Balancing My Muse vs. My Child’s Right to Privacy

MostlyLisa, one of the blogs I read on a semi-regular basis, posed the following question: “How did you get into photography? What or who was your muse?”

Well clearly this was a no-brainer for me. My kids! Well, my kids and my dog. We bought our first digital camera about a year before Simon was born, and used it like anybody uses a point-and-shoot. When Ellen accidentally dropped that camera (which I consider a huge blessing in disguise) it set off a chain-reaction of upgrades (okay, two) that culminated this June with the purchase of my first DSLR. By the way, Ellen, anytime you want to come over and “accidentally” drop my television, computer, and iPod, feel free.

The vast majority of my photography is my family and my dog. Part of this is because it is all I have time for. Between work, other commitments, and other interests/hobbies I find it difficult to find time to take and process pictures of them, much less anything else. But the pictures I do take, I want to share. I want to become more involved in the large and active online photographic community.

But then I think about all the weirdos on the Internet. They’re out there and they’ve already impacted how I write on this blog. I decided to stop talking about politics after a conveniently anonymous stranger commented that I was “brainwashing children”. Was it a totally ignorant and ridiculously outrageous comment? Absolutely. Was it also enough to make me not want to deal with it? Definitely. But it begs the question: what other kind of undesirables are out there, reading my content?

The amount of information we publish in this medium can impact our lives in a number of ways. How much we provide is a decision we all have to make for ourselves. Unless you’re a 3 year old who relies on his parents to make that decision for you. Oops. The rule we established with Simon is that we’d post pictures on Flickr that were “public” up until the time he turned one, at which time they all became available only to those we’d marked as “friends” or “family.”

I relaxed that rule a bit when I got the new camera, because one of my main subjects is Simon, and I want to share my. . .um. . . art. As of today, my paranoia has gotten the better of me (again), and I’ve changed most of the Simon pictures back to their restricted status.

I’m clearly somewhat conflicted on the issue, so I throw it out to my readers: What lines do you draw with regards to pictures of you, your family, and your kids on the web?

5 thoughts on “Balancing My Muse vs. My Child’s Right to Privacy

  1. It seems that the more popular your blog gets, or the more viewed your pictures get, the more odd your comments will get. I’ve noticed that the most popular bloggers have the thickest skins, but then I ask myself “is that who I want to be? Do I want to subject my family to that?”

    Some of the pictures I’ve posted to flickr have shown up on along with emails from nowpublic users. I’m currently treating them as flickr spam. Re-use of pictures in other blogs has made me think about watermarking, but it hasn’t been prolific enough to bother me.

    Society is changing in the Facebook/blogs/flickr age. Just like it’s become common-place to see bluetooth headsets and people on the phone while driving, we’ll see the same with blogs and photos. There is no “expectation of privacy” on the web. Don’t blog or post what you don’t want known.

  2. Oh yes, there is certainly no expectation of privacy. I’m just curious what people are comfortable sharing with the world? And how has that changed over the years?

  3. I am an old college friend of Kate’s, who has regrettably lost touch over the years. I, for one, am grateful that you are so open with your blog since it has allowed me insight into her life and happenings since last we spoke. Yes, I am an admitted cyber-stalker of old friends! However, while I am grateful for your access, I do not allow the same with my family’s information. Both my blog and my photo site online are private and only accessed if you know the exact address, which I give out only to friends and family. I had never been one to be discreet with my information on the web, but once I had children, I agree that the “weirdo factor” made me want to keep my personal photos and information much more private. It is a sad commentary on the world when we can no longer place bath time photos for family to see for fear of what other weirdos might be partaking of the content. I think that your concerns are valid in wanting to protect your son by keeping his images private as he grows older, and especially of Mary as she reaches toddler-hood. I think it shows how responsible you are as a parent to be so proactive in protecting your children in such a technologically informative age.

    I will miss being able to see Simon… do old college friend cyber-stalkers qualify for friend status in Flickr? : )

  4. College friend cyber-stalkers definitely qualify. Drop your flickr ID in the comments or email it to me (see the contact page of this site for my email address) and I’ll mark you as a friend in Flickr.

  5. I find that I tend to swing back and forth between severe cyber paranoia to something significantly less than paranoid. I’m always paranoid of contact from one person and I always find myself asking, “if I put this up, am I inviting contact?”.

    I wasn’t nearly as paranoid about my flickr photos as my blog until somebody I didn’t particularly like figured out where I lived based on the photo of the pool. I had even taken the step to blur out my building number and yet they figured it out anyway. Now, could they look me up in the phonebook? Sure. But the fact that they took that route to figure out where I lived, made me want to delete all web presence *ever*. But that’s a bit hard to do now isn’t it? Not to mention, I find that posting blogs and photos is a bit addictive – once I had crossed into that world, I found that I really couldn’t go back (sorta like upgrading from dial up to broadband…).

    Until recently, my blog was somewhat anonymous. My legal name did not appear on it and there were no photos of me. I had avoided discussion of specifics and most personal things were discussed in the shroud of abstract. But things happened, and I started posting specifics about grad school, weddings, etc. I remember making that first incredibly personal blog and giving it a lot of though prior to submitting it. But Ken is right, in the age of blogs/facebook/flickr, our society is changing. And I guess I changed because I found it easier (and a bit therapeutic) to post some information on my blog instead of sending a mass email. However, mind you, I am ALWAYS paranoid of a future employer looking up my blog and taking exception to how I handled a situation or my comma placement. 😉 And oddly, there are a lot of people in my life (e.g., family) who have no idea that my blog exists. I often consider telling them about it but then decide to err on the side of caution and just keep them in the dark.

    Ultimately, I am just trying to protect myself and my husband. If children are ever thrown into the mix, I predict a much higher level of paranoia to take over. You are absolutely right to be giving it so much thought and taking action to protect your family.

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