I knew very early in my pregnancy I didn’t want to post any (overt) pictures of my child online the way most people do. I’m not writing this to condemn any parent because I understand firsthand parental judgment is real. If anything I’m on the other side of the screen like a glutton loving all the posts. The growing process is beautiful! Since I’m not good at calling weekly (heck, sometimes monthly) to check in on my nieces or kids of friends, social media is a way for me to know what’s going on without much effort.
I asked myself why I didn’t want to participate in posting when I so hypocritically loved looking at progess pics of framily and lost many hours to looking through the blasian baby tag on Instagram. For me, this isn’t about fear; it’s about caution. I know many people feel pressured to share their lives, especially their kids’, and I don’t know anyone talking about this. So, here I am.
Where’s the Internet Going?
I don’t know! I was watching an episode of Catfish where this woman posted a lot of pictures of herself as a teenager on Myspace. Her images have become one of the most popular used to catfish people today, still some 16 years later. I doubt any of us on Myspace at the time imagined something like this would happen. I can’t fathom what will happen in 5 or 10 years, but I do know I want my son to make a conscious choice about if he wants his pictures to be public. (Though to clarify, I do post vague pictures of him, no face, and I send overt ones privately to framily.)
I love the insta feeling of being able to access information, but it feels too easy at times. Our society has grown accustomed to feeling entitled to knowing what’s going on in people’s lives in real time. If it’s not posted, some may feel personally victimized.
I still somewhat feel like I “owe” it to people who follow me on Instagram and those that are friends on Facebook (regardless of closeness) to post what he looks like, but with all motherhood decisions, I’m realizing a child’s true needs trumps everyone’s entitlement, innocent and especially malevolent.
I came across an article of a 13 year old who was finally able to sign up for social media. She realized she already had an identity online because her mother and sister were sharing things about her since she was born. To her, her online presence was already shaped by her family’s perspective. She felt her privacy had been invaded in some way because she never consented, especially to certain moments she felt was private (and embarrassing). The teen decided not to start any social media accounts and her mom and sis had to start asking for her permission before posting about her.
Another teen also found his family’s sharing offputting. He felt he was already digitalized and could be found through facial recognition software one day once technology of this kind was more normalized, which he didn’t appreciate. There were recent rumors the 10 year challenge was a way for algorithms to learn how to recognize people over time. Conversely, some teens didn’t mind their family sharing things about them at all because it already felt normal to.
The article made me wonder if it was unfair of me to start a digital identity of Z without him understanding what it means. Honestly, tech is changing so fast and sometimes in such a scary way I don’t even know what it means! My gut just says it’s some irrevocable lost of privacy. He’d have no say for years of what I put up except whatever boundaries I feel are fair, but what I feel is fair is still biased no matter the well intention. Why didn’t anyone warn me how I’d overthink so many choices in parenthood?! I’m sure to someone I’m overreacting, too.
Whether we care it exists or not, attraction/looks are a big part of society. I didn’t access why at the time, but
I’ve posted pictures of my nieces because somewhere in me I want everyone to know they’re cute first and foremost. I posted them for me to feel good and show off. I wanted to say my family’s got some good visually pleasing genes. Yes, I wanted to share the happy moment and say my nieces are doing fun, smart things and they love hanging out with me the mostest, too. Agree with me via likes. It’s not like my nieces know or care how many likes and comments they get. Then I thought, “they don’t care… YET” and my heart ached a little. I just needed to look deeper and for me, bragging about looks can’t mostly be the reason to share.
Interracial: Race and Colorism
As babies, people dote on mixed kids especially over darker skinned ones. By the time they’re teens, mixed children deal with identity issues related to colorism and feeling they’re less or more of one race. These feelings are mostly projected onto kids by family and society. When I’m at home or somewhere safe, I’m not thinking about my race or sex or any of my socially constructed identities. I’m not implying I can save my child from how society will interact with him racially or otherwise by not putting him on social media – I get racially specific comments in real life – but I can prepare him for that next level animal.
A family member of mine has already discussed how they hoped my child would have the father’s color (he’s a tanned skinned filipino if you missed it). At first I thought I was enraged that my dark skin was seen as undesirable by my own family member who’s just slightly lighter than me, but instead I felt deeply saddened that anyone cared more about the color of my child’s skin than if he was healthy.
I began to see how deep racism and colorism is that people will ask for a picture to assess my child’s looks and skin color over asking how he’s doing. This breaks my heart so indescribably deep. Colorism in Jamaica was always obvious to me as a dark skinned child. Skin bleaching was and is still normal, even in the Philippines, too. Someone from his side has mentioned it being a good thing Z is fair skinned. I was mad about it, but ultimately I feel sad non whites have such unchallenged and/or unconscious dislike and hatred of their own skin color they’d say such self hate, colonistic things.
I want Z to learn how to love everything about himself before the world starts projecting confusion and hatred about his identities onto him. Self validation is first.
So, Not Even One Pic?
Understandably there’s innocent and unchecked biased curiosity about how much my child will favor me and/or my partner. I’ve been excited to see since the beginning, but it’s not some absolutely need to know knowledge for anyone. Z is healthy and at this point in his life, that’s all that should matter. Cheeno and I get the urge to publicly gush everyday, but just because we think/feel/know it’s adorable, cute, smart, or funny isn’t enough to post a thing. So, no, no overt pictures. Take it from my biased self, he’s beautiful ;).