Molly Whitehead-Jones meets bloggers who've turned 'sharenting' into a career
A few weeks ago, my Facebook page was full of shiny-shoed, baggy-blazered kids, all heading off to school for the first time. Many of the pictures were accompanied by apologetic captions – parents saying sorry for clogging up the timeline with ‘yet another first day photo’. But, truth is, I find my social feed’s peppered with a similar number of images of children every day of the week because most of my friends have kids, and most of them like to share pictures of them online.
Where once family photos were lovingly printed off and placed into albums and frames for private display, now many of us instinctively pop them out in the public domain for all – or, at least, some (thank you, security settings) – to see instead. I know that I’m much more likely to post a photo on Instagram than text it to my mum. The world is our kitchen pin board. But why is it that we’re so keen to share snaps like this online?
“A basic human need is to feel connected to and needed by others,” says Dr. Adam Galpin, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Salford. “Research suggests that people particularly like to share emotionally evocative content, so that swell of pride that parents feel when their child is grown up and going off to school for the first time is something that people may feel compelled to share with others.
“Social media haven’t created these needs – people value social connections and want to share their experiences offline too - but social media have provided a convenient way of satisfying them."
Yet, interestingly, there are actually many parents who are choosing not to partake in this very-2017 trend, sometimes dubbed ‘sharenting’. According to a recent Ofcom report, 56% of UK parents say they don’t post photos or videos of their children on social media, with 87% claiming it’s because they want to respect their mini-me’s privacy.
Mum and Dad bloggers are building entire careers around their knack for ‘sharenting’
Other reasons often cited for not getting Insta-pic-crazy where the family’s concerned are the fact that parents want their children to be able to take responsibility for their own digital footprint once they’re old enough (and not to end up haunted by embarrassing ‘baby in bath’ shots later on); that they don’t want to bore non-parent friends with endless kid shots; and, most seriously, security worries about where those pictures could ultimately end up.
Then at the other end of the spectrum to these protective parents are the Mum and Dad bloggers building entire careers around their knack for ‘sharenting’ – like Vicki Psarias (Honest Mum) and Matt Coyne (Man vs Baby).
“I'm happy to share our lives online, and I'm happy with the decision we made to do so, but I do take precautions over my kids' safety,” says Vicki. “None of the images taken at school are made public for example.”
“I think security becomes a greater concern when your kids are older and have access to the internet themselves,” adds Matt. “More generally, I just think that we shouldn't be afraid of sharing the joy and insanity of being a parent just because there is a tiny minority out there who seek to do harm. Any more than we should be prevented from going to town because of a threat from terror. If you just use some common sense, I think you can minimise any security issue and not be prevented from creating and sharing a living history of this time with your child.
“And to be honest with all the shit and misery in the world that is reflected in social media, these histories are nothing if not a study in love. If aliens landed tomorrow or our descendants look back at what we were, I would want these histories to exist and not be hidden in shadows in favour of racist memes and arguments about Brexit.”
I get criticised for posting about family life all the time.
It’s fair to say that folks like Vicki and Matt tend to suffer a bit of backlash – you only have to skim through the recent Netmums thread berating ‘Instamums’ to see that some have an issue with those seemingly making money from posting about their family, wondering how their children feel about it all.
“My kids are similar to how I was as a child: born performers basically who love the camera,” says Vicki. “I've never forced my kids to do anything work-related and they've always wanted to take part. If they choose not to appear on my channels in the future too, I would fully respect that.”
“I get criticised for posting about family life all the time. And I've never lost a single wink of sleep over it,” says Matt. “The internet is the wild west and everyone's a sheriff. But, for every person who makes an arsey point about 'sharenting' there are fifty who get in touch to say thank you for making a bad day a bit better.”
Like almost everything else to do with parenting – whether you share 20 photos a day of your children online or abstain totally – it’s your call. But I for one like having a living timeline of photos I can scroll through or add to anytime I want; that friends and family can check in to on a whim. And you’d best believe I’ll be amongst the proud parents taking to Facebook when Elliot’s finally ready for his first day at school.
What do you think about 'sharenting'? Tweet your thoughts to @bdyconfidential