Picking the *right* profile photo is agonizing enough, thanks

Yesterday, I read a blog post from the good women at Lunapads about an article written by Katie Roiphe called “Get Your Kid Off Your Facebook Page“. Ms Roiphe doesn’t think women should use their Facebook profile picture to show off pictures of their kids because it means that they are hiding behind their children. She then states:

“The choice may seem trivial, but the whole idea behind Facebook is to create a social persona, an image of who you are projected into hundreds of bedrooms and cafes and offices across the country. Why would that image be of someone else, however closely bound they are to your life, genetically and otherwise? The choice seems to constitute a retreat to an older form of identity, to a time when women were called Mrs. John Smith, to a time when fresh scrubbed Vassar girls were losing their minds amidst vacuum cleaners and sandboxes. Which is not to say that I don’t understand the temptation to put a photograph of your beautiful child on Facebook, because I do. After all, it frees you of the burden of looking halfway decent for a picture, and of the whole excruciating business of being yourself.

(emphasis mine)

In the first emphasized sentence, I understand where she’s coming from. If my Facebook page (or any other online profile) is to be my little portal to the rest of the world and completely devoted to me and my life, well, shouldn’t the picture be of me? Or at least have me in it? The second emphasized sentence however, made me angry. It perpetuates the stereotype that mothers of young children are barely functioning, poorly-dressed zombies who can only talk about their children’s achievements. I don’t know a single mother who lives up to this stereotype, and most of the mums I know are first-time mums of babies – prime candidates.

As one of those first-time mums, I can’t speak for more experienced mothers but I am the first to admit that new mums spend a lot of time talking about their babies. I’m sure I’ve overshared with the wrong people, but I do generally try to keep the baby talk to a minimum among people who are not all that interested in it. I get that *my* baby isn’t the biggest thing in *your* life. But when you spend virtually all your time with your child for months on end (I know many women don’t have this luxury and I’m thankful for Canada’s employment laws), well there’s not always a lot else for me to initiate a conversation about. I was shocked at how small my world became when my daughter was first born. I just wasn’t doing much else outside of mothering. And the stuff I *was* doing (napping, doing housework and catching up with what was on TV or going on online) wasn’t usually worth starting a conversation over.  Also, keep in mind that it takes a minimum of two people to have a conversation. You’re welcome to change the subject, or even ask me to tone it down. I would not be offended, and would probably love to talk about something else anyway.

Back to the subject at hand. All of the above reasoning for my less-than-stellar conversation skills can apply to why I’m putting pictures of my kid on my Facebook page (or Flickr, or Twitter, or this website). I’m taking a lot more pictures of her right now than I am of myself. I take most of the pictures in our family and right now, most of the pictures I’m taking are of my daughter. And when I want to show my friends how she is growing and changing, Facebook is an easy tool to do that. My friends check Facebook, but don’t always visit this website or any other social site I frequent.

I agree with Ms Roiphe that you shouldn’t hide behind your children. I don’t think using your Facebook profile photo to show off a cute kid picture is always proof that that is what a mother is doing. I decided a long time ago (before Flora was born) that my Facebook photo would always have me as the main picture. In part because I didn’t want people to think I didn’t exist without my husband, but mostly because I wanted people to know it was *my* profile when they searched my name, especially since I hyphenated it after I got married. Now when I post a new picture, I often use one of Flora and I, not because I’m hiding behind her, but because there just aren’t that many pictures of the two of us together and I want to show them off. Those pictures make me happy, which I think is a great thing to share with my friends, Facebook or otherwise. If someone else wants to show a picture of just their kid alone because it makes them happy, I say go to town.

Naturally this article doesn’t mention the dads putting up pictures of their babies as their profile picture. Because of course, they’re not hiding behind their children, they’re just showing off a cute kid. My husband has used pictures of Flora alone as his profile picture. She was brand new and it was the fastest way to get her picture out to a lot of people. Now he has a picture of the two of them together, and I imagine it’s for the same reason I chose mine – it makes him happy.

Another interesting site somewhat related to this subject is The 30 Standard Facebook Profile Photo Styles. Mr. O’Neill sums up the various styles succintly. One could certainly analyze each of these picture styles to death to find out what each user is hiding, avoiding or showing off. Personally, I think I’ll just say “what a great new picture” and not overthink it too much.

Oh, and by the way, are formal at-home dinner parties really that common in the parents-of-young-children age group? The dinner party seems like such a go-to example to dump on parents and their child-rearing abilities and yet I don’t think I’ve ever been to one. I have people over and we eat, but it’s not the big hairy deal everyone makes it out to be.

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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada
This work by Melissa Price-Mitchell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada.
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