My youngest daughter has a brand new Instagram account, and she’s excited about it. Unlike my older two, she actually does use it to post. Since she doesn’t have a cell phone she uses her tablet at home, so her posts are always things we are doing around the house: artwork or craft projects she’s done, what we’re having for dinner, or the occasional nice outfit she wants to share.
Twice in the last few months though, she has reached for her tablet to share something on her private feed, only to be stopped by my husband. She wasn’t sharing anything we thought was dangerous, embarrassing or insulting. Rather, she was going to share something that – one could argue – wasn’t “hers” to share.
The first incident happened when it was our older daughter’s birthday. The youngest wanted to share a photo of the older one’s birthday presents sitting in a pretty pile, waiting to be opened. My husband felt that our older daughter should get “first dibs” at social sharing – that it should be her story to tell, her picture to post, not the youngest.
Then the same thing happened when I received a lovely bouquet of flowers from a friend. Again, our youngest rushed to Instagram, and again, my husband gently suggested that I be allowed to share the bouquet on my own feed myself.
I’m not sure where I stand on this one I see the point he is trying to make – that some news and events are personal and should only be shared by the person it happens to. You wouldn’t tell someone else about a pregnancy or engagement you know about – that is the couple’s news to share themselves, right? You wouldn’t want to take the wind out of the sails of someone excited to announce a book deal, a new job or a great mark in school, right?
And of course, you wouldn’t want to post a picture of a friend’s outfit if they weren’t too sure about it, or someone’s embarrassing fall down the stairs unless they themselves thought it was hilarious and share-worthy.
But what about something physical in your space, or an experience we all share? If we go to see a play and a friend is in it, can we share the news that we saw the play and it was great? If we see a sibling get a fantastic new gift, can we share the news that it was exciting for us to see them so delighted? If our family as a whole gets a new car, can any one of us post about it? Or just the adults?
I’m not sure there are any clear rules here.
In general, I think the more social sharing an event or item gets – the more varied people post about it – the more attention that event or item gets online, and the more weight it has. The organizers want everyone attending a march on Parliament Hill to post about it so it becomes newsworthy. Your friend wants everyone attending her party to post about it so she seems popular and fun. Your city councillors want everyone in town to post about a new statue or park to make our city seem great.
But are some events or items personal? Should they only be shared – or at least, shared first – by the person who “owns” that moment?
I guess my answer is: if you can see it and you are experiencing it, you can post about it. If you’re worried that this moment “belongs” to someone else, ask them first. But otherwise, share your own life, share your own experiences, and if someone else’s gift or flowers made you personally feel happy – then you can share that moment as part of your own story.
What do you think? Are some moments just not for you to share?
Here are some helpful MediaSmarts resources to help prepare you to give your kids guidance on the best ways to use social media: