I have decided something. I will spring for a professional family shoot twice a year – once during the warm months, once during the cold. Admittedly, these sessions are always a bit torturous; the girls know they must perform and aren’t thrilled about it and I don’t blame them, but I am always thrilled with the results. Even though I’ve been known to snap dozens of photos a day with my iPhone, it is hard to capture all the girls together and happy, and impossible obviously to get a winner of all five of us when I am the one behind that little lens.
Our most recent shoot was in the middle of August and we went to nearby Central Park. I came armed and ready with outfit changes and candy bribes. While the kids were fresh, we plunked down for some family photos. There was some wrangling and tickling involved, but they came out great. One in particular was my favorite – a black-and-white shot of the five of us. I ordered this one immediately to send along to Middle Girl’s preschool teacher and class mom. And then I posted it to my Facebook page, too. I included a caption, short and sweet: “All of us. In Central Park.”
As soon as I posted the picture and the words, likes and comments started to roll in. More than I usually get when I post things. I was in Santa Barbara when I did this, visiting my sister and her family, and I was supposed to still be unplugged, but no. I was plugged in, online. And I found myself checking my page every few hours to see if more friends had liked my photo, my family. This is something I’m not proud to admit.
All of this has me wondering about the connection between family and Facebook. I am certainly not the only one who delights in sharing pictures of my creatures with those whom I’ve deemed my “friends.” I am certainly not the only one who likes being liked. But I wonder what this is all about. Is it innocuous to want to show off our lives and our loved ones? Or is there something troubling here, that we are so hungry for approval, for affirmation?
A friend of mine and beautiful writer, Claire Bidwell Smith, wrote a gorgeous piece on photo-taking in her postpartum life. In this piece (also published here on the Huffington Post), Claire explores the telling disconnect between her happy photos and the often less shiny reality of life at home with small children. Her words are well worth a read and have me pondering as I write these, my own words, whether our instinct to plaster our pages with precious family photos is part of an urge to prove something to others and to ourselves? That we are healthy and happy and doing just fine?
All worth thinking about. But for now, I have upwards of fifty photos to sift through. How to decide?
After I posted these words, I wondered if I was too honest. Sure, I post photos of my family on my personal Facebook page because it is a nice and easy way to share them with the people in my life, to transcend geographical and existential distances. And I love seeing pictures of my friend’s kids. This is one of my very favorite aspects of Facebook; that I am able to glimpse the worlds and wee ones of my “friends.” But I think there is more going on here than simple sharing. I think, on some level, all of us (or most of us) are asking to be seen, noticed, applauded, affirmed. I think we are eager to curry approval for our choices – to commit to a certain partner or leave that partner, to enter a certain profession or leave that profession, to have a certain family or not have it. I think we are craving a thumbs up for the lives we have crafted for ourselves, the lives we have cultivated, chosen. I don’t think this is necessarily a terrible thing either. Just that we should be aware of what we are doing.
I’ve noticed something about myself. It is often in moments when I am a bit lost, scattered, or unsure, that I think to post a picture of my kids, or my family. It could be that these are the times when I am literally free to post, not physically immersed in the doing of a specific task – writing words, ferrying kids, eating a meal – and therefore I have the time and freedom to post the picture. But I think it is more than this. I think that when we feel uncertain or shaky, we are more apt to conjure and cling to the things we know are good and wonderful in our days, and to show these things off. When I am feeling gray, it helps me to look at pictures of my beautiful little girls because this snaps me from myself and I am reminded, and swiftly too, of my incredible bounty. Posting these pictures with witty words is the next step; it is an announcement of sorts – I am good! I am okay! Look at these little people I created!
This is not just about kids, and family. No this is about the things in our lives of which we are most certain, and most proud. This is about reaching for these things, treasured, triumphant, when we feel slightly out of step or overwhelmed or exhausted or any of the other countless things it is totally par for the course to feel day in, day out. This is about sending a message. To our “friends.” To ourselves.
So. Yes, it is about cute and funny and exquisite pictures. And, yes, it is about sharing and celebrating and glimpsing. But my feeling is that it is also about so much more.
What do you guys think? Do you think we all have different reasons for posting our pictures, for sharing our stories in such a public way? Is there such thing as being too honest about these things? Have you ever splurged on a professional photo shoot of you or your family? Were the pictures worth it in the end?