There are pros and cons to this policy.
Pro: The smugness of privacy
It always felt to me that people who really value their privacy are very important and also have a huge amount of self-control. Like the really cool celebrities. Or people who don’t even have Facebook. Oh man, I wish I could be one of those people.
Instead, I periodically pretend like I don’t have Facebook, feel like a million bucks for a week, then cave like that scene in “Flight” and binge on my newsfeed for a few hours. I am not important, and I constantly overshare. I have almost posted baby pictures a few times, but the thing that stopped me, more than my husband’s insistence and my own fear of his image being misappropriated, is the delicious smugness I feel. I think Buster said it best:
She gets off on being withholding.
Con: What’s the use of feeling smug if people don’t even know how cute he is?
Beyoncé probably feels great about people not seeing pictures of Blue Ivy because everybody knows about Blue Ivy. If nobody knows about my baby, there’s no way for them to be impressed that I haven’t posted pictures of him.
This reminds me of when I started college. I sent a lot of e-mails to my close high school friends, detailing all the new friends I was making and experiences I was having. I was obsessive about communicating the minutiae of my college experience because I felt like if my old friends didn’t know about it, it didn’t happen. Now this is true on a much larger scale. If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to Instagram it, did it really happen?
I also feel this way about sunsets and times when my dog and cat snuggle and things I bake. Of course sunsets and animal snuggles and baked goods exist, but all of those things, like this time in my baby’s life, are ephemeral. Isn’t this why we’ve been photographing things since the camera was invented? To hold on to moments even as they slip through our fingers?
That’s a bit of a reach. Maybe it’s just that I want to share the nice moments with my network because there are so many not nice moments, especially in parenthood. Or maybe it’s because I’m super self-involved and my baby is just an extension of myself. Who knows!
Pro: Nobody from the Internet will appropriate pictures of my precious infant to make me look like an idiot.
This is a real and personal issue for me, as I made the grievous error of being a blogger and writing about pregnancy and money. Turns out, many people don’t like what I have to say. And some have decided to illustrate their distaste by stealing pictures of me and writing not so nice things.
In fact, a tabloid found a piece I’d written and decided to write something about me. To illustrate it, they used Facebook pictures of me, my husband, and my dog (taken from my husband’s account). I was wearing a silly hat in one of them. In another, I’m grimacing and petting my dog’s belly.
Using images of me and my husband is bad enough, but my beagle? That is especially low. She already has emotional problems, she doesn’t need this on top of it. Now, granted, my husband’s Facebook privacy settings were pretty weak, and we’ve remedied that since, but the whole situation spooked me good. So, not posting pictures of my baby on Facebook means no Internet strangers can use his image against me. This is the world we live in.
Con: It is less easy for people to see how cute my baby is.
He is very cute! But nobody knows. Refusing to post pictures of him on the Internet means I am forgoing the dozens of likes and comments and accompanying surges of validation and satisfaction that I have come to expect with major life moments.
It’s not even that my close friends can’t see him, I still allow myself to text pictures to close friends and family. It’s the peripheral acquaintances, the people I went to high school with, guys I had crushes on in college. They are my real concern. They will never see how cute my baby is, and thus will never know how great I’m doing and how happy I am. Can I live with that?
This, of course, touches on the issue of cultivating our online personas, only revealing the good and hiding the everyday struggles. But whatever, when other people post smiley baby pictures it makes me want to post them too. Forget about the fact that I am still 35 pounds overweight, that’s not part of my image. My personal brand does not include the revelation I had last night that the biggest challenge of new parenthood is not murdering your own baby when he won’t stop crying. Facebook is for happy times. Cute outfits and first smiles and those chubby arms with the rubber-band wrists. If I don’t post cute pictures of my baby on Facebook, that means I have to rely on myself to be impressive. I have to look good and accomplish things in my career and that is hard. At the very least, I have to make jokes in my status updates, without accompanying photographs. As if I don’t have enough going on.
Pro: There are other ways
The night my son was born, my husband, in a terrified, sleep-deprived haze, spent hours looking for an app we could use to share baby pictures with family and friends. We use 23snaps; it doesn’t let other users copy your pictures or use them on other platforms. And it almost feels like we have freed ourselves from the shackles of Facebook, at least a tiny bit. And it feels less like we are forcing baby pictures down people’s throats and more like we’re sharing with people who actually give a crap, which is nice.
Look, I’m certainly not saying this is how every new parent should behave. I’m not even sure how long I’ll last. If it makes you happy, post pictures of your kids wherever you damn well please. This is America. But I will say one thing. Two days ago, we took our seven-week-old son to the beach for the first time. We let our dog off her leash and my husband carried the baby snug on his chest. We smelled the ocean and felt the sand under our shoes and we forgot to take pictures, which initially sent me into a small panic. My baby’s first time at the beach and there is no record of it! Was it reckless of me to not have documented this fleeting bliss? But maybe part of being a parent and the growing up that comes with that will be the ability to just enjoy a moment of peace and happiness with my family, even if the Internet doesn’t know about it.