Now facebook has been around for a few years, and the students who first got facebook have grown up a bit and meanwhile everyone has facebook anyway, peoples’ kids and babies have started popping up there. You see albums of first ultrasound scans, newborns, first birthday parties, second birthday parties, so-and-so’s first day at school in brand new uniform with crisp box-creased chequered dresses and sweaters and shiny new shoes, standing on the doorstep. And it goes on.
I’m not sure if I can put my finger on why, but this makes me deeply uneasy. I know that if I had children I would be deeply proud of them and think them the most beautiful, wonderful things in the world. And I can understand why you’d want to put photos of your child up there in the same way that you put up holiday photos to show everyone else how happy you were and what a great tan you got and how spectacularly cultured you are – it’s that thing about facebook actually being a way of presenting yourself to the world, advertising your depths of maternal feeling and how cute your child looks in a sun-bonnet.
I really don’t think it’s a good idea. Not just because no-one wants all their friends to see their baby photos and you know that if facebook is still around when those kids get accounts of their own, they will get tagged in all of those photos by amused – or even, perhaps, malicious – friends.
That’s not really what concerns me, though, and I don’t know what it is about this that does concern me. Small kids in passing, yeah, sure – if your holiday album happens to contain a few photos of your family which may include your baby daughter or nephew or sister in the same way that peoples’ grandparents and parents crop up in facebook albums from time to time – I don’t have the same kind of problem with that.
It’s a privacy thing, and it’s unnerving. It’s the idea that peoples’ whole private lives are going to be archived on the internet, that children will never be, somehow, quite so free or unobserved again, now there’s the internet. I really don’t mind what data the government has on me or my family and I don’t think I disagree with things like ID cards or DNA-testing the whole population (if it could be proven that it’s not going to throw up erroneous matches and place me at the scene of a murder in Buckinghamshire when to be quite honest I’m not entirely sure where Buckinghamshire is).
And I suppose, up to a point, I can control what information there is about me up on facebook. I can untag myself from photos, if I like, set the privacy settings how I like and only befriend people I know, like and care about. I can talk about myself as much or as little as I like, in as many different ways and media as I choose. I understand how this works and am therefore able to give knowing consent to what is out there about me remaining ‘out there’. I’ve always understood that even if you think you’ve ‘deleted’ something that was once online, you probably haven’t, and I don’t think that’s put me at any risk in any way, as far as I’m aware. And I am reasonably well aware. A small child won’t be. I really don’t think you should have any major presence on facebook until you’re old enough to choose to have a facebook account of your own and fully understand how to use it safely and carefully and responsibly and not regret it later – though how old or mature you have to be to be able to do that is entirely open to debate.
So no, not that I’m expecting to have children any time soon, they won’t be going up on the internet. To be honest I highly doubt I’ll be using facebook by that point, and I don’t suppose I’ll have the time or the inclination to write a blog, but if I do, relevant blog entries will go something like ‘Daughter born [date][weight].’ Cue hiatus. And that’ll be it.