Reflections on a photo removed from Instagram.

A few days ago, I posted a photo of the twins in their undies. They were coloring on the chalkboard wall in the kitchen after church, while I planned meals and made a grocery list. One of them bent down to try on my discarded shoes, when she noticed her sister had a sticker in her hair. I snapped a photo as I smiled at the two of them working together, a cooperation which promptly ended as one of them discovered it was fun to pull more than the just the sticker.

A few hours and sweet comments after I posted it, I received an email that it had been removed. I’ve seen this happening all over Instagram as of late, so when I figured out which photo it was, I wasn’t super surprised. I’m not convinced that the bare top half of a toddler is nudity, but I’m also not going to crusade for the right to post such photos of my children on such a platform. I have to be honest and say that I just don’t feel that strongly either way about it. I’ve also heard that there isn’t a team of people monitoring content on Instagram. Apparently, it’s more of a system mechanism that removes photos and deactivates accounts automatically based on users reporting them. If this is all in the name of protection, I understand. But the concept of protection carries a lot of vague weight, and I’d be lying if I said I haven’t wrestled with it.

I felt a little discouraged as I put my phone down that night. Would it have been different if my daughters had been in bathing suits? Or if they had been boys? Why are people using phrases like “exploiting” and “exposing?” Am I really putting my children at risk, clothed or unclothed, by talking about them on the Internet? What about this idea that our children are a social experiment, with a comparison of online moms to celebrity moms? And what about audience? Does it matter how many followers we have, or what kind of privacy settings we place on our accounts? Predators who want nude photos of children have full access to it outside of Instagram, as much as it pains me to type it. And these questions extend far beyond the World Wide Web. While the Internet is relatively new, protecting children from shame and over-sharing is not. There have always been photographs flashed, stories shared, pageants entered, slideshows broadcast. So what does this look like in 2014?

Because I’ve been on the Internet longer than I’ve been a mom, I’ve just been learning as I go. Isn’t that what parenting life is, anyway? I think I keep a pretty tight filter on the things I post when it comes to my kids. I want to provide an online presence that my children can look back on fondly. I don’t dish details or stories that will embarrass them. In fact, I rarely even give names when sharing. I check in frequently with my stepsons regarding social media and even show them each photo before I post it, to make sure they’re okay with it. I want photos and tweets and blog posts that empower my family, both now and in the future.

I’m a mommy blogger by default, because I write and I have children. I don’t have a business, and I’m not fashionable or creative enough to inspire people with lifestyle posts. I can’t escape the mommy blogger label, and that’s okay. But I don’t have all of the answers and I don’t do this motherhood thing perfectly; and that’s exactly why I’m staying here. The gray is where I almost always plant my flag, and this topic isn’t any different. I want to share, but I want to learn even more. I want to stay tender to change and open to dialogue. So to each one of you who has already or will share your heart with me on this in the future, I thank you. I’m glad we’re in this together.

7 thoughts on “Reflections on a photo removed from Instagram.”

  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this, Rachael. I’m not a mom, so I haven’t grappled with this yet, but I appreciate your sharing what it’s like. In my non-mom opinion, the way handle motherhood on the Internet sounds like a healthy, respectful balance.

  2. What’s sad about the Buzzfeed story is that she’s such a popular blogger and the Instagram automated system of reviewing accounts, it seems that the reason her account was flagged and deleted was not because Instagram deemed her photos inappropriate, it was because her FOLLOWERS flagged them as inappropriate. She takes beautiful photos. So sad that others would allow their jealousy to take away her family’s modern scrapbook. I was happy for her to hear that the account was re-instated.

  3. Wow – what an interesting reflection on a question that’s so relevant in our internet-y world. Only after reading your thoughtful post did I realize that I posted a picture of my 10-week old twin girls on my blog in nothing but diapers. I honestly didn’t give it a second thought, but this makes me think. I wonder if the photo you posted really would offend someone. And for me, I wonder if my girls will ever care that I shared that picture… Food for thought for sure.

  4. Loved this. I’ve been seeing an increase in the amount of negative comments on positive feeds lately, and it breaks my heart. (oh, not another selfie, oh, you’re too skinny… things of that nature). And recently, some negative feedback on my own feed about a project I did. And about a year ago, when I posted a (far away, and funny!) photo of Eva, sans diaper, and I got lots of comments to take it off and beware of predators. I guess my heart just hurts about it because I feel like if something is posted out of love and good and positivity, then that is the light it should be looked at in. And if people don’t want to look at someone’s photo, unfollow them. No one is making you stay. In the click of a button (less time than it takes to post a negative comment), you can just slip away and never look at one more adorable half naked toddler or selfie ever again. Some people aren’t the kind of people that would post a photo like that of their kids, and some people are the kind of people that would never say something negative about someone who did. I’m of the latter. ;o) xo

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