Modern Day Motherhood: Accidental Exploitation in a Social Media Crazy World

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Photo Credit: Beth Mayberry of Oak + Oats Lifestyle Photography

At first, I thought maybe I could just pose a few general questions that would help moms, like me, reflect on their intentions before they posted to their social media accounts. But, I’ve found that generally we seem to focus more on how it makes us feel as moms, rather than really looking at how it might, one day, make our children feel.

This isn’t about curating memories —and it’s definitely not about creating inauthentic feeds— it’s about figuring out how to protect the gifts that we’ve been given. 

Protecting Our Children

Somewhere along the line, we have to really consider how our actions—on our Instastories, Snapchats, Blogs, Instagram Feeds, Facebook Statuses, and whatever other online spaces we find ourselves lingering in—affect that one thing we really care the most about: our children.

We’ve created an illusion that we have some sort of control over what happens with that cute anecdote or quick snapshot. However, there’s really no way of guaranteeing that the things we post are actually safe.

Whether we’ve vetted the people who follow us on Facebook and Instagram or not, we’re still allowing a larger audience than normal access into our children’s intimate lives. It’s no different than if we invited those people to come peek through our windows of our home, allowing them to see our children in their natural habitat.

In some ways, modern motherhood has somehow become an exhibit. Our children are on display for the world to validate, to admire, and to comment on. 

Bye, Bye Privacy

It’s amazing to me that there are children being born whose EVERY MINUTE of life has been not just documented, but uploaded on to the internet for the world to see. From the moment of conception (and actually, even before) children are losing their right to privacy. In fact, a recent study shared that by the time a child is five years old, their parents will have posted around 1,500 images of them on social media. Anonymity has been snatched away from them. And for what? 

But, really? Why do we feel so compelled to share our children with others? 

I guess I should say that most of the things we post about our kids, in my opinion, are generally not bad. We love our kids. We’re proud of them. We’re stunned that we got to be a part of bringing them into the world—that they share the same genetics as us. We love them so much that we want everyone to see how incredible they are.

Creating Stories

However, we have to understand that we aren’t just sharing our children with others, we’re creating stories about them. 

Each post, image, and video is an intangible, permanent building block that’s weaving a tale of who our child is. One day, I believe it will be possible to take all those blocks and catalog them.

Google for people, maybe?

We have to ask ourselves, what do we want people to really know about our child? More importantly, what do we want others to know about and have immediate access to when our child isn’t a child anymore? We can’t forget that our kids will spend more time outside of our protection, than in it. And it’s our duty to give them every advantage they could possibly ever have for the future. Online and off.

Lingering Effects

We are each in the business of creating legacies. Our feeds are living documents that might always be accessible—to our children, their children and their children. What will they read about themselves? How will it impact their futures? How will it shape our relationships with them?

They have this great and heavy weight of being known before choosing to be. 

It’s easy when they’re young. They can’t tell you that actually, they’d rather not have their naked bum up on Facebook. They can’t tell you that in your search for authenticity, your story about how you hated them so much the night they kept you awake actually infringed on their dignity. And they can’t tell you that somehow, through all the pictures and the stories you shared, you made their identity about what you wanted them to be instead of giving them a chance to be who they wanted to be. 

Love or Exploitation?

We’re making them carry a burden that wouldn’t otherwise exist but for our actions, our words and our posts. 

And this list? It expands incredibly when the mommy isn’t just a “regular” mom, but a blogger, You Tuber or famous Instagrammer. Then all of a sudden, children just become another product to place, to accessorize and to take more pictures of. Apparently, motherhood isn’t just a lifestyle choice, it’s a booming business, too. 

Am I the only one who has a problem with this? 

When did not having a voice mean the same thing as giving your consent? When did we start treating children as if they were commodities and not human beings? 

We clearly have a lot to learn when it comes to managing what we share on social media. I don’t make any claims to knowing the best way to do that. In fact, I still post pictures and stories about my children every now and then.

However, my hope is that we would at least stop and think about the ramifications of the things we post online about our kids. That we would pause and consider what our words and pictures will one day say, not about us—but about them

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Wife to a bonafide mountain man and mama to two toddlers and a newborn babe, Tabitha doesn't find much margin for boredom. When things get crazy, as they often do — Tabitha fervently writes down what keeps her pressing on. She believes that every messy minute of motherhood is worth the daily fight and will stop at nothing to pursue God through it all. While often quite wordy and long-winded, you can count on Tabitha to be completely transparent and brutally honest when it comes to life and everything else in-between. While she’d rather meet you over a cup of coffee on her front porch to share the lessons she's regularly learning, you can also visit with her over on her blog or Instagram. Her personal blog, Tabitha Panariso, is a space where you can find her writing on faith, motherhood, and daily life. You can also find her capturing the everyday rhythms of life on her Instagram, @tabithapanariso

1 COMMENT

  1. I think about these things a lot. It’s hard to know sometimes where the boundaries are in what we post when it comes to our children. Sometimes it feels like motherhood has become a sport or a big competition. Who has the cutest, smartest, funniest kids? Who is doing motherhood best? It can be overwhelming. I try to always remember that what I post is public and you never know who will see it. Thank you for your honesty.

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