Wednesday, July 25, 2012

To Share or not to Share: A Blogger's Dilemma

Some days I am consumed with doubt.  It often starts as something small, and then bounces around like a ping-pong snowball, jostling thoughts around and gaining size and momentum as it barrels through my head.

It started when I came upon a Facebook conversation, in which the participants lamented the fact that you cannot stop your friends from sharing photos.  It's a concern for many parents who use Facebook, as I do, to share pictures of their children with family and friends around the world.  You can fine-tune privacy settings to your heart's content, but once a carefully-selected audience member opts to "share" what you have made them exclusively privy to, your control is lost forever.

It sometimes bothered me to think about, but I can't blame my family members for wanting their own friends to see, so I never made an issue of it.  Beyond that, I've never been so naive as to believe that anything on Facebook could truly be "private," anyway.  And even if I removed all of my own pictures from the site, I'll still show up there, as will my children throughout the years, having been captured through the lens of someone else's camera.

This was the argument I had with myself when I first decided to include pictures of my children on a public blog: that the definition of privacy is evolving as quickly as technology and social media are, that there is no way to keep my kids off of the Internet entirely, so the best strategy is to simply take great care in what kinds of photos I'm willing to share.  No naked shots, nothing that could bring embarrassment to them at any time in the future.

I've had similar debates with myself on the use of their actual names.  I didn't want to have to refer to them as initials, or letters, so I made sure to keep my last name off of my blogging profile.  Though I have no misconceptions about how easy it would probably be for someone to figure out who I am, despite that.

But I follow a lot of blogs, many of which are happily including a plethora of pictures, stories, and real names, and seemingly without incident.  And my fears are calmed.  Until I come across a post like this one.  Once again, an older post from my favorite blog, because- believe it or not- I have still not caught up.  I read ahead for a little while and it seems as though the author's solution was to add a disclaimer to the bottom of each blog post (for a time, anyway) and to get more aggressive about her watermarking.  She used to mainly avoid faces, as I've been doing, but now gets as close to them as she can, to make cropping and re-use nearly impossible.

In her case, there was nothing particularly sinister done with the photos in question.  Just a case of some lost soul trying to claim someone else's children (and life) as her own.  In most cases, I think that this is how pictures tend to get misused.  There are, obviously, much worse scenarios to consider.  I try not to, though.  If  I dwelled on that too much, I'd never be able to bring myself to post a picture of my family anywhere online, ever again.

I'm not thrilled, either, about the fact that every image I post here becomes readily searchable on Google Images, but I can't see a way around that.  I appreciate the occasional traffic that it brings to my blog, but honestly, I'd rather that people be coming to my blog for the pictures, not the other way around.

I could just make it private, and I considered that when I first set it up.  But I'd have to hand-select each reader, the prospect of which made my head hurt.  And if I'm honest, part of what drives me to keep this blog up is the fact that it gives me a Voice, a channel to the world.  Perhaps that's selfish of me.  I don't really have an answer.

What I do know is that I feel the deepest connection to the bloggers, and subjects, of the blogs that are no-holds-barred and really let me in to the lives that they catalogue.  They make me feel a sense of community.  And it is my hope that somewhere out there, I am providing that same connection for someone else.  I'd like to think that makes the risk worthwhile.