It started about six months ago.
“Are you gonna post that?” Elle asked, hands on her hips and a look of both dread and disapproval on her face, after I snapped a pic of her outside. She proceeded to beg me – nay, order me – not to post it on social media. And then she just laughed it off and I posted it, because it was so darn cute!
Now, she never really held her ground on this issue at the beginning, so I didn’t think it was that important to her. She’s a good kid and is generally compliant, but she eventually became insistent that I not post any pics of her without her approval. INSISTENT. I’m still not sure how I feel about this. On one hand, I'm the mom! I'm in charge here! (Did you hear my foot stomping?) But on the other hand, I want to respect her growing sense of self, especially as the teen years are approaching.
I want my daughter to trust me and to know that I sincerely respect her as the beautiful, amazing, unique, and growing person that she is, not as my subject. I need her to see that she can trust me on the little things, like not posting a picture of her on her bike if she doesn’t want me to, so that she will later trust me with the big things. Don’t get me wrong. Mom and dad are in charge here. But I was really moved by a phrase I saw a few months ago.
Social media is the new permanent record.
So as I watch the lives of so many children being broadcast play-by-play on the internet for all to see, I have started to really question the practice. Social media is such an amazing way to stay connected with family and get to know old friends again and to share in the joy of those that truly are or were once very dear to you. And so much of our joy is derived from our children! But I’ve also started to truly reflect on how much we share about our children and how we would feel if all of this had been shared about us so publicly. Or how our children will feel twenty years from now. I have started to realize that my daughter’s permanent record should not be mine to build. Her life story is not mine to tell.
So I have agreed, reluctantly at first, but now wholeheartedly, to get Elle's permission before I post a picture of her. Like it or don’t, everything we post paints a portrait and leaves a trail. Every post has the power to contribute a story about who we were and who we’ve become. And Elle is not on social media yet herself – we haven’t given her the key to that kingdom yet. So I still have some time to talk and talk and talk and talk to her about the power of social media, the picture you paint of yourself, and the story it can tell. And then, while I pray and rub Buddha’s belly and cross my fingers and toes that she will write a good one, I will let her tell her own story.