Over the summer I shared the story of why I decided to take my daughter off the internet. A stranger went up to her in the park while she was with my babysitter, addressed her by name, pretended to know me, and tried to get my contact information. It FREAKED me out, and when my sitter called and told me what happened I immediately hung up and deleted every photo I had posted of her online. I’ve thought about all of this a lot since then, probably too much.
I sat down shortly after it happened and talked to Jo Piazza for her podcast Under the Influence, the episode came out today. Before we recorded I listened to her episode “The Sharenthood” which I highly recommend if you haven’t heard it. Hearing that episode sent me down a rabbit hole, and brought up many things I hadn’t quite considered. I reflected a lot, on what it all means, why I started sharing her in the first place and how I might feel about it 5, 10, 15 years from now. Here’s what I learned in the process.
What I Learned From Taking My Daughter Off The Internet
It’s not just about validation
Initially it felt like my sole reason for posting my daughter on the internet was for validation. There is truth to that, and I’m not even saying that’s a bad thing. As mothers we deserve validation, and in general I don’t think we get nearly enough of it. Pregnancy, childbirth, and becoming a mother is incredibly difficult on its own (as is just existing as a woman in society, regardless of if you have children or not). Add the judgment, pressure and expectations to be the perfect mom, to never mess up, to do it all with a smile and a wink, and it can crush you.
So yeah, posting a photo of your child and getting some validation feels good. As the weeks have gone by I realized it wasn’t just about the validation. It was about the joy. Social media is a place for many of us to share things we love, the people and places that make us happy and bring us joy. Of course my daughter is a huge source of joy and pride in my life, so it feels natural to want to share that, but at what cost?
The Illusion of Privacy on Social Media
I had Marin a few weeks before the start of the pandemic. By the time she was a month old the entire world was completely shut down. As a new mom recovering from childbirth, postpartum hemorrhage and grieving the loss of my grandmother, it was a lot. In many ways my online community felt like a safe space. We were all going through this scary and difficult time together. Those early days of motherhood are grueling and exhausting and quite frankly a blur. At the time, sharing my new baby was a way for me to feel a little less alone. It all felt innocent and harmless, until it didn’t.
I grew up without social media, many of us did. Born in the early 1980s, I didn’t have Facebook until college. There was no Instagram. The only photos and videos that exist of me as a baby and child are in dusty photo albums and old VHS tapes. As I thought about how much has changed since then, I realized how little privacy we have on social media. While it felt like I was sharing photos of my daughter with my online friends, in reality I was sharing her pictures with everyone, with strangers. For literally anyone to see, and ultimately use however they want.
Once those photos are out there I no longer have control, and that made me feel sick. I also considered how my daughter might feel knowing I posted her image online countless times without her consent? It might sound dramatic but the reality is, if I don’t protect her privacy and her image, it’s no longer mine (or hers) to control.
Admittedly I was really sad when I wiped Marin from my blog and social media. There is a part of me that misses sharing my daughter and the joy she brings. It was a different and special way to connect with many of you, but I don’t have any regrets about my decision. Honestly it has brought me a massive sense of relief. I’ve noticed that my overall anxiety on social media has decreased. I don’t really have to deal with mom shaming anymore and I no longer have the worry or stress of protecting her from strangers on the internet. I’m also more present as a mother and find myself on my phone less in general.
Of course I still take photos and videos of her, but it all just feels easier if that makes sense? When I deleted all the photos I had posted of Marin I realized how much of my content had included her in it. I’ve since found a way to move forward that feels right for me (and for her). I know this is a difficult and nuanced topic. And I anticipate it isn’t going away anytime soon. I wonder if more people (regardless of what they do for a living) will start to take their kids offline. I don’t have a perfect answer, but I do know I am happy with where I’ve landed.