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The Scary Part of Growing Up Online

The Scary Part of Growing Up Online

When I’m out with Shai, it’s not unusual to be recognized. Most of the time it’s just glances and smiles, with people politely keeping their distance. But the other day, as we were leaving the grocery store, some ladies decided to call out his name from across the parking lot. It may seem like nothing, but the look of confusion and discomfort and fear on Shai’s little face as he looked from them back at me. Like, “Mama, that’s my name but I don’t know these people.” It just didn’t sit well with me.

There’s something so unnerving about hearing strangers yell my son’s name – like the line between my personal and public lives has been crossed. And that really got me thinking.

Maks and I live in a world where our every move is watched, photographed and scrutinized – half the time we don’t even know paparazzi are taking pictures of us until they surface on the Internet. Some days, I love the attention and the ability to showcase my work and art. Other days, I just wish I could go to the grocery store in sweats and no makeup without fear of getting caught by paparazzi in a bush. It’s an invasion of privacy, but, for the most part, we accept that it just comes with the territory.

But Shai never asked to be part of this world. He didn’t ask for every morning walk to be photographed. He didn’t ask for his 10-month photo to be displayed all over the Internet. He didn’t ask for his name to be called across the parking lot.

As a mother, it’s a constant struggle between wanting to keep my son all to myself and to shout from the rooftops just how amazing he is. I know he won’t be a baby forever, so I feel the need to capture and save every moment I can. But I can’t help but feel an incredible amount of guilt that maybe my pride and lack of caution will cause hurt or resentment down the road. Who knows if 15 years from now, Shai will come across his baby pictures online and feel absolutely mortified, or wish I hadn’t posted them everywhere, or even hate me for it?

I’ve always been very aware of the images that I put out there, but this experience has shown me that he is not. I know that I’ll never not share photos of my son – he’s my pride and joy, after all – but I can definitely be more mindful of what, how much and where I share them. And I’m sure 15 year-old Shai will thank me more for that.

Photo Credit: Peta Murgatroyd

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