I joined Facebook in 2008. My daughter, my youngest child, was nine months old at the time. The first album I uploaded to my page was titled “Family” and contained five photos. My little girl, with her chubby cheeks, barely-there hair, and ubiquitous binky, was the headliner in four of them. She has essentially grown up a Facebook starlet, often the main character in my contained, self-curated public persona.
My daughter has always been the more extroverted of my two children. She’s thrilled by piano performances and soccer games. She used to stage shows for us with dramatic scripts and original scores. She even went through a phase in her preschool years when she’d respond to every photo I took with, “Put that one on Facebook!” She wanted our circle of important people to see what she was up to.
Until this week.
With six words, my daughter fundamentally changed the way I use the social network: “Don’t put my picture on Facebook.”
The catalyst was a surprise I inadvertently ruined. She couldn’t wait to show her friend a new Christmas present, but when she did her friend responded, “My mom already showed me a picture of that on Facebook.” A picture I had posted on Christmas morning. She was devastated. I was devastated. It wasn’t just about a photo. In that moment I realized with sudden clarity that she is creating her own life, her own person. At 8-years old, she is not an offshoot of me. Not a spin-off or a sequel to my life, but her own production altogether. A production she deserves to have control over.
I made her a deal on the spot – no more pictures on Facebook without permission.
It’s a deal I already have with my 10-year old, who made it clear long ago that any photo – on Facebook or not – is an invasion of his privacy. But this time felt different. More unexpected. And the last vestige of what I think of as my true self on Facebook. After all, how many parents do you know who post about much other than their kids? To me, the network is like a year-round Christmas letter, giving me a peek into how friends’ and acquaintances’ kids are growing, what their current obsessions and quirks are, what life as a family in 2015 is like. It’s always helped me feel a bit more… normal. It highlights that I’m not the only one riding this bumpy road of parenthood.
Perhaps it’s fitting, though, that my years of chronicling my kids on Facebook are drawing to a conclusion.
They’re growing up, and I see signs of it every day. The old adage says the apron strings are cut slowly, but it certainly feels like someone has given mine a big tug. More and more often I find myself thinking “I don’t know what to do now” as my kids are happily occupied on their own. I’ve started picking up some hobbies that had fallen by the wayside in the chaos of rising young kids. Reading, cooking, blog writing. I’m rediscovering what else belongs in my own life’s narrative.
As my daughter says goodbye to Facebook, I have no plans to give it up.
I adore joining my friends as their families grow and evolve, and I wonder if they will miss seeing that side of my story. Even more, I wonder how I’ll be received within the unwritten rules of parenting on Facebook if I start posting about other things that are important to me. Am I only one? Will I become irrelevant with peers in this digital society? There’s only one way to find out. Here goes nothing.