The World’s Happiest Dog® doesn’t know she’s popular with my Facebook friends. I share pictures of Lucy — and my cats — on Facebook, Instagram and on the web. They don’t have any concept of privacy, so they don’t care.
Things get more complicated with humans, though. And if you share your words or photos online — as I do — it requires a lot of thought to figure out where to draw the line between disclosure and privacy.
I’m thinking about that this afternoon because of a column that “mommy blogger” Christie Tate wrote for the Washington Post — explaining why her fourth-grade daughter is upset with her. The daughter got her first laptop and has been searching online for her mother’s name. She discovered lots of articles and photos in which she’s a subject — and she’s not happy about it.
The daughter wants her mother to remove any references to her, but Tate refused, saying “I’m not done exploring my motherhood in my writing.”
I understand Tate’s position, but my empathy is ultimately with her daughter. It’s hard to know where to draw such lines — and we’re not always going to agree where they are — but I think creators have to be sensitive to their families’ needs.
I’ve written things about a lot of people here that could be sensitive, so I’ve had to deal with this over and over. In most cases, I use pseudonyms for people. In other cases, I change identifying details to make it difficult to ever know who a person is. I never change anything that’s material to the point I want to make, but I don’t want to expose too much about a person when he or she isn’t a public figure.
I’ve thought a lot about how this is going to affect my ability to write about certain things from my life in the future. It’s one thing to write about love and what I want in life, but it’s another to write about those things when everybody knows who my wife and children are.
Right now, what I write is my business and nobody has to connect what I write with specific people. But I won’t be able to write honestly — after I’m married — about a lot of what I write about now. It’s not that I will be eager to hide anything. It will simply be that there’s someone else who I would obviously be talking about. And, for the most part, that simply wouldn’t be fair to her.
I’ll always be able to share photos of Lucy and my cats. Thomas, for instance, couldn’t care less about this photo. As long as I get home soon to feed him, that’s all he cares about. I can share all the pictures of sunsets and trees and fog that I want. But everything changes when people become involved — especially people who you love.
I don’t know where the line of privacy is for everybody, but I do think that when your own children are uncomfortable with what you’ve published about them, you’ve gone too far and you’ve revealed too much.
I hope that my future wife and my future children will be willing to let me share pictures of them on social media, at least some of the time. But the point is that they have a say in the matter. If I love them and care about them, I will listen to their desires about this.
I know that what I write about will change when that day gets here. And that’s fine, actually, because I suspect I will be ready to move on to writing about entirely different things by then.
I’ll still be posting pictures of critters and sunsets on Instagram, but more of my life will have to be closed off from public discussion as other people become part of it. I think that’s only fair.