“Is that me? I’m a baby?” my 3-year-old asks as we swipe through a photo album on Facebook. “That’s you when you were not even 1 yet!” He’s intrigued.
There are photos of him marking every month milestone. There are also photos of his first trip to the aquarium, his first time eating table food, the time we went to the museum, and every other photo just because. These photos are valuable more than he understands right now. In a time before social media, the internet, cellphones, and even digital cameras, my mom took pictures of us only at special events. Sometimes the photos got developed properly, and sometimes they didn’t.
Over the years and the moves from house to house, those photo prints became scarce. My mom, who always laments the lack of photos from her own childhood, scrambled to put together photo albums for me and each of my siblings during our college years.
My photo album lived in a box and occasionally on a bookcase. It wasn’t meant for sharing. It was a sacred book given to me by my mother, which she labored over, and it was not to be lost or damaged. That sacred album remained so untouched that I eventually forgot where it lived. For my own children, I wanted something different.
Social media allows me to collect and organize the photo evidence of our family’s moments, from the mundane to the extraordinary. I don’t accept random Facebook friend requests, only friends and family. Obviously, I use good judgment not only when posting photos but when taking them. Nothing I share will lure some predator out of the woodwork, nor do I tag personal information. I use good judgment. As a millennial mom, I know there are bigger things to worry about than some hacker using a photo of my son building a Lego castle.
When my bigger kid went to his first middle school dance, I filled up my phone with more than 30 photos. “What do you think about this one?” I asked him after each take. “Don’t post that one,” he demanded about the silly ones. “You got it!” He picked his favorites from getting ready and during and after the dance, and we uploaded them to Facebook, reserving only the few most stylish shots for Instagram. The silly ones that didn’t make the cut but made me smile stayed in my phone’s gallery. The remainder of the shots got deleted.
Likes and heart reactions poured in from friends and family members who were there in spirit. Comments poured in from people remembering their first dance and asking if he had a good time. This is what photos are meant to do — make people smile and start a conversation. That shouldn’t be limited to the small number of people who live close enough to stop by our house.
By commemorating my children’s moments in time on social media, they don’t have to imagine their childhood from fragments of memories based on one or two photos, and the friends and family who love them from afar can be as much a part of their lives as possible.
Most importantly, my children can decide for themselves one day, with a quick click of a button, where all their very own photographic memories can live.