and family know it was no longer OK to post pictures of her, per her request) and the feedback was really interesting. People ran the gamut of emotions in response. Some said good for her while others said this is just a phase.
There are times now when I want to post something to social media and for a second I get sad because I remember I can’t. But overall, I know I am being conscious and respectful of my daughter’s needs. And when I put things in perspective, it’s really not that sad.
I have absolutely no judgment for people who post pictures of their children on social media—but I wanted to raise the question because it never crossed my mind until my three-year-old brought it up.