Online Sharing: Are You Hurting Your Family
By Sandy Kauten
The question is weighty, worth the internal wrestling.
The What, When and Why: My personal habits on sharing family-related content start with 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 uncover the deeper meaning of a family experience 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 wrote a story 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 settlement needs to happen to write from a grounded posture. When I’m simmering with emotion from an argument with my kids or husband, this isn’t the optimal time to write. When I’m hurt or angry, my word choices, phrases, and story arc 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 passing 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 insensitively oversharing.
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 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 previously mentioned potty-training story posted recently, my now-teenage son read it and laughed. However, he would have felt deeply humiliated had I posted it 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.
Kathryn Streeter’s writing has appeared in publications including The Washington Post, The Huffington Post and Brain, Child Magazine. Find Kathryn at www.kathrynstreeter.com and on Twitter, @streeterkathryn. Her essay was originally published at The Good Men Project.