When my daughter was born in 2006, I immediately announced it on Facebook, along with pictures of her just several hours old. In fact, she was a Facebook presence even before her birth after a friend of mine “tagged” her in my midsection in a picture of me when I was visibily pregnant. Within the first week of her life, I changed my profile picture to one of me holding her, and as she grew, updated pictures were posted probably every month or so.

 

Even though she was born in Missouri, my Facebook friends in New Orleans, Chicago, New York and LA got to witness her christening, her first bites of rice cereal, her first plane ride, her first Halloween costume. Family members from North Carolina to Wisconsin got to see her with cake frosting in her hair on her first birthday, draped in beads and stuffed animals after a Mardi Gras parade and toddling through Storyland at City Park. And when she got so terrifyingly ill when she was 20 months old, the outpouring of love and prayers and well wishes from across the country that I received via Facebook meant more to me than I could possibly ever express in words.

 

As both Facebook and Ruby became increasingly sophisticated, I frequently posted Ruby’s numerous bons mots as my status updates along with pictures and videos of her saying and doing cute things. I don’t have the world’s closest family, emotionally or geographically, and my aunt and uncle in Wisconsin have never met Ruby in person, but thanks to Facebook, they are not missing her childhood completely. My other aunt lives in New Orleans, but due to health problems has only met Ruby a handful of times. Nevertheless, she tells me that pictures and stories of Ruby brighten her days.

 

Her day care teachers are my Facebook friends, and I was always thrilled when, in the middle of a busy day at work, I would get an email that a new picture of Ruby had been posted on Facebook. As a working mom, it made me feel closer to Ruby to get these visual updates on her day and to be able to tell her when I picked her up, “Hey, you sure looked cute dressed up as a clown today.” The flip side of this was that Ruby’s teachers could read my updates and get a better sense of what was happening in her home life. It made all of us more connected and helped us be more of a team in caring for Ruby. And it was so easy!

 

Ruby herself is so acutely aware of Facebook that last week, my friend Sarah took a picture of Ruby, and Ruby immediately insisted, “Put it on Facebook now, Sarah, so everyone can see how cute I am!”

 

I know that there are people who bemoan the loss of privacy on the Internet, and I know, believe me, that every silly picture I post of Ruby, every detail I share, will be there forever. In fact, just last week, when I took Ruby in for her annual checkup, her pediatrician laughed and said, “I don’t need to ask too many questions about you, Ruby, because I read your mom’s blog.” I know I am sharing things about Ruby that she might be embarrassed about one day. This is hardly a new phenomenon, though. When I was Ruby’s age, back in the mid-1980s, I did a few local commercials and even a spot on a local PBS program about how babies are made. At my Sweet 16 party, in front of everyone, my dad pulled out the VHS compilation of all of these memories, including one of me, pigtailed, two front teeth missing, proclaiming proudly to the camera that yes, I did know exactly what role the daddy plays in making a baby. I wanted to either die or kill my father or both. But now that I’m an adult, I am amused by that video and really thankful to my dad for keeping it. So I guess I don’t worry too much about Ruby’s privacy, although I do always have it in the back of my mind when I post about her on Facebook or write about her here.

 

A much more remote concern for me is that posting her pictures exposes her to online predators. Honestly, the idea that some sick bastard could be getting a thrill out of a picture of my kid really doesn’t faze me. I mean, it’s gross to think about, and I certainly hope it isn’t happening, but I also don’t see that as actual victimization of her – and it could also happen even if I didn’t post her pictures online. For all I know, some sicko could see her at the grocery store eating Teddy Grahams and go home and fantasize about it. That sort of thing is so far beyond my control that I just try not to think about it.

 

And as for someone recognizing her on the street from a picture I’ve posted and knowing her name from Facebook and enticing her to get into his car … I don’t know; I just don’t see that as a particularly likely scenario. For one, I just think the likelihood of someone being compelled to do this in the first place is so small, certainly smaller than the chance of, God forbid, Ruby being injured or worse in a car accident. I worry about accidents and cancer and even school shootings more than I worry about Ruby being abducted. Even when I do worry about child predators (and I do, because I worry about everything), I tend to think those are likeliest to be people she knows and/or random crimes of opportunity, not someone stalking her on Facebook. And finally, Ruby and I have had the “stranger danger” talk, and it’s not like she goes anywhere alone right now anyway. She is walked into school by teachers, walked out by me and in my house or holding my hand virtually the rest of the time. I know she will need more freedom as she gets older, and I’m prepared to give it to her as long as we have various talks about safety and strangers and good touch and bad touch and boundaries and so on, but for right now, she is pretty much never out of my sight, thankyouverymuch.

 

Basically, I think the good of sharing Ruby’s life with my far-flung family and friends far outweighs whatever the dangers are of sharing this type of information. I mean, I use basic common sense: I don’t post my address or any highly personal information, and I definitely don’t post naked pictures of Ruby – I don’t even take naked pictures of Ruby. But Ruby – along with the vast majority of her peers ­– is living her life with an online component, like it or not. I personally believe that managing this information is much more realistic than trying to keep it off of the Internet altogether.

 

And of course, in less than a decade, Ruby will probably have her own Facebook account (or whatever the social media equivalent is by then), and then that will be an entirely new set of parental worries.

 

Thoughts? Comments? Agree or disagree?