Emotions are high this morning, making it a good day to write about intimacy and the internet, a conversation I keep coming back to, a conversation I’d love for you to inject your thoughts into. It’s the first day of kindergarten for Hal. This morning was piled high with anxiety, hers and mine for her, with comforting southern buttermilk biscuits, with a clump of toilet paper in the toilet from a single 5-year-old sneeze, with dishes leftover from last night’s boxed mac and cheese (or mackin’ as she calls it) and caesar salad, the back-to-school dinner she requested, with lots of sweet smiles, too. I have the quintessential first-day-of-school pictures on my phone, plus a quick video we took before hopping in the car. And I find myself asking a question that’s become so familiar over the past 2 years, what do I share on the internet? Do I share our most intimate moments, like the one above? When I choose to share them, do they lose their intimacy? I’m 100% certain they do, and entirely unsure at the same time.
When I use the word “intimate” I’m not talking about our master bedroom. I’m talking about the sacred moments at the dinner table, the family vacation, the birthday parties, and the everyday ordinary moments. The iPhone camera has found a home in these moments, and the internet has created an easy space to share them—to our closest friends and a world of strangers. When the internet was small, 10 years ago, I questioned none of it. Post, publish, share. I was liberal about it. Now that the internet, or at least my slice of it, feels a little bigger, I have sharing paralysis. What do I share on the internet? And when do I sacrifice intimacy?
Every situation comes with benefits and losses. Call them pros and cons if you want. They exist together, side-by-side. You can’t measure the weight of the benefits without subtracting the weight of the loss to determine the cost. I’m having a whole lot of trouble calculating that number for myself in regards to this conversation, deciding if it’s a net positive or a net loss or maybe somewhere in the middle.
There’s something good about sharing and consuming real-life content, even from a stranger. That’s why I follow blogs and then started one. The personal, intimate stuff is good stuff. There’s value in hearing another mother struggle like you; value in watching someone turn an idea into a reality; value in hearing Nora and Linsday grieve out loud; value in being confronted with something your immediate world can’t give you; value in finding a recipe that makes dinnertime more doable and a grass that doesn’t need mowing.
There’s a point, though, when I begin to question it all. I think it’s at the point of oversharing, both as a creator and a consumer. It’s the point when I begin to think about the iPhone and the person holding it. Are they present to what’s right in front of them? Am I present to what’s right in front of me if I’m so engaged with their online life? Why are they sharing so much of their intimate life? Do their kids and partner hate having a camera in the middle of every moment as much as mine do?
As a creator and sharer of personal life, these are all questions I started asking myself two years ago, probably around the same time Instagram Stories became a thing. My answer lately has been to pull back, to preserve the private moments, to keep some things to myself, or at a minimum, to figure this question out. It’s humorous though. In that place of holding back, I’m toeing the line of creating an over-curated blog and feed, which has its own set of losses.
Ping. Pong. This conversation is complex and complicated, full of benefits and losses, all at the same time. Maybe I’m overthinking it all. Probably. Certainly. But I want to be certain I can afford the cost of intimacy and sharing life on the internet. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Imagine we are at a coffee shop, and I just unloaded all of this on you. What would you share back? What’s your experience as a creator? As a consumer of content? Where do you draw your lines and create your boundaries? How have they changed over the years? What works for you? What doesn’t? As you read the comments of others, please handle them with the same respect you would with a friend over coffee, thinking out loud. The internet is big, but maybe it’s intimate, too.
A few years ago I signed up for an Instagram account as Facebook was no longer meeting my needs. I found it to be helpful in getting me out and taking more photoes and not just with my nice Nikon. It helped my creativity. Then, over the last couple of months I really started to take a step back and think. Am I capturing life’s memories just to share on Instagram? The answer is partly. I love having my IG pictures to look back on as time passes but I don’t like looking at everything from a should I take a picture and share. Since then I have decreased the amount of things I share and I deactivated my FB. Both have made me happier overall. It really is a personal decision but I find it has helped me enjoy life more instead of trying to capture everything for an IG memory.
My husband and I decided not to use social media in any form for ourselves. We both have select blogs we read and enjoy. some things are just a little too personal to share we believe for everyone. Stories of events belong on a blog, Recipes, Appliance, Wallpaper and Paint choices Yes! How to design a room, organize that sort of thing Yes! We had a party to celebrate a birthday the first day of Autumn Yes! Everything in moderation find your balance where you and your family are comfortable and stay there. Do not worry about it if this is something you want to share or something you want to keep in you family and friends circle just make your own rules and the balance will be there.
This summer I saw IG stories of blogger conferences and other places where “influencers” were meeting up and everyone filmed every moment. I felt bad for them all though they all kept promoting these “meetings” as great and real – but from the outside looking in, I didn’t see it as either. If I were meeting someone in real Iife for the first time, I’d never film the interaction.
I personally have given up totally on social media. I tried facebook for a while, but found it didn’t help me keep up with people because I didn’t look at it for months at a time when we were traveling. I never shared lots of my life details in what I posted. That said, I did enjoy seeing pics of the grandkids at the beach. I do follow some blogs and do comment on them, and in that way have developed some friendships. I remember when Lindsay was grieving and appreciated seeing who the real person is. I like knowing that who the people on the other end of the blogs I enjoy. I am also grateful to those who post recipes, because those recipes now make up the vast majority of the contents of my recipe box. I guess I’d say that if something is extra special, it could be worth sharing, but I would tend to not share most of the every day stuff, even when it’s about a cute child.
As I read this, I thought about my own “first day of kindergarten” photos circa 1985. They are in an album in my home office. They are my treasures, but I’ve never shared them on the internet or with anyone else in my family, and really, why? In some ways, social media is often like raising your hand and saying “Hey, we’re doing this too!” but it also can feel like “Hey, is everyone hanging out without me?” (thanks Mindy Kaling) I think its important ask “why am I sharing this”? I probably don’t reflect often enough on that point. So this post is valuable, worthwhile, and I appreciate your words as a stranger who I’ll never meet, but who has made me think.
I love what you wrote here and what others have commented so far! It’s nice to know we are not alone in these feelings! I often feel this tug a war with social media in general. I’m a stay at home mom and often find that it’s my young kids life that allows me to connect with others through Instagram. I don’t have a community here in person, so I often find myself wanting this but at the same time wishing for life before the internet. I promised myself that once my youngest stopped napping that I would consider deleting my Instagram account.
I’m right there with you! I found community online as a new mom, 6 years ago, when I had none in my immediate circle. It made the long lonely days at home less lonely. Social media can be such an amazing tool.
This topic. Always a constant struggle. But I’ve gotten better at it over time. I think of IG as my canvas, and I’m going to paint on it how I choose. Hopefully, the people who enjoy that content will choose to hang around and be respectful of my space and what I choose to share vs what they want or think they should see. And I believe this has become easier because I’m more conscious about the moments I choose to share and the moments I choose to keep for myself. It’s a muscle you have to constantly work because it’s so easy to become tangled in the desire to share ‘all the things’ at any given moment. But I like the current tribe that I have, and the intimacy that we can share together in that space with discretion. I love the moments you share and I think you have great balance in your space. I find myself wanting you to post more often, so you’re doing something right. ☺️
I like the way you think, Charles. A muscle you have to exercise, a canvas to paint on. Thanks for framing it like this and for encouraging me to get out of my head and post sometimes. There’s so much value in this online space. So much!
I do follow a couple accounts that show a LOT of kid pics (Laura Iz, and I love it) , but they do bother me too. I dont think it can be great for the kid, although the way the good ones like Laura handle it is amazing. I think very minimal posting of personal things is nice on an account like yours, it makes a connection, and the lines of what an account is about are so blurry on Instagram. Most design accounts I follow do some fashion, some beauty, some personal life, etc. I enjoy that.
Oh man, this is also my great debate. The juggle is real!
4 years ago I decided to separate my personal Instagram/blog from my business/creative account. I loved intertwining them all the years prior, bc that WAS my life! I’m equal parts mother and creator! But it started to feel unsettling to use hashtags for creative projects and get random followers from far away places, then to post sweet pictures and intimate details about my babies. I don’t want strangers to know the details of my children’s lives, you know? So I made the big separation and I typically don’t look back.
But sometimes, like yesterday, I wanted to illustrate WHY we uprooted our family and decided to take on this crazy adventure—it was bc of family. So, after a very long debate in my head, I decided to post everyone singing happy birthday to my new 7 year old—the very best moment of a birthday, in my opinion—✨ Everyone joining together, celebrating in song, this happy day of birth of this special, wonderful person! Makes me tear up every time! —But yes, I keep wondering if I should have shared it. Does it cheapen that moment by sharing it? I hope not. I don’t think so. But, I do wonder!
Such a fascinating topic to discuss. And, in reality, I don’t think there’s a solid answer. I guess we just go with our gut and ask ourselves day to day, “what do I feel best about doing?” I suppose that applies to a lot of things in life! ?
PS the day my oldest went to kindergarten, I felt like my heart was walking outside of my body (Elizabeth Stone quote, it’s so beautiful). I bawled so hard after I dropped her off, and worried so much about her. Hope your mama heart is doing ok! And hopeful she had a happy day! ???
PPS homemade cookies help in the transition (my unbiased opinion).
Separating is so smart! My friend did this too, and she said it’s brought so much mental freedom. I’ve been worried about having one more thing to think about, but maybe by not separating the two, I’m creating more to think about! Also, I just really love all your posts, when you follow your rules and break them too!
This is something I’ve been thinking about for a long time. Last year I made the (BIG) decision to go off all social media and ditch my iPhone in favour of a Punkt dumb phone. I realize this isn’t a practical choice for those who need social media for work, but for my family it has been very freeing.
I still take pictures of my family, but I no longer think about which one to post and why. I appreciate your honesty as you navigate these moments.
Ohh this looks amazing! My husband bought a flip phone a while back but never could make the switch. We have our shared grocery list and calendar and google maps (we still don’t know our way completely around town) that stopped him from making the switch. Now we just hide our phones from sight on weekends and evenings. Can you switch back and forth between this phone, I wonder?
Thanks for starting this conversation Melissa. I’ve thought a lot about this over the last few years too. What to share, what not to share. When to pull out my phone camera, when to just enjoy the moment with my own senses. I’ve leaned more towards less sharing in hopes that it means more enjoying the moment but sometimes I want to share more… I think it’s a dance we’ve all been forced to learn as the internet has worked it’s way into out lives. But I will admit that I do enjoy seeing into the intimate parts of others lives that they are willing to share as it helps me see that we all are going through similar highs and lows.
This is also a question I ask myself pretty much every time I post publicly. (My private ig is mainly for our memory books so it’s all the things and I carefully select who is privy to it.)
But i have a few mental filters I always keep. One is that all that I share is my story. My kids and husband have their own stories and I avoid telling theirs if it’s not mine to tell. I also don’t show my kids’ faces or use their real names(initials). That helps me figure out what I have to say differently sometime.