Last summer, I went to my college reunion. It was great to see old friends and catch up. We talked about what we were all up to, work life, family life. But there was one question I was asked the most. One question that was completely surprising to me. That question was: do you have children? And I thought: yes, I have children!
Why do you assume that I don’t?
The answer was simple, each and every time: because I don’t see any kids on your social media page.
Setting aside the Jennifer Aniston-ness of it all (you’re a woman, you should have children by this age), it made me realize something: I’m an aberration because I don’t put my children on social media.
This isn’t an accident. I’ve made a concerted effort to keep my kids off social media, and no one at my college reunion could understand it. Lots of my friends can’t understand it, either, as they struggle to “tag” cute pictures of my kids on their own feeds.
They’re too young to make a decision like that, and they’re too young to understand the ramifications of it.
But the way I see it is this: my kids are little. They’re, um, children. They will be turning 5 and 7 this summer. They’re not ready to understand the wide expanse of the internet just yet. They don’t understand its reach. Its permanence. So, I don’t put them on it.
They haven’t chosen to go on social media. They’re too young to make a decision like that, and they’re too young to understand the ramifications of it. I don’t want their image plastered all over the internet without their consent. I don’t think it’s safe. And I don’t think it’s necessary.
As for me, I’m an adult. I choose to be on social media. I do it for a million different reasons: as a writer, it’s a great way to connect with readers. It is a great resource for breaking news and varied opinions on what’s going on in the world. Of course, it’s also totally addictive and just plain fun so good luck getting me to now upgrade the apps when it's time.
In the blink of an eye, they’ll be 10, 13 and then 18. Old enough to make their own choices about how they make their way in the world.
But my kids are another story entirely. In the blink of an eye, they’ll be 10, 13 and then 18. Old enough to make their own choices about how they make their way in the world. When they discover the internet, I don’t want there to be a massive fingerprint of their lives up until that point. Pictures that may embarrass them, pictures that were personal, pictures that they might not want seen for any number of reasons. When they go on the internet, it will be their decision what they post and what they keep private.
Social media has far reaching implications—their future employers will be searching for their online presence. I don’t want the first image HR departments see of my sons to be super-adorable bath pictures (even if their private parts are obscured by the bubbles) or pictures of them with food all over their faces (although, seriously, how cute are the food-all-over-face pics?). Things that are utterly delightful now? Well, they might not be seen in the same light when my kids get older.
So, when you go onto my social media pages, you won’t see pictures of my kids. You’ll see pictures of me, pictures of friends and pictures of the things I’m obsessed with. Eventually, when my kids get older, you may even see pictures of them.
But only if they've made it clear they want to be.