There is a war going on online. One that pits brother
against sister, mother against daughter, friend against friend. It’s brewing in
your Facebook feeds one picture post of a chubby baby at a time. It’s a social
media civil war, or as I like to call it, the war of parental aggression.
The debate isn’t just among friends and family, it’s taken
over the whole internet. Amy
Webb argued on "Slate" that she would never name or post anything about her
daughter online to protect her future anonymity. Meanwhile, Andrew
Leonard, writing for "Salon," argued that all this doomsday talk about the
privacy of our children is hypersensitive hand-wringing.
Maybe he is right. Or maybe Amy Webb is. I don’t know. The
true test will be when our children are our age and how they handle the privacy
of their own children. I imagine, though, the results will be as varied and
complex as their parents.
Recently, I’ve been pulling back on posting pictures of my
children online. I made my Instagram private and have set up some limits on
what I say about them, especially my daughter, who is 3 now and probably
doesn’t need me telling the Internet what she said about her “bagina” to her
great-grandmother. (Although it was really hilarious.)
All over the Internet, we hear cries of “stop posting about your kids,” but when we do, parents get lauded and “liked.”
But as I’ve pulled back, I’ve been called out for it. One
acquaintance, who I bumped into at the pool this summer, “joked” that I didn’t
love my baby as much as my daughter because I hadn’t posted nearly as many
pictures of him on Facebook. “Or maybe I love him more, because I’m more aware
of privacy issues?” I said.
She snorted. “But I feel like I haven’t seen him at all.”
Two days later, in a phone call with my brother in college
he said, “All you talk about is kids now. I love you, but it has to stop.”
The true test came when I didn’t post first day of school
pictures. I didn’t realize how controversial that was until a
family member texted me saying they were sad they didn’t see any pictures, and "Salon" writer, Hayley
Kirschner, noted my refusal to do so in an article. The status update,
where I explained why I wasn’t posting a picture, (baby eating dirt, daughter
sporting giant bruise on her face and a bad attitude) got maybe 15 “likes” and
comments of dismay. Sorry, Internet. But geez, back off.
A few days later, I posted a picture of my daughter at dance
class, that picture got 50 likes in under an hour.
Now, I am confident woman. I truly believe that my
self-esteem isn’t measured in “likes” on Facebook. But that contrast made me
want to smack my head on my desk. All over the Internet, we hear cries of “stop
posting about your kids,” but when we do, parents get lauded and “liked.” So,
here is my solution to this whole mess: If you want to see fewer babies on the Internet, stop liking pictures of babies on the internet.
It’s hard to scroll past a picture of a baby (no matter how
much he looks like Gorbachev) and not hit “like.” Not doing so makes me feel
like a jerk. And yet, with each choice to click or not click, we tell Facebook
what to show us. Facebook is no dummy.
If you “Like” baby pictures on Facebook, well they are going to show you
nothing but babies until you are sick of them.
We complain a lot about the negatives of social media, but besides participating in a gratitude meme or two, we do little to actively change the landscape.
a story for "Wired," Mat Honan
discussed what happened when he liked everything he saw on social media for two
straight days. The change to his newsfeed was dramatic. His Facebook became a
cavalcade of polarizing news stories and banal business pages. The experiment
even impacted his friends’ feeds too. They reported seeing nothing but things
he liked in their own feeds. His experiment highlights how social media is truly
tailored to our whims and Likes. So, the best solution to weeding out those
annoying baby pictures and parenting posts? Ignore them. Or better yet, hide
them from your timeline.
We complain a lot about the negatives of social media, but
besides participating in a gratitude meme or two, we do little to actively
change the landscape. We’re so tied up in computer-generated relationships that
we can’t conceive of not liking our second-cousin's picture of her Weird-Al
looking toddler. But if we did, think of the freedom. So be the change you
wish to see in your feed. Or you can
just vaguely post about people irritating you. That works too.
Our social media interactions should be authentic and free
of obligation. If you don’t like my essay, well then, don’t “like” it. If you
don’t think someone should post pictures of their kids naked on the internet,
then unfriend them, block their feed or just don’t “like” it.
It’s such a simple solution, and yet could you do it?