Once upon a time, there was a father who wanted to keep pictures of his babies off social media. He told himself that it was morally wrong to publicly post photos of babies without their consent. He went so far as to ask the children's friends and relatives to refrain from posting public photos of them, much to the annoyance of these friends and relatives. This delusional father was me, and my delusions ended when I took my 4-month-old babies to a kid's birthday party and someone snapped a photo of us. The next day, my babies made their official Facebook debut, and we didn't even get photo approval. Within minutes, the hundreds of Facebook acquaintances who didn't know I had children began liking and commenting on the photo. I didn't mind that my happy news was now public, but it did feel a little strange that the person to break the story was a relative stranger.
After the first photo of the kids was made public, I realized how silly it was to fight the inevitable. There was no way to protect the kids from social media. There was no vaccine to stop people from posting photos of your kids on Facebook, and if there was, Jenny McCarthy would probably convince people to steer clear of it. So I chose to not only accept the modern world, but embrace it. I joined Twitter, Instagram and Vine and began to document every aspect of our lives through text, photo and video. And to my surprise, I loved it. I discovered that social media was a parent's best friend, giving me the illusion of a vibrant social life even when homebound with two children.
There's one problem, though. When my kids grow up, they'll be able to go through my Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts for a day-by-day account of what I was doing during their early years. This is an entirely new dilemma for parents — at least, for non-celebrity parents. Madonna probably had to explain the Sex book, the Justify My Love video and Dennis Rodman to her children, but the rest of us could create whatever past we wanted. But times have changed, and now all of us social media enthusiasts will have to explain our public pasts to our children. Maybe my kids won't ever go down this particular Internet rabbit hole, but I imagine they will. If my parents had been Tweeting through my childhood, I would devour those tweets like they were a new Harry Potter book. I would love to read their take on the Iranian revolution in 140 characters or less. I would be thrilled to see what photos they chose to post of me and how many "likes" my first birthday pictures received. Instead, I have to settle for some old photos albums with faded pictures.
Although I won't have anything quite as tough as the Sex book to explain to my kids, I bet that if and when my children discover my social media accounts, they'll have many questions, like: "Why were you binge-watching Homeland, Mad Men, and RuPaul's Drag Race instead of spending quality time with us?" Or, "Why were you constantly tweeting about our poop? Our poop is private." Or, "How could you post side-by-side pictures of me and Lena Dunham and say I look like her?"
In the spirit of staying ahead of the game, I would like to say the following to my kids: Yes, I binge-watched many television shows while you were young, but think of all the ones I wanted to binge-watch and didn't. Game of Thrones, The Good Wife and Breaking Bad are just a few of the shows I missed to spend quality time with you. And yes, I wrote a few tweets about your poop, but I did not post any pictures of your poop, no matter how monstrous and explosive it was, and no matter how tempted I was to do so. And yes, I may have said you looked like Lena Dunham, but I loved Lena Dunham and meant that as a compliment. In fact, Girls was one of the shows I binge-watched during your early years. While you were napping, of course.
Truth be told, I could probably wipe all my social media accounts before my kids grow up so that they never see these documents of their early years. But why would I do that when I very much want this kind of document of my own childhood? No, I'll keep my accounts forever active so they have the option of scrolling through their past anytime they like. And I won't even self-censor myself. I don't want my kids to experience some fake, sanitized version of their history. I want them to experience their history as it really, virtually, was.