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.