I’m going to come right out and say it. I’ve always viewed Facebook with a little trepidation and fear. So much so that up until recently my personal profile featured a blank image, no information and a long-abandoned maiden name. That’s despite the fact I work in social media and enjoy a livelihood based on telling other people’s stories.
Personally, I was frightened of the maintenance and emotional fortitude Facebook required - the perfect images, the perfect response and the oh-so-perfect life I would need to process from others and reflect right on back to the world.
Needless to say, when our children were born, Facebook was not a place my husband and I favoured for sharing their journey. But because Facebook is convenient, accessible to relatives and so much a part of the modern world, we did discuss it at length. Ultimately, we came up with this…
As much as every milestone met by our children drew the applause of a primed camera and countless digital images, we believed these captured moments were in our possession as custodians but not ours to publicly broadcast
We mentally cast forward to their first job interview and future digital profile and worried that the currently cute photo of them crawling or dancing with innocent abandon would be readily recalled by potential employers as they considered their suitability for a serious job.
While we actively shared these moments in private with family and friends, we felt it was our children’s prerogative to decide what became public, and the time for that decision should be theirs to make later.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m as happy to like a beautiful photo of a friend’s child as the next person. I genuinely appreciate them letting me into their world and I fully respect the choice they’ve made.
But for our family, we believed our children’s identity was theirs to forge and they should be allowed to do so with life experience and knowledge at hand. When exactly?
It was an innocent conversation at a dinner party that drew my attention to the fact my children were already on Facebook, despite my best-laid plans and possibly overly-cautious approach.
“Oh, I saw so and so on that Facebook post at the weekend, and she looked like she was having so much fun,” a friend nonchalantly remarked.
I was taken aback. Not so long ago if you took a photo for a newspaper, explicit parental permission was required. But here was my child on Facebook, without my knowledge or consent.
That was the first of a series of Facebook family landmarks. Another child popped up on their sports’ social page, then one appeared in a social post at a party. And I’m left wondering if we are paranoid and just naïve.
I’m also perplexed that there are no rules for who can photograph my child, when that may occur or under what conditions it can be published on a social media platform. That’s despite the fact I’ve noted our preferences down on permission forms, trawled through school social media policy and been way too proactive to be considered cool with trusted family and friends.
So, the genie’s out of the bottle, and it turns out it was not our decision or our children’s to make. It just happened. We can only hope 15 years from now their unscripted digital profile stands them in good stead.