Tag Archives: privacy

A blog is not a baby album and never should be

Baby's Blog

First of all, a big ‘thank you’ for everybody who commented on my previous post. The interest in freelancing and coffee shops goes to show what a prominent role these two seem to play in the lives of bloggers and blog readers. Just for the record, my post wasn’t written from a coffee shop, but I do recommend the Fleet River Bakery as a fabulous example of a local independent (I think?!) coffee shop with free Wi-Fi, and also Lori’s blog as a fabulous source of many more musings on the topic of coffee and culture.

Not sure how to make the transition to today’s topic. How about… there’s a day in each freelancer’s life when he/she sits in a local independent coffee shop and suddenly decides, “Let me become a parent”. No more 3-months contracts and moving from one flat to the next, but rather taking on that 9-5 position in a PR department and investing in some Zone 6 property. I can’t say ‘been there, done that’, but I image that’s how it goes down.

Now, the point is, when you become a parent, there is one thing I would kindly ask you not to do, ever. Do not put up a public blog about your little offspring, no matter how cute it is. Some web 2.0-embracing parents may think that a blog is just the 21st-century form of keeping a baby album, but it’s not. Neither is the baby’s own Facebook profile, before it can even stand up by itself. Just to be clear, I completely understand the parents’ pride and the relatives’ unceasing interest in the toddler’s latest advancements. But don’t put it out there on the web.

I’m saying this in the interests of the child. In its early years, it’s fairly incapable of letting the outside world know whether it wants its pictures on Flickr and Facebook or not. Just in case it doesn’t want that shot of him playing in the sandbox up on the web, parents shouldn’t put it there. And that’s not just because the kid might feel embarrassed about its baby fat some 10 years down the road, but because you never know who looks at public web content. So until the little thing can actually move around the mouse himself, keep it private.

Apart from such privacy issues, there’s of course the chance of baby-promotion-overkill. Again, I cannot being to image how proud parents are of their baby, but I feel that there’s a limit to how much you should show it on a public blog. Something nice and simple with a few family pictures or first walking attempts for grandma to see is fine. But creating some 24/7 live stream of the child is not. My favorite so far: a blog written from the point of view of the baby: “Today, I took my parents out for shopping and cried so loud that they bought me the candy I wanted…” Incredible.

Dude, where’s my camera?

This morning, I’m happy to post the first contribution by a guest writer on this blog. She previously blogged under the name “Chamique”. Her post is a follow-up to a number of discussions we had about this whole uploading, tagging, de-tagging pictures business on Facebook. This includes not only the obvious issue of self-promotion and reputation management. The real concern is about this obsession of having to document one’s life, every second of it – as if things didn’t happen unless you see them in some Facebook album. Thanks, “Chamique”, for this post!

Create Album

Of late, we’ve been discussing this sudden and constant need to document everything we experience and see. To make others believe we were there. Or maybe to make ourselves believe it sometimes. Was I really lounging around on a beach somewhere just a few weeks ago? My tan and memories might be fading, but all the photographs say yes, this did indeed happen.
I’ve always considered myself to be someone who writes to remember. I’ll make to-do lists just so the list stays in my head. I remember my handwriting on Post Its and journals and lecture notes. I guess my memory is visual. Does that mean my photograph taking is meaningless, given that I’ve already seen what I’m capturing on the lens?

On a recent trip to Oxford, I whipped out my camera and took several pictures of the owner of this ‘blog just because I knew it would piss him off. (I’m controversial like that.) The results were so ridiculous – even by my flimsy standards – that those pictures will remain relegated to a lowly subfolder somewhere on my computer. But I know I can still get a giggle out of looking at them in the near or distant future. If ever I choose to do so. The point is – I am comforted that I have large portions of my life in pictures. Like somehow this knowledge lets me clear up more brain space for all the new things I must learn over the course of my life.

Can I claim copyright over my crazy night?

The better part of my Sunday morning last weekend was spent in the frantic un-tagging of some *ahem* unflattering photographs of myself on Facebook. While I’m unapologetic about the clothes I wear and faces I make at a camera when it’s pointed at me, I do take into consideration that the 600 people that are called ‘friends’ of mine include those whom I do not particularly want to share my momentary lapses of reason with. It must also be pointed out that I seem to have far too much faith in my friends and their taste(lessness). It appears that not many of them are as discerning as my gentle self whilst uploading photographs to the internets. My grandchildren would be horrified. (It ruins the glamourous image I’m trying to build up for myself over the years, you see.)

Then again, all I have of my own grandparents is a selection of elegant black and whites. I haven’t ever seen them sticking out a cheeky tongue during a group photo. Did previous generations live their lives less fully than us now?
At home, we have a charcoal sketch of my grandmother, which guests are quick to comment on. Where’s that from, they’ll ask. And there’s the romantic story of how Ruiz Pipo, a young Parisian artist, approached my stunning grandmother and asked if he might sketch her, right there, on a paper napkin at the café, circa 1954.

Facebook Tag

Cut to Paris, 2009. I, instead, have an album of a hundred or so digital photographs of me making a fool of myself in front of the several places of interest. Have we become so accustomed to the abundance of cameras and recording devices that we allow ourselves to be at ease or even careless when accosted by a lens? Are photographs not sacred anymore?

Things become even more complicated if we entertain stuffy respectable ambitions for ourselves as professionals. The aspiring political candidate can’t be seen sleeping on the sidewalk with her head next to a trash can. (The quirky artist, however, causes no scandal when carelessly displaying a profile pic of himself rolling a spliff.) So many people are quick to restrict viewing of their personal photographs and weblogs, pre-empting controversies at the workplace or amongst family. Are we no longer expected to let our guard down – ever? Or does it mean that we must all acknowledge how public our social, professional and personal lives have now become? Foucault would have had a field day with the panoptic discipline we’re exercising. We’re self-censoring like never before whilst simultaneously being led to believe that we have every freedom of expression.

Depth of field

There have been so many times that I wish I had my camera, afraid that I might forget what was in front of me. But strangely, those moments are the ones that stay with me longest.

If a picture tells a thousand words, personal memories make photographs seem like Shakespeare on acid.

The pictures might show me sitting under a watermelon pink sunset, but it doesn’t tell you how tart and minty my cold mojito was that evening. They might show a group of us at our high school graduation, but it won’t show the purple hickey I was hiding under my sari. My parents don’t know that the boyfriend they hated so much was the one making me smile when he took the picture of me that’s framed in their bedroom. You can’t smell the grass from my pictures in the park.

I think my relationship with photographs is becoming increasingly distant. They’ve come to represent a moment, but not the experience of it. Pictures trigger memories and anecdotes. Like my grandmother’s portrait. Maybe not quite as graceful, but nonetheless real. Like the music that was playing at the time you looked into the camera, that nobody heard but you.