Monday, July 14, 2014

Leaving Your Own Digital Footprint

Visitors to the blog may have noticed that I use a lot of stock photography of babies in place of actual photos of Master Blackwell. I used to post more actual photos of the boy but I've scaled that back.

Here's why. 

As the number of posts on this blog continues to grow, I know I'm leaving in my wake a digital trail that grows longer and longer.

I've been told my concerns about my online
footprint, border on the paranoid. But, since
this happened, can you blame me? 
Each post includes bits and pieces about me that could be used for some purpose, be it marketing or to assemble conclusive proof that I have an unhealthy preoccupation with the Toronto Maple Leafs. 

Regardless, if you're reading this, you're likely aware that just about everything we do online is logged and registered by someone else. (The most creepy example being how advertisements appearing on your screen today match up with web pages you visited weeks ago.)

I'm very conscious of this because I enjoy and value my privacy. 

"But wait," you might say, "Blackwell, what kind of idiot loves his privacy and then starts a blog detailing private moments with his family and friends?"

While it'd be mean of you to call me an idiot, your question would nonetheless be valid. And that's what I've been considering frequently of late. My kid is going to inherit all the photos and name drops I leave online and, in some way, that will influence his identity. 

Pictures posted today could echo for decades to come. 

I began this blog as a way to keep our friends and family up to speed on life with our little guy. While doing this, I kept in mind that anyone could access the blog. 

But, have I kept it in mind enough? 

Right now, Master Blackwell is an outgoing little fellow. But what if, as he ages, he morphs into a hermetic, technology-hating, cave-dweller who insists on keeping evidence of his existence to himself?

While I'm intrigued by how long the boy's beard would grow in this scenario, I'll admit I'd rather he choose a different life and one less frought with frustration and (presumably) abundant body odor. But, he should have that right shouldn't he?

If, on his 18th birthday the boy spontaneously decides, "you know, I really don't want anyone to find traces of me online" I think he should be able to do just that. I'm sure there will be limits to his ability to accomplish this feat but, it's in my control just how much of him I put online right now.

I don't offer my son's name so I'm really most concerned about photos. 
Our cute little boy. His pixel is filling in quite
nicely, don't you think? 

It's a time-honored tradition for teenagers to be embarrassed in front of their friends when mom or dad pulls out their baby album. But what if the baby album is essentially online and what if "mom and dad" are, in fact, opportunistic interlopers from the Eastern Bloc hoping to use these pictures as part of an email campaign to get sympathetic folks to "send emergency money quick"? 

 The "what ifs" are infinite but the principle at play remains the same. 

Recently I heard a story on the radio discussing this issue — how much of their kids' lives should parents commit to the online environment? One mother said she was cutting down on uploading pictures of her kids on Facebook to one or two photos a day. (To be clear, that's "cutting down" to one or two photos a day.) 

Another mom said that, since her kid turned two years old, and was beginning to look more and more how he was going to look as an adult, she completely stopped sharing photos of him online. No email. No Facebook. No nothin'. Ever. 

There's got to be a happier median, especially for folks who'd like to share life while also allowing their kids to forge their own identity online. There are privacy measures one can take, such as limiting access on Facebook and Instagram. It's a bit more difficult with this blog so I just err on the side of omitting those things that could ID the boy. 

But, one also wonders where technology is heading. Maybe some new technology will emerge and help answer my question for me. But maybe not. 

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