What to Think About Before Posting Family Photos

We are all curating and filtering our life story when we post photos online. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter. Which is fine, right? But sometimes that image involves other people. Our friends, our parents, our kids. Asking their permission to include them in our story isn’t the cultural norm. But should it be?


Last summer we asked the Note to Self audience if they shared photos of their kids online. And we asked kids if their parents posted about them. We wanted to know if families were talking about their social media choices, and — if not — build a guide for those conversations.

More than 1,200 of you answered. And more than 600 of you left us long, long notes, too. They were sad, funny, and complicated. (Typical of you Note to Self listeners.) We talked about some of your comments with psychologist and author Guy Winch on the show, but we couldn’t get through them all for obvious reasons (600!).

So here’s some of the most mind-expanding. Experiences straight from kids and parents, all feeling the tension of social media etiquette deep down to their souls. Thanks for letting us in.


The unflattering sleeping photo on Mom’s page. We all have one.

“I don’t so much mind the pictures from childhood. I’m grown, so those nostalgic pictures can be uplifting. However, a few years ago, after returning from a trip abroad, my mother took a picture of me sleeping on the couch and posted it on Facebook without my knowledge. I was mortified!! For me it was a violation of privacy and my personal brand. Young adults understand that our social media persona is a curated, constructed version of ourselves that we put out for the world. My only regret is that it hurt my mother’s feelings when I asked her to take it down.”

Telling a six year old about “likes.”

“My kids are 6 and 8 and I made it a rule that I always ask them before I post any pictures of them on social media. They went from being very self-conscious about what I post, to now being OK with it and even asking me to post things. Recently, they started asking about how many ‘likes’ they have and I’m constantly reminding them that the number of ‘likes’ doesn’t matter.”

The version parents see.

“I feel my parents tend to post images that show the version of me they prefer. I’ve recently started coming out as gay. I’ve had a boyfriend for nearly three years now, but I doubt my parents will post a photo of him and I together. In their posts they also tend to edit out parts of information I’ve told them, to tell a story about me that fits their narrative better.”

When your boundaries are an outlier.

“My mother in law unfriended me on Facebook because I saw that she had posted pictures of the kids and I asked her to take them down. I have agreed to our kids’ schools posting social media photos because I have noticed children can be excluded on occasion if their parents haven’t given media permission. I would prefer my kids to get to do all the activities and not be treated differently so I gave permission but I don’t like or tag the photos.”

“I do this because I love you.”

“I have never been able to talk to my parents about online etiquette because every time I try to bring up the issue they guilt me by saying ‘I do this because I love you, don’t you understand’ and the conversation doesn’t go anywhere. My sister and I once tried talking to our mom about how she is overstepping the bounds by telling her she is living her life vicariously through us, and before we could get to the point she said ‘yes, exactly, I want to live vicariously through you!’”

Are our parents’ posts truer to who we are than our curated feeds — or even further away?

“My parents aren’t capable of representing a real version of me. They’re parents! Their view will always be tainted by their love and the belief that their child is perfect.”

You might not know the full story.

“I suffered from an eating disorder for almost 2 years. During that time my self-esteem was really, really low. My parents would post pictures of me and I hated it so much cause I just thought I looked terrible all the time. I realize that they didn’t want to make it worse but I felt like I had to be that perfect image they wanted me to be.”


It’s hard to read some of these, we know. Scrolling through your comments helped us understand how huge these questions are — of what to post about your family, and how to talk about those decisions. And how deep the consequences can be when we don’t talk. So we asked if kids had any suggestions.

“I really do think if your kid says ‘don’t post that’ you just shouldn’t. Even if you don’t get why. I think parents need to understand that while they use social media, we freaking shaped our lives around it and there are a lot of nuances and subtleties in the way we use it that they’re never really gonna get.”
“Is it ok if I post this? Who are you connected with? What are your privacy settings? What is good etiquette for each platform?”
“What are you doing on social media? What do you get out of using different social media platforms? Are there things you would change about social media if you could?”

Awesome starters, right? Find more tips on how to talk with your kids — and parents — about posting in another episode of ours, with Hillary Frank of the brilliant podcast Longest Shortest Time.

And tell us if you’ve had a conversation about social media sharing in your family. Or if this prompts your conversation. There are a lot more stories to tell, and we’re excited to listen…

Yours,

Note to Self