As I was checking out at the grocery store, I looked over at the line next to me and recognized her. And her kids. “Are you Jeff’s wife?” I said. Mind you … I’ve never been introduced to this person in real life. Or the kids. But I recognized her from pictures posted on Facebook.
This is not the first time this has happened. I’ve seen a college friend’s husband and child at the pediatrician’s office and introduced myself. And let me tell you, the statement, “Yeah, I recognized you from Facebook” feels so creepy/stalker-y.
Stalker or Normal?
This seems fairly likely to happen to any one of us in an age where we share photos of our every move and aspects of our lives online. We share photos when we do major things like get married or buy a house to the smaller things, like when we get the *perfect* salad for lunch or when the baby has a blowout diaper all over our brand new shirt. All this sharing is fine, but it does lead to a new sort of normal when we have so much knowledge about people with whom we don’t associate that much offline.
This came to a head for me recently when I ran into an old coworker and told her teenage daughter how proud and impressed I am of her academic accomplishments. We don’t see each other often; she has not shared this with me; her proud mama has shared them online – which I think is totally appropriate. But as soon as it left my mouth, I felt … strange. Like I knew more about her life than she would have shared with me herself.
So What About My Own Kids?
Of course, I am not the only person this has happened to. I’ve run into people that I haven’t seen in years and they address my children by name even though they haven’t ever seen them before. I’ve even had people ask my kids questions based on some anecdote that I may have posted about recently. This doesn’t bother me at all; it makes me feel like people are interested in my kids and my life.
But I can’t help but wonder how my own children feel about this. Right now they’re little so it may not even be a consideration for them, but as they get older … will they resent people who are essentially strangers knowing their names, their favorite sports, and their academic accomplishments?
I try to to abide by a rule for my kids to not post things of them that I wouldn’t want posted of myself – so no naked bathtub pictures or meltdown crying pictures (even though we have plenty). As they get older, I intend to allow them to have final say on what I post or do not post about them.
It’s clear that social media is not going anywhere. As we navigate through the sea of information on social media about family, friends, and acquaintances, we need to be mindful about what we are sharing about our families. I don’t have any set answers – I have no idea what I’m doing most of the time. But I think that re-evaluating this is necessary for me and for my family. Not just today, but every time I think about hitting that share button.