By Annette Martel and Kelly Hagen
Have you heard of this term, “sharenting”?
I know, on first blush, it looks kind of pleasant. Like a little baby unicorn! Because it’s combination of the words “parenting” and “share,” and both of those things are good, and even better if done together. Annette and I share the tasks of parenting. We both cook, we both clean, we both pick up and drop off the kids at school and daycare, we both stay home with the kids when they’re sick, we both sit by their beds at night, reading them stories, and helping them get to sleep, and we both bribe the kids to do things we want them to do with tiny trinkets.
We do these things in turns, by the way. If we were to both be attending to one child at the same time, that would confuse the child, and the other one would be unsupervised and would likely figure out how to use the credit card to order sleds off of Amazon.com.
Anyway, sharenting isn’t about that. It’s about sharing too much about your child’s life on social media.
So the revulsion is probably kicking in, right about now. Because we all know we shouldn’t be sharing private information about our children online. You risk giving them a computer virus. My kids already get plenty of viruses; they don’t need assistance from the Internet.
Medical history is one of those subjects that are supposed to be kept private. So pretend I didn’t just tell you my children catch colds.
Regular readers know that my wife and I regularly refer to our kids by names such as Chatterbox Stickyfingers (not his/her real name), and those, of course, are made-up identities. Also, pretty much every story we share about our children’s experiences in life have been only a little bit true. Yup, I make things up for comedic effect. And I’m so sorry that I’ve breached your trust in us by lying. I feel bad. Sleeping is very difficult for us both, if that makes anyone feel any better.
So we take that same approach to social media. Sure, we post pictures of the kids, but we also post stock photos we find off the Internet and refer to these fake children by names such as Bobby and Baxter and Joanna Sue. They’re adorable, and they aren’t real.
Keep the world guessing, that’s my best suggestion. Instagram can’t handle your truth! Now, here’s my wife, Annette, who may or may not be a real person.
Um … thank you? What a kind introduction.
Another thing my supposedly real husband was less than truthful about is what we don’t always share. I usually end up being the serious one in our relationship, as well as in this column. Kelly gets the funnies; I get the real, and sometimes, all the feels.
Which is for the best, because I’m not sure that he experiences feelings quite the same way as you or I do. But he’s pretty docile, and I enjoy having him around.
So have you Googled the word “sharenting” yet? It will give you some feelings you probably weren’t looking to experience. Shock, horror and disbelief, followed by laughter, eye-rolling and a general sense that, “Hey, maybe I’m not as bad at this parenting gig as I thought.”
And for those without access to Google, “sharenting” is a term that covers all of those horrifyingly embarrassing things that people have over-shared about their children on social media. Examples include a newborn who was being photographed naked and just couldn’t wait to do that natural bodily function that babies are prone to do until there was a diaper in place, or parents publicly shaming their children by sharing pictures of them on a street corner, holding a sign that confesses their indiscretions.
This may make for some LOLs around the water cooler, as everyone checks their phones instead of talking to each other, but what’s not funny is that those images live forever, and those kids do eventually grow up.
I know what you’re thinking. “I would never do something that silly!” That’s great and I’m with you, but here’s where it gets scary. A mom posted a seemingly benign photo of her son on a date night with her, and out popped 186,981 trolls to tell her why she was a bad mom in the comments, picking apart every detail of the photo and accompanying caption.
I’m going to go ahead and assume she does not possess meaningful, personal relationships with all 186,981 of those commenters. Just a wild guess. If I’m right – and you can ask Kelly about how often I am right – then the mother in question made the mistake of not setting the privacy setting on that posting properly. And if there’s one thing that the public loves, it’s telling people they don’t know what a terrible parent/human being/grammarian they are!
Stay safe out there. Don’t let your kids or yourself fall victim to sharenting, whether it’s online or in real life, and don’t believe anything my husband posts on the Internet.
Columnists Annette Martel and Kelly Hagen are supposedly married, possibly have two children, and hope desperately that you have no earthly idea what their real names are. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.