As I write this, we are at the 21 week mark of our pregnancy – meaning we are halfway there! We’ve announced that we’re pregnant to our families, close friends and on social media and my blog and then we announced the gender – we’re having a precious little girl! But as far as baby announcements go, that will be the extent except for to announce that she’s been born. Honestly, I probably wouldn’t have mentioned it at all but you see…pregnancy is a little bit of a physically obvious thing and so it kinda needed to be acknowledged. And then I found that when we got past the first trimester and were announcing our news, I felt an overwhelming sense of pride for what I had accomplished given all that we had gone through to get there. For more info on that story, see this blog post. And so I shared our story and I’m so glad that I did! But beyond that, Adam and I both share a core value in protecting the privacy of our children, ESPECIALLY online. And so, while I’m sure this is surprising given the day and age in which we live, we won’t be publicly sharing her name or any pictures of her.
I don’t feel the need to defend our decision and have so far simply responded, “okay” to people who hear that we are doing this and say, “I’ll believe it when I see it!” So, while I don’t feel the need to defend it, I do think our reasons might be interesting to you – or there may be others who have not had children yet and are wondering if they’ll want to put them online when the time comes. If that’s you and you’re reading this, I actually hope this posts helps you in making the decision to keep your kids offline. If you’re reading this for the “spilling the tea” effect, that’s okay too. And, lastly, if you’re reading this and you do choose to post your kids online – this should go without saying, but clearly I’m not preaching to you. My decisions shouldn’t translate as an attack on yours. If you feel a sting in any of my words, it’s not because I intentionally stung you. This just happens to be my personal beliefs, life experiences and desires as I enter into motherhood. It’s okay if that doesn’t align with your beliefs, experiences and desires.
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So let’s get right into it. Here are the top 5 reasons why we are not sharing baby’s name or any pictures of her online:
There have been many years of my life that have been more public than the average Joe. I served as a politician once upon a time and during those years, all of a sudden nothing was off limits to strangers everywhere. To an extent, that’s to be expected. I put myself in that position and the scrutiny and opinions that come along with it were something I signed myself up for. On the other hand, I experienced higher than average harassment and abuse. It’s most likely due to the fact that I was young and a woman (I won at the age of 26 and people are just psychologically willing to say things to a woman that they would simply never say to a man in a suit), or it could be due to the fact that I was outspoken and went against the “good old boys club” – but whatever the case, those were not fun years for me. I was submitted to a LOT. And it will be over my dead body before our beautiful little girl has to face any of the nasty, uncivilized and out of control behavior that occurs on the internet until she is at the age where she can make her own decisions to put the aspects of her life online that she wishes to share. She’s obviously too young to know what’s being said right now, but why put her in a position to be anyone’s target? For some reason, my life became fascinating to a lot of people and even though I’ve been out of politics for several years now, I still find that my name is in those same people’s tired mouths and I still appear on their same tired political blogs. And I can’t stomach the multitude of people who took issue with me having access to my daughter. All of that to say…even if I had never run for office and never experienced the things that I did, this would still be my decision. This is an important component of why, but the following reasons carry heavier weight.
I decided to start blogging because I loved following other bloggers and the things they created looked like so much fun. But it’s impossible to follow people on social media and not see the hate/shade that even they get just as “influencers” (a word I hate but will use here). It’s astounding what people on the internet will say to a complete stranger. I’ve seen some stuff that I would categorize as, “Yikes, that’s awkward,” to “That person crossed a boundary,” to “That’s straight up bizarre behavior.” But regardless of the thing the person was saying, what struck me the most was that level 10 creep factor of how closely that person was watching this blogger’s life. Like I said, I enjoy following bloggers just as much as the next guy but when people follow a blogger and get so invested in their life that they notice if a child isn’t shown on camera a lot one day and ask, “We haven’t we seen little so-and-so today, are they sick?!” – I’m smooooth creeped out. That’s invested. It makes me feel very uncomfortable with the idea that someone is watching these people’s lives so intently that they not only expect access to their children on a daily basis but would be audacious enough to demand it even if under the guise of concern like “are they sick.” That’s a huge NOPE. And then, of course, you had to have known this was going to be part of my argument – and it goes hand in hand with how much people think they deserve to have their opinion heard in your life – the mom shaming. Oh my goodness the mom shaming I have seen happen to bloggers over the years is outrageous. Opinions on vitamins, opinions on breastfeeding, opinions on medicine, opinions on education, opinions on anything under the sun. Unsolicited, unfounded, uneducated most of the time, uncouth…opinions. And uh, here’s the deal….I’ll be danged, Karen.
Now that we’ve covered the well-meaning bloggers who deal with the negative consequences of life online, let’s cover the shameless ones because they’re a big reason why I believe in the privacy of children. And by the way, let this not be about bloggers but women on social media in general. I truly believe a lot of women who share their kids online do it purely and genuinely, albeit a little naively. But then there are the ones, and I KNOW you know what I’m talking about, who exploit their children for likes, shares, attention, validation, etc. Even fame for goodness sake. And it is deeply unsettling to me to watch that happen. People who create entire Instagram accounts for their babies/children…YIKES. The toddlers on Tik Tok/Instagram Reels/Youtube that do scripted videos are funny to most people and absolutely CRINGEY to me. Double yikes. You’re submitting your child to the plethora of horrible things that happen online because…it makes you feel validated? You like the attention and likes? You can make money off of them? All of the above? In short: I hate it. And it’s a model of parenthood that makes me want to go running and screaming in the opposite direction. In the not-so-distant future, I expect to see a lot of psychology studies done on children who constantly had iPhones in their faces, filming and capturing their daily lives.
Let’s now change the focus from public figures and bloggers/influencers in the public eye to average, every day people. Take for instance, the good ol’ Facebook. When you scroll Facebook, what do you see? Political rants no doubt, news stories being re-shared, pictures of people’s travels, foodie pics, etc. But the number one thing you probably see? People’s kids. In a digital age where social media has turned into the primary place where people do their living and interacting rather than in the real world, it has become a norm to share every moment of kids’ lives. A couple meets, they post cute pictures of themselves, they share where they travel, date nights and holidays, their engagement photos, their wedding photos, their first home, their new dog…and then along comes baby, right? And they share pictures of baby – or babies. Seems normal enough when everything else has gone online. But the difference is that up until then, the pictures being shared were of people who had autonomy over the choice to be in those pictures. A baby has no autonomy. Neither does a child. They’re at the mercy of whoever it is constantly snapping pictures of them and sharing them with the world. You might think, well I’m just sharing them on Facebook for friends and family to see. Seems innocent, right? But I would disagree. I, like most people, have over 1,000 Facebook friends. I’ve moved a lot, I’ve been in a lot of social circles and just over time this number has grown – I mean, I’m 31 and had Facebook when it first came out so it’s just built up acquaintances over time. I actually went through a few years ago and deleted over 800 but the number is still so high. That’s no longer just friends and family. It’s people I don’t even know with issues I’m not aware of. And while I put MY life on Facebook and clearly don’t care that anyone is watching it, the thought of someone not currently in my circle just lurking in the Facebook shadows and looking at pictures of my KIDS?! Nah nah nah. I think you give people way too much credit when you assume that sharing pictures of your kids is innocent. Again, not attacking those who do, just explaining why I won’t. Now…let’s go through the litany of things that people – to my incredulous surprise – think is normal to share on Facebook. I’m talking about the things that our parents definitely took pictures of us doing in the 80’s and 90’s, but that stayed in family photo albums on dusty shelves – not broadcasted to thousands of people, mostly strangers. People on Facebook post pictures of their kids potty training, naked in the bath tub, running naked through sprinklers on a hot summer day and more. Do you honestly think that if a child was cognizant of what was going on and had a choice, that they would be totally cool with their parents posting this stuff? Again, I think most people view this as innocent and they really, truly are completely ignorant of what happens with kids’ pictures online, which brings me to my final and most important reason…
If your child were in a public restroom and some creep walked in and started taking pictures of them under the stall, what would you do? Or if you found that your neighbor had been taking pictures through the fence of your child in the pool? I would imagine any parent reading that question would immediately feel their blood pressure rise and the answer would probably be that you would take immediate action, both physically and legally. So what is the difference in that scenario and the parent posting vulnerable and inappropriate pictures of their children online for anyone to copy and paste into their personal folder? Absolutely nothing – except for that the parent is the one exposing their child to harm in the latter. If you for one second underestimate the amount of creeps on the internet, I’m gonna need you to reevaluate and wisen up. Let’s not be that naive. And btw – yeah they’re on your friends list. But did you know that they don’t necessarily need to be? Did you know that there is a software that exists where someone could snap a picture of your child out in public and then use that photo to search for your child on the internet wherever pictures of them exist using biometric facial readings? Then everything you post of your child – pants down on the potty, naked in the tub and everything else – gets sent to Bobby living in his parents basement. This isn’t even a question to me. Not happening, not to my child.
At the end of the day, all 5 of those reasons could be summed up into one, really. And that is the basic belief that no one is owed access to my child. It is a humongous norm to share photos of children on the internet – I get that and despite my rantings here today, I realize I’ll probably change no one’s mind. The fact that we won’t be sharing pictures of her will seem strange to most people. We will most likely get asked more often than I’d like why we don’t show her. People might even assume there’s something wrong with her and we’re ashamed of it. I really don’t know what the assumptions will be when our Facebook friends start to notice that baby never appears in photos. And bluntly, I don’t give a rip. That someone would assume I SHOULD post her and that someone would wonder why they can’t see her…essentially, that someone would think they are owed access to her through social media…that is what I’m fighting back against here if we boiled it down to something simple. That and creeps.
She can grace you all with her beauty, intellect and amazingness when she dang well pleases. Until then, you’ll just have to wonder if she looks like an ogre and that’s why I’m not posting her LOL. In the meantime, I’ll see you on my IG feed and on this blog sans baby!
Also, just as a final note: with all that being said, you actually might catch a glimpse of her sometimes. Just, maybe a little differently. Adam and I have talked about what we’d find acceptable to post for the public and we’ve decided that, while we won’t stage pictures like this, if we happen to ever have one where she’s in the picture but her face can’t be seen (for example: she’s a newborn bundled up next to me in the hospital, one of us is carrying her and she’s faced away from the camera with a hat and coat on, etc) that we would consider sharing it since it still protects her privacy. I’m putting this here because I know if we do share something along those lines, there will inevitably be the person who goes, “BUT YOU SAID!” so…just covering the bases here haha.