Thoughtful Thursday: Public
June 25, 2009
On a related but different topic from last week’s Thoughtful Thursday about my husband’s interest in going ultra-public with our infertility, in which I crowd-sourced to solve a dilemma (still undecided, by the way)…
Oompa loompa doopity doo, I’ve got another puzzle for you. I’ve been thinking a lot about whether and how to make my children’s identities (faces and names) public on the Internet. This is something that varies incredibly widely in the ALI blogosphere, as well as in the rest of the Internet.
At one end are people like Lavender Luz and Lollipop Goldstein. They have both posted photos of themselves and their husbands on their blogs, but have purposely kept their children’s names and faces off. Both of them have written about limiting identifying information to protect the children’s privacy. They also both have discussed setting limits about revealing certain kinds of information about their children, such as stories that the kids might not want having been told when they get older and look back through blog archives. Finally, they draw lines between telling their own stories as mothers and telling things that should be the children’s stories to tell if they so choose. When I met with them in person (Lavender a few months ago and Lollipop just this evening! what a lucky girl I am!), we talked about these issues extensively, and it’s clear that they’ve both given a lot of thought to the issue.
Other people throughout the internet (as well as non-bloggers such as talking heads on TV talk shows) have expressed concern that sickos might misuse the photos of children, for their own sicko purposes or to track down and hurt the children.
I have a friend who writes the equivalent of a blog with weekly stories and photos of his child, but he sends it out as an email to friends and family. His career happens to involve working with sickos, and it’s not at all paranoid to keep his kid safe from the hundreds of sexual predators that know his name and sometimes get mad at him. But what about those of us who don’t spend our days with sickos? Is everyone else being paranoid or sensible?
At the other end of the spectrum are millions of people, including many ALI bloggers, who post information freely. One that always comes to mind is Dooce, who made history by disclosing too much on her blog (and getting fired for it) but now blogs constantly about her daughter (plus the new baby born last week) including photos and real names. She has written, video-blogged, and even talked on the Today Show about her openness with her daughter’s name and likeness — check out the Momversation on this topic; it’s very thought-provoking. It’s clear that Dooce has also given a lot of thought to this issue but has come to a different conclusion from my friends Lavender, Lollipop, and Sicko Guy. She blogs about parenting because she values the messages that parenting can be difficult and that parenting is important. Through blogging she has validated the experiences of others and helped many people (especially through her openness about being hospitalized for depression after her first daughter’s birth). In terms of privacy, she argues that the internet isn’t really any more exposed than taking her daughter out in public, and that someone who is intent on doing harm will find a way. In terms of embarrassing or revealing too much, she has said that she would stop as soon her daughter asked her to stop.
Many other people (most of whom don’t make a living blogging about their kids like Dooce does) seem to post their kids’ photos and names because they are pleased to show them to the world, and because they want to communicate about their children to loved ones and sometimes to the broader world. Most of them don’t think it’s a big deal.
Posting children’s information can take many forms, all with or without real names:
- blogging regularly about the children, including stories and photos
- including stories or photos occasionally on a blog that’s mostly about something else
- blogging stories but omitting photos
- posting photos on a photo website
- posting photos on Facebook etc.
- and so on
I know very few people who post their own photos on Facebook but refuse to post their children’s photos — almost everyone with kids includes kid pictures on Facebook. Many people even have photos of their kids as their Facebook profile photo. No big deal — until your family photo shows up on a billboard in a foreign country.
What’s a not-quite-mommy to do? And what does this have to do with infertility?
For many of the 7 years I dealt with infertility, I made grandiose plans to glorify my children’s likenesses online. For years before I considered blogging, I envisioned fabulous photo essays, interactive timelines, all sorts of cool stuff. Once blogging arrived in my consciousness, I planned elaborate blogs with stories, photos, and videos. The first blog I ever set up was actually a practice blog created during the sleepless nights of a treatment cycle. I wanted to learn the blogging software so that I’d be ready when I got pregnant, because of course the cycle would work. (That was a couple of IUIs and a couple of IVFs before the one that worked.) Because our families are spread far and wide (and nowhere near us), I thought it was important to document my children’s lives in a more systematic way than the bunches of photos every few months that many of my friends send out. Grandparents and other relatives could hear immediately about each milestone, laugh at each anecdote, and watch the kids grow.
Then I started this blog, and I kept not getting closer to becoming a mother, and that blog became a distant memory. Writing here for almost a year has also changed the way I think about blogging — interacting with readers, fostering relationships, combining style and substance.
Now that I am pregnant, after all this time, I’m not sure what to do.
On this blog, I feel like I owe it to all of you to show you the babies when they arrive, at least once. But, I won’t include their names, because they’ll be too Google-able (especially in combination with each other) and would reveal my true identity. And because this is an infertility blog instead of a pregnancy blog or future parenting blog, I don’t plan to keep including photos or anecdotes, unless they pertain directly to infertility (or maybe not at all?).
What about Facebook? Unlike every other person in my generation, I’m not actually on Facebook! Partly because I haven’t wanted to hear constant updates about the pregnancies and children of acquaintances, and partly because I have limited time and energy (and I’d rather focus on the ALI community than the dude who sat next to me in geometry class). Unlike me, my husband is on Facebook, and I’m torn between keeping the photos off my husband’s profile and letting him include some kid photos like everyone else has. Is it even possible to keep their photos off Facebook entirely? One of their aunts posts all of her photos on Facebook, and unless I expressly forbid her (and everyone else who ever meets my kids and takes some snapshots), I guarantee that she’ll post their photos including tags with their names.
As for photos and names on a blog that includes my real identity, I’m torn. I do want to provide our families with photos and information, but I could do that with a password-protected blog. But other people in our lives will want to see photos too — where do I draw the line with the password? Separate passwords for each viewer, or one password that may be given out without my knowledge by proud grandparents?
Then sometimes I think I should create a real-name blog that anyone could access (but most likely, only a few people probably would). Maybe I will make such a contribution to the world of babyblogging that random people will flock to read it. It would not be linked to this blog, because it would include all of our real names and likenesses. It would not be a “mommyblog” — it would be about my children, not about my struggles as a parent. One big argument in favor of a public blog is that it would serve as an electronic baby book, including details about development, photos, and videos. I could even turn the prose and photos into a keepsake book way more detailed (and interesting) than the standard baby books. If the baby blog were private, I know that I would put far less effort into it than if it were public — I don’t want to shortchange my children on recording their early lives, but I also want to keep them safe in every way imaginable. Once again, as with last week, I truly have no idea what to do, and so I turn to you once again for help and perspective.
Do you post your children’s names and photos online (or, if you don’t have children, what have you imagined you would do)? If so, on what internet platforms do you disclose and on what platforms are you secretive? Why? Has your ALI blog made a difference in your decision?