My life is so public (you saw my birth photos yesterday, right?), my friends don’t even bother calling me anymore.
Many of us at Kveller admit to oversharing and I’ve definitely done my fair share of it, both here and on Twitter/Facebook. I post pictures of our family and my status updates reflect funny things my husband says or anecdotes about parenthood. If you are friends with me you probably know we have a taco party once a week and that my 2-year-old put his mouth on the rim of our toilet last week. When I typed that status I didn’t think to myself, “Will this embarrass him in 10 years?” But a recent article in The Wall Street Journal made me wonder if sharing details about my family on the internet could be a problem later in life, or even a threat to our safety.
The author has chosen to keep his 3-month-old baby “Facebook-Free” and refrained from posting anything about him on the site claiming, “I just want him to inherit a decision… If he takes part in social media, he’ll eventually do so on his own terms, not mine.” The article goes on to call this social media “oversharenting” a slippery slope and acknowledges that while motherhood can be isolating and sharing has become a coping mechanism, it warns that the long-term consequences of this digital legacy are still unknown.
My son and I were attending a PJ library story time a few months ago and afterwards, the librarian encouraged parents to sign up for PJ Library by providing the child’s name, birth date, and mailing address. I overheard a mother saying that she would not be signing up to receive the books in an effort to protect her children’s identities. She felt that if someone had ill-intentions toward the Jewish community, children in particular, obtaining a list like this would be catastrophic. My first thought was that the lady was overreacting and depriving her children from a wonderful program. But then I wondered if she had a valid point.
I understand that the Wall Street Journal article was implying our children would be embarrassed by our social media behavior, but it’s not a far stretch to also assume they could be in danger. Earlier this year after the French Jewish School shooting, I asked my husband if we should rethink our plans to send our son to Jewish preschool and that perhaps he’d be safer at a secular school. My husband immediately replied, “Absolutely not. That is exactly what anti-Jewish rhetoric would want, for us to hide and not express who we are.” It is unfathomable to me that anti-Semitism is still prevalent in today’s society, but my husband is right, we cannot hide.
We had our reservations when I first began writing for Kveller. My husband’s job keeps us far from family and our college friends are scattered around the country so we keep a family blog to update loved ones about our life and growing family–but published sharing was something entirely different. Believe it or not, I do have boundaries with my writing. I don’t disclose my family’s names in posts; don’t give any indication when we are going out of town, and when I write I always ask myself, “Is this MY story to tell?”
I am particular about who I friend on Facebook and utilize the privacy options to the best of my understanding. But despite all that, our life is very public. There are times when I contemplate quitting Facebook, not blogging, and keeping my family tucked away all to myself. I have found that my friends are less likely to call me when they can just check the computer to see what I’m up to. This frustrates me, because communication works both ways and while you may know my life in tiny snippets, I’d love to hear about you as well. But then I get the most heartfelt emails from friends, old acquaintances, and even strangers thanking me for my openness. I think about how if none of us shared our thoughts and stories on Kveller, these Jewish voices would be missed. Through my place in social media, I’ve allowed myself to be judged as a person and as a mother. My family has a virtual legacy that I do not know the long-term consequences of. But I’ve also allowed people to truly know me and share the joys, triumphs, and heartaches of becoming a family. It’s because of the latter that I continue.