The Intersection Between Social Media and Parenthood

Back in my early 20s, when the photos on my Facebook timeline ("feed" as it was known back then) started slowly morphing from bikini and beer photos to baby-in-utero sonogram photos, I started to really ponder this new world we're living in with social media, pregnancy, and parenthood. Something about the sonogram photos being posted (sometimes monthly), made me slightly uncomfortable; something about those photos, which, at one point in time, were immensely private, had become so public. I understand celebrating pregnancy, and I too, would click "like" and congratulate the person, but, as Amy Poehler says, "Good for her, not for me." 

Years later, when a real life friend (whom I haven't seen in many years) posted a photo on Facebook one random day, and the photo was of a baby she had just had, I thought to myself, "I love that she didn't post anything about this baby beforehand; I love that she kept her pregnancy off of Facebook!" To be honest, those feelings were odd for me to have, and sort of startled me. At the time, I was blogging constantly. I had blogged my entire relationship with Eric and our wedding, but I truly loved that this friend had kept her pregnancy off Facebook. So, when Eric and I found out we were expecting Weston, I made the sort of unconscious decision to keep it off Facebook. When we hit the famous three-month-mark, I emailed close friends and family, and added, "Right now, only family knows, so we're asking that it stays OFF Facebook/the Internet (I'm not even going to blog about it!), as no one from our jobs know yet, and I'm generally trying to keep everything with this pretty private. (For example, you will never ever ever see a photo of my uterus on your Facebook newsfeed.)" Interestingly enough, I didn't find any self-struggle with this, but other people in our lives bemoaned not being able to share pregnant photos of me. Uh, that's okay, thanks. In this wild world of social media, sometimes we can feel like the only ones keeping things private, however as Keri, mom to two kids (9 and 11), says, "I think I tend to err on the keep it private side... But it's tricky in today's ever changing world. I know people who post so much intimate details of their kids and pics that are so personal- I feel like it's too much. Some things should be for close friends or family only in my opinion." On the flip-side, I totally understand sharing for the sake of getting information out! Meredith, a mom to four boys (6 year old twins, 2 1/2 and 5 weeks old) simply states, "I shared my pregnancy on Facebook because it was the most effective way to share the news with my family and friends." I get that, I totally do. Lily, mom to a four year old daughter, whom shared her entire pregnancies on social media, made a point which I agree with and completely stand behind, "I share my birth story because I believe that our collective experiences in delivery not only help educate women on what it's like to give birth but can also help reduce anxiety about birth in general." 

Now, here comes the silly part. No, I didn't put anything on my Facebook or blog about being pregnant, but, as with any social media, the lines do get blurred. Toward the end of my pregnancy, I did share some on Twitter (I found a fellow gestational diabetes pregnant woman via Twitter, which really helped my peace of mind!), and did share some snippets of the nursery on Instagram, but no pregnant belly! Why was I so hesitant to share on Facebook, but shared some on other social media venues? I think it all depended on my followers. My Facebook is chock full of people all the way back to pre-school,  whereas my Twitter and Instagram are 99% people whom I don't know in real life. I just found it easier to share with them. Why was I so hesitant to share on Facebook? Here's the best explanation I have for myself: there is a Jewish tradition that one is not supposed to bring baby supplies into the house until the baby is born. For some reason, in my social media mind, this applied to Facebook. I thought, if I don't post it on Facebook, nothing bad can happen. Weird, I know, but for me, it worked. Also, the idea of posting this amazingly exciting news was pretty much the #1 thing which got me through my labor and delivery. I was elated to finally share the news, and it kept my mind busy when he was whisked away because his blood sugar was low. 

Now, as he got bigger, and I got more writing jobs pertaining to parenting, I had to make some decisions about what I would share. To be honest, I'm very open about parenting. I feel like if my words help just one other person, I would be happy forever. There were many nights, I was struggling with sleep or feeding, and another blogger's words got me through until morning. I didn't end up blogging about Weston, per se, as much as I thought I would, but I did end up writing a lot more than I thought I would on parenthood, generally. When it comes to photos, I do have boundaries. I share a good amount of photos of Weston on my Instagram, but he's always fully clothed, and I never share any photo which gives away where we live (for example, us in front of our house). On Facebook (which I do have privacy settings on), I did share his monthly photos (when he was newborn - a year old), along with probably one or two more a month. Now, I tend to just share milestone photos (a trip to the farm, 20 months old, first day of summer, etc) I don't want to annoy anyone, so I am careful and curate the photos I share to make sure they are share-worthy (not talking about editing, talking about picking one photo out of 100 to share, instead of 100). I'm not the only one who thinks this way, one of the moms I interviewed for this piece, Michelle, mother of a 9 month old son, says,  "I do sometimes hesitate to put pictures of him on Facebook more then biweekly primarily because I do not want to one of those moms that bombards everyone with 50 daily shots of their baby." And, to play Devil's advocate, as Cassandra, mom to a 2.5 year old girl states, "Sometimes oversharing can save lives. Being on social media, I've seen more children improperly buckled/seated in car seats than I'd like to admit. I've seen other moms I know comment with how dangerous this is and helped to educate the moms. "

As with anything in parenting, the topic of social media and your baby brings up a flood of emotions, varying points of views, and many different boundaries and lines parents draw. Do you only share on Facebook? Do you blog about your child? What sort of photos do you share? I am fascinated by this topic, as the world of social media is only going to grow, and as parents, it's our job to pick and choose how much of our baby's world we share on the internet. Blogger, Jordan Reid, made the decision early on to not share her children's names on her blog, though she shares photos and stories about her kids. While others, like Jessica Quirk (and myself), have no qualms about sharing names. I get it, I do. I get all of it. You are your child's number one protector, and in this crazy day and age, you want them to be as safe as possible, not just in the real world, but online too. 

So, what are your feelings on this? How much do you share? I'll be back soon with another post on social media safety and babies; are there right and wrong ways to share your child with the world on social media? What do you think? 

Ever the sociologist, I turned this question on a slew of women I know, both in real life, and from the internet, to see their feelings on it; do you identify with any of these statements? 

I used to post photos of my boys in their diapers and the bathtub but now generally avoid sharing those ones also based on safety articles I have read. I know there are creepers and pedophiles out there so I do what I can but also I know that my photos and stories of joyous children are joyous and fun to most decent people and I don’t want to avoid ever posting anything just to avoid creepers. So I found that keeping photos of clothed children in settings where I can generally control the privacy makes me feel okay with it.
— Jennifer, mom to two boys, 2 and nearly 1
Yes, I post them on my Facebook page, but not on my Instagram or Twitter accounts. Yes, I share a lot of my children’s images on Facebook. I like to call it my virtual photo album/scrapbook. Yes, all three of my boys have their own Facebook accounts that I monitor. Their settings are private and my two youngest are only friends with our relatives.
— Mary Beth, mom to three boys, 8, 11, 17
I set up a Facebook account for my six year old so I could tag him in my statuses and pictures. It is my online version of a baby book (which I never made, because well, who has time?) I plan on setting one up for the 2 year old as well.
— Allison, mom to two, 2 years and 6 years
I think parents need to be cautious. Change privacy settings to make them more stringent. Also know that if you use their name and image, than anyone can have that information. As for crossing the line, if people over share, then just don’t look or adjust the notification settings so you don’t see as much in your feed. For some people, social media is their diaries and you can’t control that.
— Maria, mom to two, 6 years, and 9 months
I do not hesitate to share images of them. However, it is well known within my family that no one is ever allowed to post images of them without my permission. I am not concerned about posting their photos as I do not worry about strangers stealing their images. I could walk down the street and take pictures of anyone any time, just as easily as I could steal one off social media.
— Cassandra, mom to two boys, 4 and 2
For me the line is crossed when public shaming is involved. Using social media to humiliate or “teach a child a lesson” especially with the intent of going viral, seems over the top and likely to cause damage to the parent/child relationship.
— Christy, mom to 5 year old daughter

Cover photo by Molly Leon Studios