Much to my introverted husband’s chagrin, I didn’t use to believe in too much information. The acronyms TMI stood for Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania. But this week, I came upon a video of me and my daughter posted to a stranger’s blog. It was not the person’s fault who had uploaded the video. I had posted it to YouTube, after all. But when I saw it on someone else’s site, I was suddenly worried that I had exposed my child to more publicity than was safe.
And then I thought: What about Facebook? What about Twitter, or my blog, or Pinterest, or Instagram?
After my daughter’s birth, the nurses had advised me not to tie balloons to our mailbox or place announcements in papers because of those who might wish my child harm. I had clutched my daughter and agreed with that easily instilled terror of new motherhood. But I still posted her birth announcement on Facebook along with a picture of her – arms flung, mottled with vernix – on the table getting weighed.
I remember how sick I felt after someone told me to remove the picture because of the level she was exposed and because of those who might wish my child harm. I quickly retracted it, but it kept showing up in my news feed until I crawled through the loopholes required to remove it permanently.
One week later, a writer friend (who I hadn't met at the time but who I trust without question) asked for my address so she could send us a baby gift. My direct message accidentally showed up in my Twitter news feed. So my address was unveiled for about 3,500 people—most of whom I did not know beyond their smiling avatar.
My future website has a section called, “My Life Through Instagram.”
I do not have an Instagram application, since I do not have a smart phone. My phone is so beat up, it barely has an IQ. But after this week, when I saw my precious child's face on a stranger’s site, I started to wonder if I ever wanted a smart phone; if I wanted someone to see what we ate for breakfast that morning or what pajamas my child slept in last night. I started to wonder if perhaps this interconnectivity is disconnecting us from those we love while attaching us to those we barely know.
Where are our boundaries? How do we understand the difference between social media and real life, and is it okay when one superimposes itself over the other--causing true, lifelong friendships to be made with those we've never met, like the writer who mailed us a baby gift?
When I sent a version of this question into the Twitter world, one woman responded that she never mentions her family on Twitter, and that she doesn't share her husband's real name or his pictures, even on Facebook.
When I posted a similar question to my author page on Facebook, I heard only crickets.
It seems this monolith of social media has expanded beyond ourselves until no smart phone application will allow us to manage it.
How, as parents, as writers, as people on this modern-day planet, do we set boundaries so we are able to enjoy the interconnectivity that fuels our creativity and propels our professions, but also keep our children safe?