a matter of privacy

by Ms. Joy

Last night I had an unsettling dream, not uncommon as the subconscious plays around while the body rests. In this dream someone was tweeting me and commenting on this blog (weird, I know!), the problem was that the person kept using my children’s full names, a blatant disregard for mine and their privacy. As we all know, once something is on the internet, ’tis there forever just waiting to smack you in the ass and say, “ha HA!”.

A long time ago, when I first broached the subject of blogging and tweeting, Mr and I came to the mutual agreement that I would not post any pictures of the kids’ faces or use their real names. They were, and are still, not of an age to make that decision. As their parent, it’s my duty to protect them how I see fit. Their identity is part of that. In fact, I did not post a picture of the ever adorable Miss N on my Facebook account until last June, despite maintaining an account since before she was born.*

I am sure this seems cruel to my loved ones who do not live near me, especially in an age where everyone posts every blessed detail of their life online. (At the risk of insulting anyone – ultrasound pictures creep me out. We get it, the kid is loved.) The fact is, privacy agreements are constantly changing with these social media sites. What you once thought private, may no longer be and it is really up to the individual to stay on top of it. Do strangers need to know every detail (says the blogger)? Not really. That’s why we talk on the phone with my mom and brother, use Skype and send photos.

This is not me knocking people for their own views on internet privacy. I still remember when another blogger suddenly revealed her son’s name and the fact that she had been using an alias for him. Most importantly, the reveal was at his insistence. To me, this is an ideal situation. No longer a child, he thought it through and realized he was at an age to make such a decision and I have a tremendous amount of respect for how she handled it. I also think it’s very cool when people use a “real” name for the child, instead of a nickname.

We make decisions every day meant to maintain the safety of our children, their place on the internet happens to be one of those. For now, I am only going to post pictures of the back of Miss N’s head or the Boy’s hand reaching up to snag a cookie off of a tray, because that is my comfort level with the internet. I am telling my story and they are part of it, I’m not going to reveal their narrative for them.

In doing research for a paper last semester, I discovered the issue of privacy to be one of the main contentions with “mommy-blogging” was that the narrative of the mother swept the child into it. It is true, mommy blogging is about storytelling, giving women who are in a unique (and often ignored) position the chance to use her voice. It is vital we hear the stories of women (yes, and men), so that they are not lost to the annals of time. Blogging, in its own unique way, is creating such a record of the diverse lives of the 21st century mother. As a side note, in so-called “mommy-blogging” there are limited numbers of women of colour, lgbt and adoptive mothers bloggers, if you are aware of any such blogs, sing their praises in the comments.

Just as there are many, many approaches to food, parenting, politics, religion – anything you can have an opinion on, there are multiple views on privacy. For our family, our online life is private within the crush of the public. It’s like walking quietly through a crowded market by yourself, the solitude within the many.

*Disclaimer: I did have a folder of baby pictures on my account that I deleted once FB began fiddling with their privacy settings and I felt I couldn’t trust it.