Froma Harrop: our big footprints on social media

Froma Harrop

From the moment many of us leave the womb, images of our infant selves are posted on Facebook and other social media.

Once out, they become part of our permanent digital footprint, often soon joined by photos at every stage of life – crawling, first steps, hugging a puppy, first day of kindergarten, etc.

This accumulated visual record can be embarrassing or damaging later in life. It is high time to reconsider all this public sharing.

You don’t even have to be out of the womb for your photo to make the rounds on the internet. Expectant parents publish fetal ultrasounds.

One site, Babylist, uses this medical imagery as a featured image in a registry of branded baby toys, blankets and strollers. Expectant parents list items with prices and sellers (Amazon, Walmart, etc.). Just click on the box. Fetuses are now prenatal traders.

There have long been debates about whether to upload photos of children without their permission. Of course, children, let alone fetuses, are not intellectually equipped to decide what should be made public about them.

Some of this material could come to haunt them. Not everyone finds pictures of toddlers with chocolate cake smeared around their mouths adorable. Worse still are the videos of small children punching other small children or throwing tantrums, which, believe it or not, some parents upload.

They can pose serious problems for children when applying for a job in 18 years. At the very least, they could be used to humiliate or blackmail the subject.

Legality and privacy issues aside, are photos of kids you don’t know really that interesting? Of more concern are the twisted adults who use the images for unwanted purposes or even try to search for the children.

(Dear Boomer: Your grandchild is cute, but so are all babies. Second birthday parties are especially boring. The baby doesn’t care, so the point of your posting these visuals is to attract attention. (watch out. If you’re hungry for ‘likes’, why not share photos of yourself on your fabulous beach vacation?)

One of the benefits of being older is that there was less or no social media when we were teenagers, craving attention and not always having good judgment. For my part, I’m glad my teenage self didn’t have TikTok, where I could post self-incriminating videos.

Even TikTok’s innocent dances could be problematic down the road. Imagine the case in which someone is seeking a seat on the Supreme Court, and their political enemies find and use these silly little videos to cast doubt on the seriousness of the candidate.

Meanwhile, a lot of the stuff young adults put on TikTok isn’t entirely innocent. YouTube, for example, offers compilations of catchy posts, such as the “Best Cute Relationship TikToks”. It shows young couples showing affection, nothing pornographic, but quite suggestive and involving beds. An illustrated recording of passionate kisses could also complicate future relationships.

At least this video is pretty wholesome. There are compilations of sexy TikToks where young women twerk and shake their cleavage as well as their booty. These ladies may not be headed for the company’s C-suite, but that sort of thing could jeopardize a job as a store manager or medical assistant. It could also ruin any subsequent attempts to redefine themselves as dignified and well-mannered women.

Who among us doesn’t have an unflattering headshot, an awkward high school photo, or a gag photo of us clowning around? With any luck, the worst of them are hidden in drawers or stuck in albums (if they haven’t been torn up). Those online, alas, with whom we are stuck for eternity.

Froma Harrop is a syndicated columnist. Follow her on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be contacted by email at [email protected].


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