By Kathryn Streeter
As social media mavens, we want to be remembered. Often apt personal anecdotes are the best way to connect with our followers or Facebook friends and drive a post’s popularity. But when it comes to sharing about our significant other and children, the line of decency can often feel blurry.
The question is weighty, worth the internal wrestling.
My personal habits concerning sharing family-related content focus on timing. I allow time to pass before I post about an experience that directly involves either my husband or children. Looking back on an experience affords many advantages.
Waiting to share publicly helps me to more completely understand and process what happened in the first place. When I have a family-related post idea, I’ll write a rough draft, revisiting it as my thoughts mature and clarify. Mulling is a very good thing; at the very least, it keeps me honest about my culpability in a personal family anecdote I’m considering sharing. For starters, what is my motivation for sharing?
Waiting to release personal content enables me to discover the real message of an experience. As time passes, I’m better able to uncover the deeper meaning of a family situation or event I’d like to write about. Instead of offering my friends and followers a trite personal anecdote that makes them laugh or roll their eyes with me, I’m now able to hand them a meatier post with a coherent message.
I once decided to write a post on potty-training my son. My first attempts amounted to yet another tale of a frustrated parent. Perhaps it was funny, but it wasn’t original. As time passed, I realized the main take-away from this time in life centered on my insecurities and pride, not my son’s poor aim.
Sharing a personal experience before I come to terms with what I’ve learned will rob me of the chance to craft the best possible post, one which will offer lasting impact. For me, emotional settling needs to happen so that I can write from a grounded posture. When I’m simmering with emotion from an argument with my kids or husband, it’s not the optimal time to write. When I’m hurt or angry, my word choices and phrases are more likely to be uncreative and cheap, resembling a vanity project. I’m the center of attention, desiring empathy or applause. Because I’m still smarting, I have zero perspective. But if given time, a flippant post can morph into a deeply felt story. Time yields a better product.
Most importantly, waiting provides cover for my marriage and children. No amount of post popularity is worth bringing injury to those I love best. Everything online is forever available to my husband and kids. Even when my kids were young and unplugged, I didn’t write about their maniacal moments, not only because of appreciating what I’ve already mentioned—that the passage of time allows for a truer story—but because I didn’t want to unintentionally cause future shame.
Today my teenagers—and their friends—have access to anything I’ve ever written about them. Had I shared carelessly, there would be no taking things back. Apologies would ring false; relational damage would be tough to repair. Today as ever, writing about humiliating experiences for a cheap laugh is at odds with everything I’m trying to do as a parent. From tot to teen, my kids have always deserved to be treated like I’d like to be treated: with respect.
Building a strong relationship with my husband and kids is like a major construction project—the effort and time is immense. I am unwilling to destabilize this structure with insensitive over-sharing.
Finally, my family knows that before I post anything that mentions them, I’ll have them review it. If my writing involves my husband, I’ll have him read it first. If he feels it’s crossed a line and waded into our personal life as a couple, my work is to rewrite it in a way that honors him and ultimately, us. We don’t keep secrets. This has only built stronger mutual trust in our relationship.
In the case of the previously mentioned potty-training story, which I posted recently, my now-teenage son read it and laughed. However, he would have felt deeply humiliated had I posted about the story a few years earlier, regardless that the point of the story isn’t his bathroom drama.
The by-product of this practice is that it’s brought my husband and kids into my social media life. Additionally, my conscience is clear.
Like you, I’m concerned about protecting those I love best—my family. Anything I put online about them deserves close inspection. They’re counting on me.
A variation of this essay was originally published on goodmenproject.com.
Kathryn Streeter’s writing has appeared in the Washington Post; the Huffington Post; Scary Mommy; and Brain, Child magazine. Find her at kathrynstreeter.com, on Facebook, and at Twitter@streeterkathryn.