I am the last generation whose baby pictures exist in an old dusty photo album sitting on a bookshelf. Every blue moon, my mom whips out the album so she and my other relatives or friends can coo (or point and laugh) at a much smaller and shyer version of myself. I like it like this. Although embarrassing, it’s intimate and perhaps even — special.
25 years later, children are plastered all over social media. Monthly updates, baby’s “firsts”, and even delivery room pictures are shared instantly. Babies I don’t personally know fill my feed as mini IG models in “sponsored posts” for clothes, diapers, and carriers. Mothers today can build social media empires off of family-centric posts and heartfelt instagram captions. Admittedly, my favorite YouTube channel is about a vegan mom living in Maui with her three beautiful babies. I wouldn’t be the mother I am today without the inspiration of these mothers. However, I can’t help but feel like I am intruding on their personal lives. Why should I, stranger from the internet, know their child’s full name or what their first words were?
When my son was born, I started thinking deeply about privacy. It was no longer my life, but ours. Would he want to have his childhood on public display? Would he want my random old classmate from high school to know what his first words were? When he took his first steps? Or even, his name? Maybe the answer will be yes. But he isn’t even aware that he’s a human being yet, let alone what social media is. He can’t give me consent. He can’t give his say.
Knowing that what goes on the internet stays on the internet, I can’t justify sharing his baby pictures with the world. If my son someday chooses online anonymity, I want to grant him that. No amount of “likes”, comments, or convenience could allow me to take that option away from him. His identity on the internet is his to foster, not mine.
As the online world becomes ever increasingly its own social behemoth, I practice caution with what I divulge. I know can’t protect my son from everything. Chances are he won’t care that I did or didn’t post about him. Maybe he will even be disappointed that there’s not an archive to look back on later in his life. I simply hope that he will understand that I wanted him to choose. That this is my personal choice as the person who speaks on his behalf. A choice that’s understandably not for everyone. A choice that’s met with the occasional eye roll or “ok Jamakea, you’ve gone off the deep end” look. But that’s okay. Part of being a mom is accepting that you’ll look crazy sometimes. That what you think is best will be met with speculation and eye rolls. It’s part of the package.
I already have thousands of pictures of my son. Our camera rolls are bursting at the seams. I message a photo of him to someone at least daily. I mail prints to faraway aunties and grandparents. Our walls are covered with his happy little face. 25 years from now, he may not have a Facebook album to look back on but at least I will be able to embarrass him by whipping out that old dusty photo album.