I have a dilemma. As a mother of four with a social media presence and a parenting blog, I am afraid of over-sharing my children’s lives. Yet, I post pictures of my children online, and I tell stories of what parenting them is like. I stop at sharing their real names, but some of my online friends have already crossed over to personal Facebook friend-land, where I do use my children’s real names. The line between real life and online life have blurred.
I documented my third and last pregnancy from the time I was eight weeks along. I shared pictures of my growing belly week by week, and when my twins were born at 34 weeks, my online community rallied around me. Alone in my hospital bed as my too-tiny, born-too-soon twins lay in separate incubators in Neonatal Intensive Care, I relied heavily on people I’ve never met, to hold me up as I felt myself crumbling. Strangers sent me messages of support, and shared stories of their own premature infants, now grown up and thriving. Friends from all over the world whom I’d met while blogging flooded my mailbox with baby gifts and cards. I can honestly say that they may have saved my life.
However, as my first two children get older, I am feeling more conscientious of what I share. They are growing up in the era of social media, over-sharing and the “Me, Me, Me” culture. This is both exhilarating and frightening.
Exhilarating and frightening, because their entire childhood will be captured. Almost every small, silly, or momentous event in their lives will be recorded right here, on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and who-knows-what-else-in-the-future. You see, nothing is really erased when you put something out there in the digital world. You can take things down, delete frantically, or just hope that by virtue of the crushing enormity of information out there, certain things will just be buried.
When they grow up and go to college and/or apply for jobs, they will likely be Googled (that’s the faith I have in Google, it will still be around 20 years from now). Do I want their potential future boss to see them frolicking in the pool? Will employers think differently of my son if they know he had a speech delay when he was 3? Will they hold it against them if my husband and I are politically inclined one way or the other? Will they like them more because they saw that the kids were really good readers at age 5? Will they decide whether they are a good fit simply based on the fact that I blogged and occasionally dropped the F-bomb? Will they be judged in any way because of their digital footprint, most of which in their young lives they had no say over?
I don’t know.
I do know that what I have captured in words and photographs so far are cherished reminders of moments I do not want to forget. My digital scrapbook of their lives, and my experiences as a mother, their mother, is something I want them to have. This need to record their lives is as much a gift for them as it is for me.
Therein lies the dilemma – what is too much? The only way I can continue to live a digital life is to draw up limits. No revealing pictures of them in the bathtub. No potty or tantrum pictures. No humiliating or shaming them. When they are older, any stories or photographs involving them can only be shared with their permission.
I want to do my best to ensure that any digital history of them will just be a small reflection of who they are as a whole. I want to believe that everything we’re doing now, online and offline, is considered, measured, well thought out, and nothing that any of us will regret.
We will all be be judged in life. I just hope that my children won’t be because of what I did online.
Alison Lee is a former PR and marketing professional turned work-at-home mother. Alison is a freelance writer and shares stories of motherhood on her blog, Writing, Wishing. Alison lives in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with her husband and four children (two boys and boy/ girl twins). You can find Alison on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.
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