Plenty of people who know me know I spend a lot of time on facebook – I love catching up with people, seeing what’s going on in their lives, reconnecting with people, sharing joys and sorrows, and all the rest of it. In particular I just find it so convenient – the fact is, however much I’d like to I’m just not going to be able to individually email/skype/phone/write to a 3 figure number of people very regularly, and it is just going to be a superficial Christmas and birthdays type arrangement in most cases, if that, whereas on facebook there are lots of my family and friends in the same place and I can catch up with lots of them in a relatively short space of time. With friends all over the world this has been an enormous blessing – I signed up for facebook when I was on my PhD fieldwork and found it invaluable in feeling still ‘plugged in’ to life back home and connected to my loved ones, plus it was handy for them to see that I was OK and having adventures and all the rest of it.
More recently, I’ve come across a few debates (on and off facebook) on over-sharing, particularly around pregnancy and birth. I suppose this is the next stage in the debate after thinking about over-sharing in a blog (one of the many reasons I’m enjoying the Project365 thing, as well as the opportunity to be creative and think of fun things to do and places to go is that I can blog regularly but quite superficially, which suits me for now – next year I’ll try to get round to writing a bit more substantially again). But even with my superficial blogging this year, following a chat with HD I did take down one photo which he (and, actually on reflection, I) found crossed the too-personal line (no I’m not going to discuss which one!). I think with social media, particularly a blog like this which I’ve done for years or facebook which I’ve also been on for 4 years and am very familiar with, it is easy to drop your guard and over-disclose without thinking of the consequences for yourself or others.
I have noticed a number of friends on facebook posting lots of baby photos, ultrasound pictures etc, and I am genuinely happy for them. But I do sometimes feel vaguely uncomfortable, not particularly on my behalf, but thinking about the impact this might have on other people who might be struggling with their less than perfect family life or other issues. I also wonder about how the child might feel about their picture being on the internet (more than one family I know, the kids love having their pictures up online so I’m not going to get all preachy about it, but in some cases I wonder if a line is being stepped over). There are a few blogs I read by parents which are all about their experiences as parents, so obviously the kids play a big part in that blog, and they are so well done that I can imagine the kids can look back on those blogs when they’re older and really know how proud of them their folks were. But I don’t know if I could do that.
This weekend I came across an article on the blog Feministing about so-called ‘Social Media Pregnancies’. This is coming from a staunchly pro-choice perspective and I think makes some interesting points (they also link to an article in the Washington Post which reckons that by the age of 2, 92% of American children have an online presence which I am both shocked and unsurprised by); it is also I think unfortunately rather strident and the arguments about ‘fetal personhood’ and women’s bodies as mere vessels are a bit unfortunate (this is something which is picked up on in the very interesting comments thread which follows). I think the stuff about the ritual of posting and sharing photos on sites like facebook is really interesting though and I would love to read some decent research about this.
And then today my friend blogs on exactly this subject and is so much more eloquent and gracious than me about it (don’t you just hate it when that happens? 😉 I should have just linked to her post and saved myself all this time). I love her take on thinking about how her life could be something that friends taken up with nothing but their young babies get jealous about, and which they could indeed be upset or jealous about. I don’t think we can self-censor to the extreme – whatever I post could potentially upset someone, so I have to be realistic and trust my friends to take anything I post in the spirit in which it’s meant. And it’s down to me to extend them the same courtesy (and if all else fails, the scroll feature is a wonderful thing).