You’ve decorated the nursery and written the birth plan. Now it’s time to discuss social media rules with your family.

If you think you don’t need to, think again.

I was scrolling through a community Facebook group the other day when a birth announcement caught my eye. A proud grandpa was gushing about his beautiful baby granddaughter. Accompanying this announcement was an absolutely gorgeous photo from the birth. Mom, still in the delivery room, gazed down at her minutes-old baby. It was an intimate moment. 

It did not (in my opinion) belong on a public Facebook page.

I have pictures taken the moments after both of my babies were born. I have similar pictures we took during my sister’s birth. We’ve shared them with the family as we’ve told and retold our birth stories and marveled at the little miracles that joined our family. 

And both of us would be absolutely livid if we found out one of our family members turned around and shared one of these images without our consent in a public space.

Pictures like that – when mom’s legs are still in birthing stirrups, and when the entire family is enjoying that golden hour after birth – are sacred and (again, my opinion) meant to be shared among immediate family only. 

I acknowledge that not everyone feels this way. Maybe Mom was 100% ok with those photos circulating around. After all, some women share their birth stories in online communities, up to and including live streaming their births.

There’s a key difference, though. 

In these cases, it’s the mom who chooses to share. And she is the only one who should get to make that choice. 

When I stumbled upon the photo in the community group, Mom was not tagged in the image. 

Normally, I keep scrolling. The only times I comment beyond my immediate friends are to lend support to moms in private groups for mothers. Yet something in me rose to defend this nameless new mom.

I congratulated grandpa, and said it’s a beautiful photo, but also a very private one, and that I hoped it was shared with Mama’s permission.

I got attacked. I became The Bringer of Negativity. 

I’m a little upset about it, but I don’t regret what I said. Because it seems to me Mom’s voice is getting lost here. 

This gentleman informed me that this was his daughter. 

Nope. That does not give you permission to post such an intimate photo without permission. Try again.

Then, he informed me (in all caps) that his daughter herself sent him this photo, so it must be okay to share. 

Nope. Wrong again. I have shared many photos and videos with my mom and my in-laws since Little Dude was born. There are quite a few photos that are meant for their eyes only, or perhaps for sharing on an individual basis with one of their friends.

Even if there is absolutely nothing incriminating in any of the photos I share, I would still be livid if someone turned around and chose to blast the digital-age equivalent of a billboard from something I shared with them. 

I also don’t 100% blame Grandpa, though. Time and again, I’ve seen intimate moments hijacked by other, well-intentioned friends or relatives.

More often than not, I’ve caught the first glimpse of a bride on her wedding day from a candid photo a guest posted and tagged.

I’ve seen pregnancy or birth announcements posted by an eager family member before mom or dad were ready to share.

Part of the problem is that social media is so new. We’re still making up the rules as we go. I don’t think we’ve quite ironed out etiquette details we never had to consider before, having grown up printing out photos to share, or sending them in to newspapers where editors would carefully consider the details before going to print.

Having seen my share of misunderstandings and hijacked moments, I worked with  my husband to consider and share some social media rules for our children.

  • We get the privilege of being the first ones to post the most intimate details of our children’s lives – births, birthdays, milestones, etc. I did not want any family member divulging details of my labor or when/how my sons were born before I got that chance. I carried them, I birthed them, and until I choose to share information about them, I respectfully asked that it remain private. 
  • We get tagged in every photo that gets shared. Even as they got older, my husband and I wanted to be able to keep tabs on our kids’ social media footprint, and also share in the conversation around the cute moments we all choose to share. 
  • We carefully consider what we choose to post about our children, and we ask our family to do the same. There is a reason you hardly ever see full photos of my kids’ faces on this blog. I think they’re the most adorable two littles on the planet (I’m biased, I know), and I would love nothing more than to plaster their adorable faces all over this page for you to enjoy. But this is my story, not theirs. Until they’re old enough to give me permission to post on a public space, I do my best to carefully curate what does get out there. (And yes, I know there are moms who feel differently and devote entire public Instagrams to their kids’ antics. Again, that is their choice, and nobody else’s.)

I’ve had friends share intimate photos from their own Facebook accounts: birth, nursing, potty training. I look at all of them and ooh and ahh over our cute little kiddos and how they’re growing and changing every day. Sometimes, I’ll think to myself “Wow, I don’t know if I would have posted that.” 

However, each and every time I see Mama herself post something like that, I smile and nod and accept that we all have different definitions of what’s acceptable on social media, including who gets to see it.

The one thing we should all agree on is that Mama (and Dad) get to choose the rules of the road for their family. Nobody else.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay