I probably Google myself once every few months or so. For the longest time it was because – until recently – I feared having any kind of online presence whatsoever. People like my husband chase “inbox zero” – while I, at last count, have some 474 messages in my Gmail inbox, and I had nearly 20,000 messages in my Outlook when I left my job, making me the bane of the office IT department. I couldn’t care less about inbox zero; I was more interested in something like “internet zero.” I wanted a Google search for me to turn up nothing. I had no Facebook page, no blog, no Flickr, no Twitter, no Pinterest board, nothing.
Why? Because I persist in this notion that I may, one day, run for political office. Having worked in politics I know the kind of dirt that gets dug up on the internet about potential political candidates. I wanted none of that.
I also knew something about hiring people into regular old jobs. My responsibilities in previous jobs have included screening candidates, interviewing them, and hiring them. I always Googled my serious picks, especially if two candidates had the same credentials and experience. I assume my future bosses will do the same, and I don’t need them seeing a photo of me with a beer in one hand and a baby in the other and assuming something that’s not (necessarily) true.
But then chinks appeared in my internet armor. First it was race times. Anytime I ran a 10K or half-marathon, my name, age, and race time showed up on the internet. OK, I don’t really care who knows that it takes me nearly two and a half hours to run a half marathon, but the age thing ticked me off. I had gone to great lengths to avoid revealing my age at work, because I was young (relatively speaking) and in a position of considerable responsibility. (Reverse ageism really is a thing, honestly. A blog post for another time.)
Then my name popped up in association with an award that I won while I was an Air Cadet, randomly, ten years after the fact. While this was weird, it didn’t bother me especially.
Then I changed jobs, and my name showed up on press releases and on the organization’s webpage. Gone was my internet anonymity. So I gave up. I joined Facebook, started a blog under my real name, and started pinning.
I’m not afraid to attach my name to my opinions; I think it’s important to stand up for what one believes in. But my anxiety over what I post on the internet persists. I am almost obsessive about everything I post, “like”, or comment on via Facebook. I dwell on every word that I type, worrying about how it may be perceived. I don’t flatter myself that anyone truly cares about what I have to say – but whatever you put on the internet is permanent. Nothing is ever deleted, nothing can be taken back. We’ve seen countless examples of people’s names being dragged through the mud, of jobs lost, of scandals erupting, over a moment’s bad judgement on the internet.
Which leads me to my parenting dilemma, though it’s not a new one: whether or not to share my boys with the internet.
I don’t mean the much-reviled “parent overshare”. I am not going to post updates about my kids’ bowel movements, or even (most of) the really cute things they do. I just don’t think anyone outside my immediate family cares. I’m talking more about photos, identifying details, stories. The kind of things you put in your baby book.
I had posted a couple of photos of them, with their full names, to my Facebook page. The decision to put photos of the boys on Facebook had my stomach in knots, honestly, though I have countless friends who do the same without a second thought. “Only my friends can see it,” I thought. Then one of my friends “shared” the photo on her page, with all of her friends, and boom, just like that, the photo was out there, outside of my control, being viewed by people half a world away, who could take it and use it for whatever they like.
I have to assume that my kids’ future bosses will be Googling them, too, but I’m scared of far more sinister things than that – like what a photo of them can be used to illustrate, without my knowledge or permission. I guess my point is, it took me years to decide I was okay with the idea of having an internet identity, of sorts, and I’m very careful about curating it. I don’t want to write the narrative for my kids’ online identities (because in 15 years I’m sure they’ll think I don’t know them at all, and they won’t need another reason to resent me).
What do you do? Do your babies have an internet presence? Do you share photos of them online? Details about their lives? How much is too much? Am I worried about nothing?
(Image credit: Leif K-Brooks [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons