My wife wishes I would stop posting photos of our kids online. This Father’s Day, I am going to try to do just that
Mighty and many are the careers felled and lives toppled by the indiscreet use of social media. One need only consider the case of poor Anthony Weiner, whose political ambitions were mortally wounded after his semi-nude photos went viral. But the photograph that almost undid me – and still might undo me – was an adorable recent school portrait of my two sons.
I posted it on Instagram as soon as I could. #nailedit. That, it turns out, was a terrible idea. It brought to a head a long simmering conflict I had been having with my wife about how much to expose our children to the world. We could not have more divergent opinions.
For me – for whom my children are the thing in life of which I am most proud and for whom I feel the most love – Instagramming a photo of them is the most natural thing in the world. They are an extension of me; a part of my life. I reserve the right to share their image, within, of course, the bounds of decency.
For my wife, to share an image of them with the public world is a betrayal of confidence. Even one public photograph constitutes a grave dereliction of duty as a parent. Bullies of the future, she fears, will mine the Instagram feed of their classmate’s parents for potentially embarrassing material. Also, pedophiles. And, since I am somewhat a public figure, though a very minor one, she’s afraid of people who hate me or perhaps who love me. There are many more of the former than the latter but, as she points out, “everybody has feelings about you. Why expose your children to that?”
My wife and I still see about as eye-to-eye on the issue as a wall does to a turnip.
It might be tempting to dismiss her concerns as setting-sun paranoia. And I do, without reservation. Will a bully really have that much forethought? Also, won’t he himself have an embarrassing past to expose? Every little boy loved Rainbow Dash at some point.
But there is one point she makes that is unassailable. And that is, I have no idea how my children really feel about being on Instagram and even less how they might feel about it in the future. What if my sons grow up to be as private as my wife is? How have I not abrogated their right to privacy by posting their picture publicly?
So I struggle, a man of two minds. One wants to jump up and down on the rooftops proclaiming the cuteness of my spawn. I’m a dad, I want to brag, I want to ‘gram. These kids are literally the best thing in my life. The other part, influenced by my wife, realizes that perhaps though I want to show off my children, perhaps they will prefer to create their own online presence whensoever and howsoever they chose. #internalconflict.
My wife and I still see about as eye-to-eye on the issue as a wall does to a turnip. We have, what I believe in statecraft are called, “robust dialogues” on a near-nightly basis, that very well might end in what is called, I believe, “civil war.” However, I’m slowly coming around to the thought that one level of love is pride. I can’t deny that I ride the surge of social adoration occasioned by my children on social media.
I could forego certain personal glory now to save theoretical discomfort later on the off-chance that my future sons won’t share my predilection for praise and publicity. It’s a numbers game made tricky by the fact that the bookie is blinded by parental love.
So this Father’s day, we’re planning a barbecue and a kiddie pool Sunday. My kids got me a pound of coffee, which was supposed to be a secret but they told me, and a book about coffee. (They think I like coffee.) It’s going to be cute, a real gold mine for Insta. But it won’t hashtagged and it won’t be shared. Just as an experiment, the only people who will be able to like it are the ones who are there.