My daughter, Eleanor, just turned 5 months old a couple of weeks ago. You wouldn’t know it by looking at my Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accounts, though. Same if you looked at my wife’s accounts.
In her nearly half a year of life, exactly three photos of Eleanor have been posted on Facebook – one of just her hand the day she was born and two family photos, all posted by me. That’s it. And it’ll probably be a while before I post another one.
It’s not because I haven’t been taking any photos. Believe me, I have, and have the dwindling phone memory to prove it.
And it’s not because I don’t want to show her off. Man, do I want to show her off. She’s beautiful and observant and has the most amazing facial expressions and the most ridiculous hair that goes from blond to dark brown midway down the back of her head, like she decided to bleach the business half of her mullet.
My wife and I are not posting millions of photos of Eleanor online because, in short, we think it’s unfair to her. She should be able to make decisions about the parts of her life that show up online. We may think it would be fun to post a photo of her latest poop-splosion — and, boy, there are a lot of those — but it probably won’t be fun for her when a high school friend finds it on Facebook 15 years from now.
I joined Facebook when I entered UNC Chapel Hill in the fall of 2005. I may have been a dumb 18-year-old, but I was (technically) an adult and (in theory) capable of making smart decisions about what I put online. I made a choice to put unflattering party photos and emo blogs on the internet, and I can live with that.
I want to give Eleanor the same courtesy, the ability to choose what she wants to put online, still knowing that she’ll make mistakes along the way.
Enforcing this rule has led to some awkward moments. I’ve had to tell parents to take down photos — never a fun conversation with proud grandparents. But this is something that my wife and I decided we wanted to do long before Eleanor was born, and it’s important to us that her photo isn’t plastered all over the internet. And, for the most part, our family and friends have been supportive and understanding of it.
We do share photos with close friends and family through a private social photo app called Cluster, where we’ve posted nearly 300 photos and videos. I want those closest to us to see her funny moments and messy moments, to see her laugh and see her gag the first time we tried to feed her real food.
Everyone else seeing that stuff? Well, that’s up to her.
There’s this picture of my sister and me that has become a part of family lore. I’m probably 7 or 8, my sister 2 or 3. We’re camping at the beach, like we did every summer growing up, and I’m sitting on one chair with my legs crossed tightly, playing a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles handheld video game. My sister is sitting beside me with a bucket on her head.
It’s the perfect photo to describe the two of us and it always makes us laugh. I love it. I would show it to you, but I don’t have a digital copy, and it’s not posted anywhere online (that I know of). As much as I’d like to show you, I’m kind of glad I can’t. Some things are better cherished in private.