When Private Moments Go Viral
By now you may have seen the selfie that’s sweeping the Internet, of a Danish father taking a bath with his toddler daughter. As would be expected in a bathtub, both are nude. The dad posted the photo on Facebook, where it promptly went viral, and has been “liked” over 60,000 times — and has elicited many comments, both from parents sharing that they too bathe with their little ones, and people harshly criticizing the dad for inappropriate behavior.
Personally, I don’t think there’s any harm in parents being nude around their small children. Many parents have brought up that it’s an opportunity to encourage realistic body images, and that, in an age where fathers are expected to be equals in parenting (or, on the flip side, are sometimes absentee), it’s refreshing to see a dad who is so committed to bonding with his child.
What bothers me about this photo isn’t the naked dad in the tub (although I’m glad the photo isn’t too revealing). It’s the fact that it’s posted on Facebook. Perhaps, in the days of MySpace and flip phones, social media was about connecting with friends and family. But today, when people have thousands of “friends” — who then in turn have thousands of friends — posting something on social media is more like standing in the middle of a (very crowded) town square with a bullhorn, trying to get everyone’s attention.
I worry that, as a society, we’re losing not just the possibility of privacy, but our interest in it as well. A tender, playful moment like this one is about a father bonding with his daughter. It’s an intimate moment. And it takes place in a bathroom — a room that is the epitome of a private space. (“Bathroom time is private time” is pretty much a mantra around here.) Is it necessary to take this private moment and share it with thousands of people, most of whom are strangers?
I realize that this may seem ironic coming from me. As a mom blogger, I spend a great deal of time sharing my experiences as a parent. I believe in moms and dads sharing the ups and downs of raising children. Parenthood can be isolating, and creating a “global community” of parents can make us all feel supported and less alone. In my writing, I worry all the time about what I should share, and which moments I should reserve for my family as personal and between us. Bringing certain issues out of the shadows, like miscarriage or postpartum depression — and even smaller experiences, like the woes getting your toddler down for a nap — can help others who are struggling. But I also believe that my kids deserve to have some conversations and moments that are just for Mommy and not posted for the review and judgment of the world.
Because in life, there are moments we don’t need to share. And not just when it comes to our children. I’ve written about people’s obsessions with taking pictures, to the point of missing the moment at hand. I also worry that we willingly share so much of personal lives on social media, that the boundary between private and public is quickly eroding.
Younger generations feel little inhibition about posting as much as they can online. I constantly see photos of young people drinking and partying — despite the fact that employers now scour social media as part of a standard background check (and studies have shown that photos and posts about alcohol make an applicant less likely to get hired). It seems that nothing stays private anymore, because we’ve lost interest in keeping it that way. Big Brother isn’t sitting in a room in Washington. Big Brother is in our hands, in the form of a reversible camera and a selfie stick.
When it comes to intimate family moments, I hope that some things will stay private. There’s a certain safety that comes from knowing the things we say and do will only be witnessed by people who know and love us. There’s a freedom in turning off the camera. I am all for sharing our common experiences and normalizing those thoughts and feelings we worry we alone face. But not every moment is intended for mass distribution. Maybe, just maybe, what happens in the bathroom should stay in the bathroom.
Meredith Hale is the author of Mommy A to Z: An Encyclopedia of the Joys, Wonders, and Absurdities of Motherhood. Her work has appeared on the Huffington Post, Pampers.com, and WhattoExpect.com. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, or at her blog.