It took me a long time to admit it, but I’m the person everyone has been talking about. I’m the person who uses Facebook as a world-wide picture sharing site, a 21st century baby brag book. It’s me; I’ve “ruined” Facebook for the cool kids.
I wasn’t always this type of person. In fact, before I turned into me, I used to hate people like me. You know the people I’m talking about: the kind of people who post funny things their kids say (or things they think are funny), share anecdotes from playdates, or statistics from doctors’ visits; the kind of people who (gasp) use their kids as their profile picture. You’re not your child, I would silently fume as I would see yet another one of my friends fall victim to the rampant child-picture-appropriation on Facebook. Your child is not your identity! Your role as a parent doesn’t solely define you! I would swear that I would be different–I would still be ME (as signified by the oh-so-telling Facebook Profile Picture). And yet, as soon as my baby was born and was big enough to wear a hat with ears–bam, he was my profile picture. I mean, come on, how could I resist? He was wearing a hat. With ears!
So how, after consciously trying not to, did I turn into this person?
When you have a child, it’s hard not to let your new identity as a mother take over your previous identity as a person. But as a stay-at-home mom, it’s even harder to maintain a persona and life of your own. Not only is being a mother who you are, it’s what you do. All day, every day. This is not to deride mothers who work outside the home at all. AT ALL. But when you leave your kids and shake off mommy mantle, even if it’s just for a few hours, you maintain a separate part of yourself. As a stay-at-home mom, I am immersed in motherhood with very little escape.
I don’t have co-workers. I don’t have a boss (except for my 4-year-old–ugh, I hate myself for making that joke). I don’t have challenges and assignments and goals and meetings. What I have are playdates and art projects and books and park visits. So I document them. And I share.
Am I worried about privacy? Of course I am. I know pictures last forever online. I know privacy settings mean nothing. So I make sure not to share anything inappropriate like naked pictures or penis stories (and like most mothers of boys, I have some hilarious ones). I don’t post our address, tag us where we are while we’re there, or write about a vacation until after we’re home.
If I’m worried about privacy, why do I bother sharing? I share my pictures because, like every mother on the planet, I think my kids are adorable (no, but really mine *are* adorable). I share because, as pathetic as this sounds, the attention is validation of sorts. I can’t get A’s anymore–and forget about being recognized for my achievements (like getting my son to pee before leaving the house–why is this so hard?!) So what do I have? “Likes” and comments about how cute my kids are.
I share because my pictures tell stories about our daily lives and our adventures. I share because my pictures create a dialogue with other people. My friends and family live all over the country; I love seeing pictures of my nephews and of friends’ kids since I rarely get to see them in person. The pictures allow me to watch them grow up, even if it’s only online.
And perhaps the biggest answer is that I share pictures of my kids because spending time with them is what I’m doing with my life. When I was in my 20s, I went out a lot, getting drunk and stupid with friends. If Facebook had been around then, those drunken, dancing, ridiculous party pictures are the ones that would litter my page. (Dear Lord and Mark Zuckerberg, I will forever be grateful that Facebook was not around when I was in my 20s). Now, instead of posting pictures from clubs, vacations, and brunches, I post pictures from the playground because that’s where I am. It’s not always the most exciting life, but it’s my life and I’m happy to have a platform to share it.