Last week I came across a reader question on the New York Times that gave me pause.
“Many of my friends on Facebook are having babies. Nearly every time I log on, I see (in my news feed) many pictures of these babies, almost to the point of oversharing. Now, I love babies and feel it’s acceptable to post a photo from a holiday gathering or a first picture of a newborn. But when this happens every day from a specific acquaintance, is it a violation of the baby’s privacy? The baby did not sign up for a Facebook account, does not understand the concept of Facebook and obviously was not asked permission to have its pictures on the site.”
It’s an interesting question. At what point does a child have a right to privacy and are we violating that right by sharing pictures?
During Eli’s first year, I posted one picture each week to my facebook friends. There were a few weeks where I shared two, but those were holidays etc., and I saved most of my photo dumping for twitter. Privacy-wise, Twitter is probably worse. But baby-in-your-face wise, it’s a little less intrusive since you have to click to see the pictures. When I decided to go this route, I felt like I was sparing my friends that oversharing, but in hindsight, I realize that I was sharing my child’s pictures with a much wider audience than if I had posted them to my closed Facebook page. But does this violate his privacy? And more to the point, does he, an infant, have a right to privacy?
I believe that yes, my son has a right to privacy, but I also believe that at 14 months it is my job as his mother to decide what is an appropriate amount of sharing/privacy and that it is possible to share pictures and stories without violating that right. And as an important side note, I think that the people reading also have the right to not see and hear every detail of my child’s life. (I’m talking to you, Facebook toilet story sharers.)
My line in the sand on sharing is not the same as every other mother, but I have one. We use Eli’s first name freely (it’s the 13th most popular boy’s name, I don’t think it’ll be too easy to google), but we never use his last name publicly. We take pictures of him in a diaper on occasion, but never naked. We discuss the things he’s does, but not diaper stuff or other personal info of that nature. This is arguably still oversharing, but I don’t think it’s a violation of his privacy.
There are some bloggers and some people who are active on social media who never share pictures and use pseudonyms. I understand why they go that route and respect their decision. But it just doesn’t feel right for me. It’s a hard balance because in some ways, sharing online for me is putting my needs ahead of my child’s privacy. In sharing my son with others, I get a support system that I otherwise don’t have easily available. I get help with feeding and rashes and other parenting difficulties and it comes at the cost of sharing. I realize that this reads as somewhat selfish, but the risk seems small to me.
I’ve always tried to consider whether something I share would embarrass me if the roles were reversed and so far, that system is working for me. I don’t think it’s perfect, but I think that in 10 years when my child starts googling himself, if the worst thing he finds is a picture of himself with a stuffed lion in his diaper, then I’ve done a pretty good job at striking that balance between sharing him with others without violating his privacy.
Do you think that sharing pictures on social media is a violation on privacy? What’s your limit?