4.13.2011

drawing the line: privacy v. publicity

Once upon a bright & perfect afternoon, I took a little jaunt with my friend Kayt to 50th & France (a favorite local shopping area). We hit a few old favorites and new-to-us stores and even stopped for a cupcake break. But when it comes to an afternoon shopping stroll, there is seriously nothing better than a trip to Anthropologie to refresh my creative spirits and really get my heart pumping. I brought home these a-mazing party pencils 1) for their bright + beautiful colors 2) for their polka-dots but 3) mostly for their crazy pom-pom ends. Can't decide if I should share the love, passing them out one by one or just hoard them all in a pretty container on my desk...

Also, I just wanted to gush a little about something that's been on my mind this week: The age old debate of internet privacy v. publicity.

I know it's a heavy, heated topic, but I really want you to weigh in.

A little background: Last week my sweet friend Bethany confided in me about a sticky situation she encountered in which a reader assumed too much and sent her a pretty judgmental (and hurtful) email. Today, with her plight still on my mind, the parents at G's playschool were discussing the topic of children & social media. They all seemed to be in agreement that status updates involving your kids have no place on facebook, that their faces/names should never appear on blogs, and one mom even expressed concern over photos in a password protected snapfish/shutterfly account. Yikes. You can bet your bottom dollar that I made no mention of this blog I write where 100s of people look at 100s of photos of Graham every day...

The thing is, I've never been burned. In fact, I would consider social media to be a blessing in my life. Yes, I've received the occasional insensitive comment around here, but 99.9% of this blog has brought forth only good things. I've made amazing online connections and I thrive on your friendships and encouraging words. Plus with the help of facebook and a little kick from twitter, we've managed to build a photography business that helps us pay our bills with little to no paid advertising.

I realize that many of you who read this have blogs of your own, where you share heartwarming stories + photos of your kiddos everyday, so maybe I am just preaching to the choir. I realize that as Graham gets older I will need to be more mindful of what I write about him, but for now I simply can't help but share the joy he is in my life and to write about some of the memories we make as a family.

Up until today, I perceived greater risk in walking out the front door, taking Graham's hand and crossing our street than posting photos of him online for fear of some unknown stalker/kidnapper. (Btw, if the stalker/kidnapper is reading this, I'll tell you right now that you don't want him. He wakes up too early, he whines a lot, and he's not even potty trained.)

I know I'm not the only one who struggles with these things. Are some people just out of touch? Am I just foolish? Where do you draw the line?

27 comments:

mandiegirl said...

I don't have any littles yet, and have certainly thought about what & how much I would post on my blog if and when I do have them one day! I don't know the answer to that, but I do know that I'd like to be careful. Also, I HATE the whole check-in thing on facebook and WILL not do that. I realize that my 'friends' on facebook are supposed to actually be friends, but who knows who & how many just give their own access up by staying signed in & such? Anyway, I guess I have no substantial or valuable advice for you, but just wanted to chime in anyway. ;) You're just friendly like that.

Betsy Jo said...

I think about this a lot- not sure where the line is, but I do find that as our kids grow, I am much more careful/diligent in what I post. My oldest is an 11 year old boy, and lately I find myself asking him if it's okay if I post a certain photo/story. So far, so good. We respect each other that way, and if he's not comfortable with it, I can hold back. Overall, my readers are awesome; only once was there a reader that made me sad (okay, and mad, too. :) I think you're right in asking if 'those others' are a little out of date with social media. Our world is changing fast, and we do well to have an idea of what we're dealing with. Thought provoking topic! And I, for one love your blog! :)

Robyn said...

i've always thought that we're more hyper-sensitive to these issues because of the media's ever-present role in our lives now. violent crimes against children, kidnapping and such are actually less prevalent now than they were BEFORE we were plastering our business all over the internet, but because media can grab at things faster, it seems like it happens more often.

for me, i'm pregnant. i plan to share photos and stories of our daily lives, kiddo included, on my blog. as he gets older {we just found out it's a HE}, i'll be more mindful of getting his permission to share his stories, but i'm just not convinced that by putting his photo on the internet, he'll be more likely to be kidnapped.

La Bella Vita said...

I have a little one and my husband is in the military. We use the letter of their first name instead on a full name for privacy sake.

I feel I am pretty open about our family and struggles because there was nothing out there about toddler speech issues and raising a larger than average child.

I hope that by being public about such things I can help others.

Liv said...

Been thinking about this topic a lot. If I stopped sharing about my kids on my blog severely decrease the personal factor and the amount of things that I have to write about. I don't want to stop doing that, but I do wonder if it's smart.

Some bloggers use their children's full names and photos and some use a nickname or initial (which I started doing.) But I'd hate to stop sharing pictures.

As far as fb is concerned, I have my preferences set so that ONLY friends and family can see my updates and photos. There are people who are "friends from HS" who can't see anything on my page. But honestly, I haven't talked to them in years and probably won't. They don't need to see what I'm up to.

It's such a tricky subject.

A Place to Reside said...

Being relatively new to blogging, I've recently thought about this a great deal. For now, as I get comfortable, I've been maintaining some degree of anonymity to:

(1) get a feel for the blogging climate
(2) negotiate how to be authentic but also establish that my thoughts and ideas do not necessarily reflect those of the people and organizations with which I'm affiliated
(3) respect the privacy of my loved ones
(4) respect my own privacy

I really appreciate the grace with which Bethany has handled this situation.

I'd be interested in hearing if (and how) anyone has had to delineate between the opinions on their blog and the people and organizations with which they associate.

Thanks for the great discussion starter.

amanda Rydell said...

I LOVE THOSE PENCILS!!! oh my goodness.

Kelly said...

This is something I have thought about a lot lately! I do share the occasional photo of my little guy, and I definitely talk about him, but I don't use his name. I don't know if it is a real risk to do so, it's just what I'm comfortable with. I think Bethany hit the nail on the head with that metaphor. We need to respect each other's blogs as we would each other's homes. Everyone has their own way of doing things, and readers can read and respectfully be a part of that blog, or not.

Katie {My Paisley Apron} said...

Oh how I hate this topic! :) I feel so torn. On the one hand, the blog is mostly intended to keep in touch with friends and family, and it's pretty hard to keep grandparents interested without pics of their favorite kiddos! On the other hand, I do like the thought of never having put digital pics or information of my kids out there anywhere. It's really tough. Like you, I've never been burned, so I don't worry about it a lot at this point. I try never to put too much identifying geographical info (it helps to live in a big city like Denver or Mpls!) and plan to eventually take down all blogs (ie, Elijah's blog is no longer available to the public) and remove info from the internet. That way, yes, it was out there once, but it's not staying there for all eternity, at least not in its current form...

Leslie said...

Oh jess.. this is a question Nick and I have came back to again and again.

We write a lot about kids online a lot. And we constatnly re-evaluate where and what our personal boundary lines are. This is really a topic we take to our knees over and over again as family tries to push me specifically not blog...

my thought is.. at this point in time its not conviction I have myself. I feel fully "called" to blog.. as lame as that sounds.. and I do constantly sit silent and reask the Lord if I should continue to do so... I feel fully at peace with blogging and being vunerable day in and day. I feel 100% okay with that.

Thats not to say I don't have boundary lines, but what mine are might not be others, or other people may not think I have enough. I just know and feel confident that my heavnely father has given me ease in all of it... for today....

tomorrow it may be time to reevaluate again.

sorry for the novel.

Leslie said...

and for the record..we've been burned...

and its not fun....
thats why keep taking it back to the Him.

Aurora said...

I've considered this a lot, too. To me, putting a picture of my children on my blog is the same as going anywhere in public with them-people who are complete strangers will see them. Now, if I posted my children's school name, location and schedule, then yest that would be a crazy terrible over the line thing to do.
As far as Facebook is concerned, I use mine to keep in touch with family mostly and friends, and they want to see pictures of my kids. I do however keep a tight hold on my privacy settings so only friends can see anything.

I disagree with child pageants, child modeling and child acting, but not with putting my kiddos on my blog. They are cute, they are part of my life, and they are not hurt or affected by it in any way shape or form.

swell.life said...

wow everyone! thanks so much for the great convo!!

it's so true--the internet is the world we live in and we need to learn to adapt and take advantage of its positive side.

@Leslie--I LOVE how you say blogging is a calling. I completely agree, just have never thought about it in those terms. I hate when people say that blogging is narcissistic (which it can be I suppose), because I feel like there are so many blogs that are genuinely spreading love to the world, finding commonalities people near and far, and sharing tons of inspiration in the process.

@A Place to Reside & @Kelly:
I agree--I really admire how Bethany handled her situation. She is a shining example of fearless authenticity!

You girls are all A-mazing!! xo Jess

Kat said...

Since I know pretty much everyone who reads my blog, I haven't really worried about this issue :)
I tend to be more private on fb - I have really secure settings, but I just don't feel the need to update everyone on what I'm doing. My blog is different - I'm personal but not too personal. It's where I can share what's going on in my life and where I can be heard. I don't have children, but I am careful to let people know if I am going to write about them.

Amy at Ameroonie Designs said...

There was a you tube clip which showed how you can locate a person by following the gps code on the picture. If you are using a smart phone to take pics, make sure the location feature is turned off. I also don't use my children's name so that in the future they can't google themselves and find all the posts- that being said, I try to edit what I post about them now that they are getting older.
xoxo,
Amy

JSchaller said...

I'm often surprised by how many FB-ers have blocked access to everything but their info page . . . AND their photos. Really? You don't know me, but you'll let me see you and your friends drinking at the pub last Friday, or your nearly naked 2 year old playing in the backyard pool???

I feel that if you do everything you can to keep out people you don't know, then FB and blogging is a wonderful connection to friends and family. I understand your tougher situation where, for publicity's sake, you have a public blog. Those waters are tougher to navigate. However, even if someone finds my child online and tracks us down to our front door, it's not like they'll be sitting there, unchaperoned, waiting to be snatched up! That's just as likely to happen as a kidnapping from the mall, so I can't spend my time worrying about it!

Whatever Dee-Dee wants said...

I post pictures of my son on my blog and even say his real name. I have only had positive experiences though.

MaryJanes and Galoshes said...

This is a subject I've always been a bit careful about. I don't really talk about my kids on my blog, but I do use them as models when ever I get the chance. At times I use initials, then times that I think no one will know what I'm talking about with an initial or nick name as I don't talk about them that much to get familiar with who they are when I refer the them.

I don't share personal stories about them on my blog. Somewhat for security but mostly because that's just not what my blog's about. I don't think anyone else has (or should have) an interest in their day to day lives.

As far as FB I only friend people I know personally so it's a great way of loved ones keeping up to date on the kids and what they are doing. I feel bad when blog reader wants to friend me and I decline, but that's just a bit to personal for me.

As long as you are careful about how much detail you post as well as careful when you are out and about in the real world (my kids never leave my sight, well they are to young to at this point) I think it's okay to show their faces and maybe use a first name.

Jennifer said...

I post pictures and names. Never really gave it thought I guess. I guess you could say I live in a bubble where only nice people live. Maybe to trusting??

alli/hooray said...

such an interesting topic! I don't have kids yet, but I've thought about how I would handle that in the future - for now I keep my last name private and try my best to keep my personal info safe. Everyone seems to have different comfort levels when it comes to this though, so it will be interesting to see how it all evolves.

Jenny at Red House said...

I have never lived my life as a victim and never will. It may never happen! At work we have a policy to trust customers, lend them stuff etc. and sure you get burned but I think it is better to think of the good in people all the time.

bethany said...

Such a great continuation of the privacy debate!

I'm certain that our experiences shape our decisions on this issue. My parents always proudly shared stories and photos with friends, but were careful with what they said when I got older...and I always understood that this is exactly what families do: they proudly share, but do so carefully when you become old enough to feel like your privacy might be infringed upon! Our new format for sharing, whether with those we know or don't, shouldn't change this tradition of connecting through stories and photos.

I have to agree wholeheartedly with Robyn's comment: We've become hypersensitive simply because we're made more aware of every tragedy. I don't believe that a child's photo on a blog makes them more likely to be exposed to tragedy, so long as mamas and papas are careful about keeping identifying details quiet. Like someone else said...you're more likely to expose them to tragedy by taking them to a mall!

I do respect a mother's decision to keep back information about her children (she is the mama hen, afterall!). But I truly hope no mother feels so frightened by this form of media that she cannot talk about or share photos of her babes!

(This was long. In other words...true to form, for me.) ;)

See you tonight!

Amanda said...

I agree with Robyn: I think all the stories of scary situations (for example: To Catch a Predator) has left parents feeling unsure about where the line of privacy needs to be drawn.

I do know that different people have certain opinions about the matter and that needs to be respected. For example, I posted the full name of my nephew when he was born and my sister + brother-in-law asked that from then on that I refer to him only by his nickname, UJ. I of course respect that since they are his parents and are responsible for his safety.

I don't know what I'll do with my children, obviously since I am not faced with this situation yet, but I do think that my space on the blogging world is so tiny and so many of my readers share much more of their life in a way that has built trust over the past couple years. On Facebook, I have the function set up where only friends can see my pictures and full profile. I am also conscious about who is my Facebook friend as well. Every so often, I'll weed through the list and think to myself "Do I really know that person well, or is it just a friend that I used to work with or had in high school?" This way, I feel more comfortable linking up my blog and sharing pictures of my sister's kids, etc.

In the end, I do consider myself lucky that I've never had to deal with what Bethany had to, and have never had a hurtful comment on my blog. I pray that when this does happen, God will guide me to handle it in a way that helps both me to recover from the pain and the offender for recognizing his/her error. I hope to handle it with the grace that Bethany did.

erin said...

I'm in agreement with you. i do ask my kids if they care about the funny stories i tell about them on facebook and almost always they are happy to laugh at themselves and let everyone else too.. but when they dont, i dont.. i can not imagine what i would say on FB or in a blog that would hurt my kids or risk them.. i think it takes common sense.. you obviously dont post their walk home schedual or tell the world they are home alone on certain days of the week. common sense. the same as you dont post your physical address on here or your finacial info. i think people over react and in the long run it makes for some pretty worried kids.. i think you are doing a great job and i love the pics and the stories. :) thanks very much.

emily-kallista said...

I don't have babies yet, but I write about friends sometimes, or even just acquaitances, and really it would be my worst night mare if someone was uspet or hurt over what I wrote (I don't write bad things...) this is a hard issue for sure, but like you, I have only really had positive and lovely feedback and experiences from the online community, and also from people in my life who I have shared my blog with too. I guess i don't fully agree with the -kids have no place on ur facebook- sentiment, we talk about our families to people we meet day to day at work etc, and its normally like-minded people you're drawn to on the net anyway :)

Heather said...

I am torn on this too. We don’t have kids yet, but when we do I do not think we will post anything about them for 2 main reasons:

Reason 1: I am not concerned about predators trying to contact/take children so much as I am about how my children’s pics/info might be misused. Myspace reported purging 90,000 sex offenders; this only includes registered sex offenders who use real names (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/04/technology/internet/04myspace.html). Facebook, which is larger than Myspace, is acting more slowly. Although FB requires users to use their names, it is easy to create a fake email account and use it to create a FB page.

While I think the chances of kidnapping/soliciting children, etc. are low, the possibility of someone misusing a child’s picure is harder to measure. It seems like someone looking for those kinds of pics would have an easier time with blogs since the government monitors questionable sites. (A friend of ours was under surveillance because someone in his house was downloading child pics; turned out to be his roommate. That kind of made it hit home that it happens.) It is unlikely that I would ever know if someone was secretly using/reposting/etc. pics inappropriately. I don't think I would worry about kidnapping, etc. too much as a parent, but I guess I can't say for sure til I have kids.

Reason 2: My other concern is whether it would be fair to our child to have a digital trail like that before he/she has any choice. When I was 11 my parents wrote "She is becoming quite the young lady" in the annual family Christmas letter, and I was mortified. What might be a cute little story/picture to an adult could be embarrassing to a child whose peers get a hold of it using Google.

For these reasons I reluctantly lean towards opting out with our kids. I feel sad to do so because my family members live far apart and it is a great way to shorten the distance between loved ones. Maybe we will change our minds when we have kids. For the two reasons above, I personally would not post naked pictures.

That being said, I would never tell anyone else not to post pics or info about their children or judge them for it. I really appreciate the increased connection to my family and friends that the internet provides. Also, the internet seems essential to a photography business. So, while I lean towards not posting about my own family, I hypocritically appreciate when others do.

Alexis said...

I am a little late reading this, but wanted to chip in also.. I used to have a blog.. It was a personal one and mostly for people who were overseas. My husband the computer nerd organised it. I used to put pictures of the kids .. anyway one day hubby was wondering why there were so many downloads and how the bill got so big. anyway there were 7 websites, linking a photo of my daughter in her easter bunny ears. I did not know these people and was really confused as to why they would haev pictures of my kids on their site. That is just wierd.. so I stopped putting up pictures adn now I use facebook, because of all the security settings.. because of this I really don't blog anymore. seems a shame.. great to hear you all haev thought about this, no matter what your decision. cheers, Alexis