Social media in all its forms make up a critical part of our lives. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and so many other platforms connect us to not only friends and family, but to the world around us. On media, we can create a public image of ourselves, or share world news. Some people even use social media as a business front for goods and services. Many of us can’t imagine a single day without our message boxes, tags, and like counts. These are the things that keep us in touch with the times.
Social Media Through a Different Filter
In March of 2019, a middle schooler named Sonia Bokhari shared her story with the world. (1) In her own words, she recounted her initiation into social media. Most of us can probably barely remember when we entered the online scene. Since it has become such an integrated part of modern life, we likely take the milestone for granted. But for Sonia, her first experience at 13 shook her to the core.
“The first place I went, of course, was my mom’s profiles.” Sonia described. “That’s when I realized that while this might have been the first time I was allowed on social media, it was far from the first time my photos and stories had appeared online.”
Within the first hour of being on social media, Sonia discovered that much of her life was already on display. Via the accounts of her mother and older sister, her face and many personal stories were already made public. She found much of this content upsetting and humiliating, even if her family had shared it in good humor. The bottom line was Sonia had never given her consent to being paraded across media, by family or otherwise. As a result, she made the decision to leave social media altogether.
Sonia’s reaction to her premature social media presence had to do with more than embarrassing photos. She was disturbed by the principle that even before she was on social media herself, her internet image was already out of her control. It made her concerned about the loose treatment of profile content and the public access of most accounts. At the end of the day, her concerns might be more relevant to you and me than we realize.
A New Social Discussion
Social media provides us with many tools to personalize our accounts. Including locations in our photos, tagging our friends’ faces, and making profiles public give us a wider social reach. However, these are all things that potentially give strangers greater insight into our private lives. But not all eyes on the internet are the kinds we would want to have on us. Exposing so much of ourselves might actually be a more dangerous practice than you think. In an age of online bullying and cyberstalkers, you may want to think twice about giving the public such an unbridled window into your personal life. And, as Sonia discovered, your own image isn’t the only one that should be better protected online. It may be time to start thinking about the media presence we give our children.
Social media exists primarily to keep us connected with our families and families. When we have an important event in our lives, it’s so easy to share the news. It’s very common practice to share pictures of our newborn’s first hours, first steps, first birthdays, and more. While doing so may seem harmless, we don’t often think about the impact it may have on them. It’s important to at least consider the lack of input our young children have in the sharing of their image online. Sonia took issue with this immediately. How many of our children would also, if given the chance to speak out?
Doing Things Differently
One social media figure approached this issue a little differently. Simone Grünewald (@schmoedraws) is an artist with over 400K followers on Instagram. She shared her pregnancy with her fans, but when her due date approached, she had this to share: “Btw I won’t be showing any photos of the baby… just drawings… A lot of people have been saying they can’t wait to see the baby but I kinda think that he should decide about his social media presence when he grows up…” (2)
As she promised, there were no photos after her baby’s birth. Instead, she depicted her child through her artwork only. Depending on his temper, she drew him adorned with sweet fox’s ears and tail, or dinosaur spines. She still shared stories, captured memories, and found expression for her journey as a new mother. She did so, however, through the buffer of pencil and paper. At least for the public eye.
Simone’s approach through art is unique and charming, and maybe more parents will follow suit. In this growing age of social media, maybe it’s time to think about handling our children’s privacy differently.