Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Your web identity (and mine)

I am on Fa.ce.bo.ok.
I was before and then "erased" myself because I thought the whole thing was creepy. But then about a week before D. was born I started going on it again. It proved a great way to announce D.'s arrival to the world. Many of my friends use it, as does DH's extended family. Horray for social networking.

But I wonder about the images we post as we expose our lives to the world. What is the picture we paint? And this goes for our blogs too. Here, I am the girl with the miscarriages, the septum, the incompetent cervix and finally... One of the ones lucky enough to give birth to a real live baby. But, of course, we are all more than this little window we open to the world.

But back to Fa.ce.bo.ok - cuz it is such a weird beast. There we have a "profile" to expose both our physical selves, but also to list all those things we deem significant enough to represent us to the world. What gets left out here?

But it is not the "profile" or the idea of "friends" that has my panties all in a bunch. It is the images that we choose to represent ourselves that I can not figure out. I vowed never to make D. part of my profile picture. It started out when I realized some of my very conservative family members were very formulaic in their choices of profile pics. It was that the women always posted a picture of themselves with their husbands. Not once, always. It was never just them... Like, here I am - just me - the independent lady. It was always: Here I am wife to this dude to my left. Blech.

Then after having D. I realized that 90% of the folks my age were posting pics of their kids instead of themselves, and I thought that was really weird too. Then finally I was friended by a woman who ONLY has pictures of her kids. Not one of herself. Dag. She's done gone disappeared herself all together. She is nothing but her kids?

I know. It is just Fa.ce.bo.ok. Who cares, right? It is not like this is a true picture of ones identity. But as women, as mothers, as wives, as partners, as former and current infertiles (however we define that) how do we choose to represent ourselves online?

I just know that I am me. Yes, D. is more than me. I put him first and will always. And he will be part of my identity and also part of my "profile." But where is the line that women draw between themselves and their family members? When does our family consume us? And have we thought about what it means to freely pass the image of our children around? What about their identity? They have no say in the distribution of their image.

And I am friends with some of you who read this and who do have pictures of your babies or family as your profile... Please don't think I am judging you. I am not. I am just considering this, curious really. Hell, right now I have a picture of me with my cat. In my sick head I was using this image to make up for how I have neglected him (the cat) over the last weeks:) As if he knows I posted it.

But I think what I have the hardest time with was seeing that my MIL has now swapped out the profile picture of her and FIL to a picture of just my baby D.

Mine. Belonging to me. My son.

She has overstepped me. She has consumed and distributed the image of my son as a representation of herself. Somehow, my son is who she is? And that really bothers me. It makes me sad that I did not consider better how his image would be in the virtual world. Who might take it, use it and pass it around. It also makes me feel terribly possessive. It does not help that she is also posting a daily status about him like his birthday, his weight, etc. But she is also openly discussing how productive my breasts are with her sisters on her wall? WTF? I am a person. Not a cow. I am a mother to D. But I am still me.

Some thoughts on this?


Meg said...

Wow, just wow. I would bring this up to her right away and set a very clear boundary around this type of exposure she is doing. I could see if she just said "....is a grandam!" in her status..fine. But just reading this infuriates me!!!

I can only imagine how many areas of your life you are having to place boundaries. That is part of the role I guess. But this is a boundary around your space and privacy....

Good luck.

Another Dreamer said...

I would mention it to her, but it doesn't sound like it's do much good. She would just take it the wrong way. Ungh.

Good luck with all that.

Joni and Jess said...

Wow, I don't hardly even know what to say. I think I would flip! She has no business discussing your milk productivity with her sisters, especially on Facebook, and that is YOUR son. If you wanted his pic. or status flashed all over the internet you would do that yourself. She's lucky I am not her DIL. I would say something to her and if your uncomfortable or offended by it, tell her so. Don't be afraid to tell her you're the mommy and you get to make these kinds of decision, NOT her. She has no business flashing his pic. all over the internet, D. and ALL his CUTENESS that makes him up belong to YOU. Sorry! Had to say it, I'm a terrible person!

G$ said...

I was thinking about this last night. While I think its weird that your MIL is doing that... I have a picture of me and M in my profile for one reason. I used to have just me, then I felt like people might think I was fishing for men on FB. However irrational that sounds, I wanted to be very clear that I was not on FB scouting out husbands. I had one, look, there in my profile pic, there he is. I think it's because I was connecting with a lot of old guy friends at first. Maybe to tell them with a picture, maybe to tell M with a picture. Am I weird? Hellz yeah.

Susanna said...

It's tricky. I can't tell how I would feel if it were me and my MIL. Well actually, probably I'd be excited that she was bragging about my baby instead of all her other grandkids. But I definitely see your point. Once pictures of D. get out in the world, he sort of becomes "a baby" not your baby D. I think I'll write my own post about web identity so I don't end up writing a novella on your blog. How does DH feel about it?

sara said...

Hmmm....yeah I'd say something perhaps. But whatever you fell comfy with. I have to find a decent pic of me for my profile, so for the first few days of me on facebook brynn will have to do. But I agree it's nice to have some of yourself and not only the kiddos. Facebook both intrigues me and creeps me out :-) But if someone else just had Brynn...yeah...that would bother me too. ((hugs))

Anonymous said...

I'm funny about pics of my kids and myself online. I'll post them in Yahoo groups, and in passworded blog posts. I have no pics on FBk at all. I noticed though that MY MIL has a pic of TTG (with DP, but you really can't see DP) as her profile pic. While it's lovely in a sense, I think it oversteps my baby's privacy and potential safety.

As for her discussing your milk production, wow. One thing if it's "I'm really proud of M for BFing D" but if it's nitty gritty details then that's nobody's business but YOURS.

Me said...

As for her using the picture... well, I don't see what the big deal is. If this was 1990 and you had given her a hardcopy she would be showing it around to her friends. And if it was 2000 and you had given her a digital copy she would be emailing it around to her friends. So now it's 2009 and she's using it on FB. I don't really see what the difference is.

That all said, I think it's totally freaking weird when people use pics of their kids as their profile pic. I feel it's likewise weird when people send out Xmas cards with pics of only the kids. However, I figure to each their own.

As for the posts about your milk production... that's uber weird. Even though I'm sure MANY MIL's talk about this stuff with their friends and family it's a bit over the top to put it out there in writing. However, if your MIL is a very outgoing person and isn't embarrassed by the weirdness I'm not sure what you can say to her to convince her it's inappropriate.

As a little aside, I've been on FB for a year or two and have come to loathe it because, at my age, about 90% of the new friend requests are from old female friends who've decided to join up during their maternity leave. :P

LaceFace said...

just happened upon your blog while browsing friends' blogs and I have to agree with you on this. It absolutely bugs me to no end when mothers create the image that they are null and void but the kids are their identity.