How many of you are embarrassed by your baby pictures? (Yes, I mean the one where you are picking your nose). How many of you would be upset if your parents showed them random strangers? How about the World Wide Web?
While our generation can still reclaim some dignity by stowing embarrassing childhood photographs and home videos in cardboard boxes buried deep in the basement, babies today are not afforded this luxury. According to a February 18th New York Times article, 92% of children have “online presence” by the time they are two!
With the advent of Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, and ShutterFly, zealous parents and grandparents load anything and everything onto the internet.
Check out some of my personal favorites:
Baby Corey: Dancer Extraordinaire
Kittens Girl: Shrieking Storyteller Savant
David: Future Dentist?
We think that these kids are hysterical, but what will they think of themselves ten years from now? The problem with posting something on the internet is that it leaves a permanent trace. Baby Corey may not be so happy to find when he is no longer a baby that his dancing, diapered jig will follow him for the rest of his life.
The broader issue here is not the permanence of these images and videos, but the intentions behind them. Back in the old-school days of the non-digital camera, my parents took pictures of me to preserve the memories of my childhood. Back before YouTube, my parents video-taped my first steps, my birthday parties, my every inane move for personal record-keeping. But now, everything has changed.
We have to ask ourselves, why did these parents make these home videos? Was it to preserve memories? What kind of parent brings a camera to the dentist? Was it to entertain others, to seek fame? Perhaps. (See article on the “Balloon Boy” incident for parental fame-seeking to the extreme).
Technology has permanently altered our use of photographs and videos. We used to take pictures and videos for ourselves. They were intimate, they were for us. Now, we do it for others. To show how much fun we are having. To get a laugh. To go viral on YouTube.
Although not every parent is fame-seeking, the digital age has certainly brought about a conundrum. Why are we hesitant to show baby pictures to strangers in person but eager to share them with millions of virtual ones online?