Wednesday, September 4, 2013

FYI: If You're Blogging About How Other People Should Portray Themselves on Social Media

 This article about how girls should handle themselves on social media has been going around, and I read a response to it this morning- actually, before I read the actual article- that had some good thoughts, but I wanted to try to put my own thoughts and words down about it.

First of all, it's mildly weird and creepy that you, lady, and your husband, are going through facebook photos of people you aren't facebook friends with. When the photos are public, we refer to that as as 'creeping' or 'photo stalking'. And it's something people do but it's a little weird. If you're doing it by logging into someone else's account or looking over their shoulder, and they are photos you normally wouldn't be able to see due to privacy settings, it's even creepier.

Because, see, for instance, when I post a photo....oh, let's say of my kids, and I set the privacy settings to 'friends only', I am aware that others might see it- after all, the internet is the internet- but my *intent* is only to share it with my friends. If my friend in turn shares it (for instance, my facebook friends include an aunt who might share photos to brag to her friends about her adorable great-nephew), then it gets seen by others, yes. If, however, her friend breaks into said aunt's facebook account to see my kid's photos, that's a different thing, and weird. If said aunt is looking at facebook and says, "Hey, friend, come look over my shoulder at my my great-nephew," that's closer to the first scenario, but if said friend is insisting on viewing, then that scoots it back toward the more creepy end of the spectrum again.

That said, I do make the assumption that my kids' friends' parents supervise their internet use, and thus that they see anything my kids post, and I accept that, but it still makes my stomach feel funny to hear that you actively go through your kids' friends' photos.

Second, I notice you're starting right out by putting genders in boxes- your little girl points out the pretty rooms, girly details, boys smell like stinky cheese. Okay.

And then to the main point. You are concerned about how girls are portraying themselves on the faceybook.

And hey, how people portray themselves on social media, that's a thing that matters. I mean, we've seen people lose their jobs over things they posted on facebook. We've seen people do stupid things like admit to crimes on social media, or share photos of themselves abusing children or animals. Some of us have accidentally sent something to facebook from our phones that we meant to send to only one person. (Luckily when I did it, it was a pretty minor thing, both times, not something that endangered or embarrassed me, just something that I hadn't meant to make even semi-public.) And yeah, stuff you put on the internet, that stuff has a pretty high risk of not ever going away. That photo you change your mind about and delete, maybe five of your friends have already saved copies to their hard drives. Some of your friends get your statuses by text, so that post you delete is likely on several phones still (well, depending on how interesting you are and how many people get your statuses that way).

So let's talk to our kids about privacy, and about whether you want people who aren't on your friend list to see your posts (and if not, think twice about posting them, no matter what your settings are), and about whether you'd feel okay with so-and-so who is currently on your friend list still having a copy of that photo on his or her computer if the two of you have a drama and an unfriending next week. That's good stuff. Think about what you put out, whether it's on facebook or your t-shirt or your book cover or your spoken-out-loud words in public.

But then, well, the problem comes in because you're imposing *your* ideas of what's okay to share on people who just aren't *you*.

So, like, you don't think photos in a pajama top should be on facebook. What you get to do here is, not post photos of you in a pajama top, and even not allow your kids to do so (although I notice you don't have a problem with your own kids' shirtless photos on the internet, so clearly we have a double-standard going on to begin with.)

See, there are things I don't think should be on facebook. So what I do is, I don't put them on facebook. If you put them on facebook, I might hide it in my feed or comment on it or just choose not to look. Sometimes, I say, hey wait a minute, Steph, you're making a mistake here, you get to post what you like and so does this other person.

In fact, I'm going to admit something- sometimes I fall into the slut-shaming trap.

Sometimes, I think, "What is she thinking? Does she not know this is facebook?" and then I catch myself at that and I say, Hey, wait a minute, Steph, that's not cool. You get to choose what amounts of *your* flesh shows, but that flesh is not your flesh, it is her flesh, and she gets to decide what to do with it.

Sometimes I see photos and I think things like, "It really makes me sad that she obviously thinks looking a certain way is the most important thing she can do." Like, as in, here's this smart, funny, incredible person, and the most important thing she can think of to represent herself on facebook is how she did her hair or her makeup or how she looks in her new dress? Tsk. And then I give myself the mental slap in the face, and say hey wait, scroll scroll, oops, no, that's not the only part of herself she's sharing, look at this, she also talked about her day at school and her plans for the weekend. Just because the photo is what I'm looking at doesn't mean it's the sum total of what she thinks of herself or how she wants to portray herself. Her body, her face, and her hair are a part of her, and she gets to choose to share that part. In fact, even if she *only* shares photos, that doesn't mean she thinks that's the most important thing about her- maybe it's the part she doesn't feel vulnerable about and is comfortable sharing. Maybe she considers her *thoughts* deeply personal and private, but her outward appearance is a thing that people see all the time, so it's less so. Either way, the interesting thing is, *why* she shares what she shares is not actually any of my business.

Now, here's what you *do* get to do. You get to educate *your* kids on what you think is right and on how to portray themselves, and how to handle other people's portrayals. You get to teach your son to look at more than the photos. You get to teach him that even if some girl dances naked in front of him, she's not just a body but a human being with thoughts and feelings and humanity. You get to teach your daughter the same things! You get to teach all of them the same thing about guys, too, because an interesting thing is that this applies to everyone. You get to teach them how to look at a whole person, not just their skin!

I mean, you might have to learn it yourself first. But give it a try, it's actually really worth it.