March 20, 2016

All The Firsts And Lasts Of Our Lives

It was a bit past noon, and we were just getting the water boiling for the pasta in our cooking class. I had my phone out because I had just taken a photo, when I noticed a direct message on Facebook from an old friend who I haven’t spoken to in years. I was not used to hearing from this person and was intrigued, so I quickly read the message. It was in regards to a post I had shared a few days ago about a kid in my class and the message said:

Jabiz, I would delete this post. A child in your classroom has a right to privacy. This post has gone over the line. XXXXX did something similar a few weeks ago about a conversation overheard at our condo from a colleague's daughter. Same thing. Kids have a right not to have their life shared by others on Facebook.

Kids have a right not to have their life shared by others on Facebook.

I played the line over and over in my head as we continued with our class. At first I was a bit taken aback and perhaps slightly defensive, in the way we can become when someone challenges our behaviour, but as I stewed on it for most of the day, I realised that I have a lot to think about when it comes to Privacy and the choices I am making in regards to my own children and the students I teach. Perhaps he was right. Did I have the right to post things about the people in my life without their permission? Is it possible to tell our own stories without sharing the stories of the people we love- the people who’s stories are so intricately woven into our own?

When I got home, I knew the post he mentioned felt weird. The details felt overexposing, and I knew I had to make some changes. I went in and edited out the details that could narrow it down to a specific kid, but I left the rest of the story intact- for now.

In case you haven’t noticed, I am a compulsive over-sharer- stories, photos, thoughts, tweets, videos, successes, failures, anxieties and more. At the dawn of the Internet, for better or worse, I decided to live my life openly online. Also for better or for worse, I have dragged my family along for the ride. Both my kids have thousands of photos online, starting from their ultra-sound photo to the latest ones documenting our every move. I am not sure why I feel the need to document our lives so carefully, but I do.

At first, like most people, it was to share our excitement of parenthood with family and friends overseas. It was so easy and exciting to have grandparents and friends watch our kids grow up. But a few years in, as I began to blog and share my ideas, thoughts and feelings about so many other things my (over)sharing became a way to validate my experiences and give them shape in my own corner of the internet.

I find comfort in the fact that I have hundreds of thousands of words, photos and videos scattered on the Internet. I am not scared that they are permanent traces back to me, because I know nothing is permanent, also because these are all choices I have made about my own life. My story. I have tried to create the truest version of myself for the Internet.

What my old friend reminded me of today, was that perhaps it is unfair to tell other peoples’ stories without their consent or even knowledge. Wikipedia says:

Privacy is the ability of an individual or group to seclude themselves, or information about themselves, and thereby express themselves selectively.

I get it. I really do. But if I were to only be able to share my story selectively, without the connection I have with so many people in my life, what kind of story would that be? It would be inauthentic and boring. We do not exist in vacuums of seclusion. My story does not exist without pieces of your story. I share what I love and I love my kids, my students, my peers, my friends and even strangers online. As our web of ideas and expression becomes more and more complex, it feels that the very nature of privacy comes into question.

Oh, oh….getting into the area of The Circle.

I don’t have too many answers in this post. I am just ting to figure this stuff out. Perhaps I have made some selfish decisions in my attempt to live transparently online. Perhaps, I have dragged those around me unwillingly or unknowingly into this open vulnerable world.

I do know that my friend was right and the post I wrote a few days ago felt uncomfortably translucent. I also know that from now on when I talk about the students I teach, I should be a bit more general and way less judgmental. I do not think I could not talk about them. They are a huge part of my life, but I need to be more aware of how they are represented by what I share about them. The part that has me thinking is that even though I never mention names or specific details, just the fact that I am sharing their stories could be perceived as an encroachment of their privacy.

If I were not allowed to write about and share stories about my students or my own kids, what the hell would I write about? They make up the majority of my life. The amount of energy I spend on them is exponential to the amount of energy I spend on myself. Without my kids and my students the majority of my mental energy is spent on angst, ennui and a dash of rage.

What do you all think? Curious what other educators think about this: Tim, Paula, Keri-Lee, Dave, Jeffrey, Tosca, Kim, Adrienne, Stuart and many more of you. Feel free to jump in. Push back, share your thoughts on privacy, sharing too much about other people, your kids etc…what are your policies?

I am hoping to sit down with Kaia over the break and show her the extent of her online life, and ask if I can record an interview. I am very curious what she has to say.

In the meantime, I will most likely continue on with business-as-usual, as it is the only way I know. But I do feel a bit shaken and awakened, so I will try and temper my thoughts. I will try and focus more on myself a bit and let the other stories orbit like satellites, only sending transmission to the first person tale I might need to focus on

Oh….Skyelar lost her first tooth tonight and she was so excited she could barely sleep. See how can I not share that? I guess I see all these words as a sort of time capsules into eternity. If things are as permanent as people say, isn’t my online footprint a shot at immortality? Someday years affect I have gone, my kids and their kids can read the words, watch the videos and try to piece together the life of crazy grandpa Raisdana. They can look back on their own lives like a cyper-timemachine and recount the holidays and all the firsts and lasts of our lives.

I have a few crumpled journals from my dad and a box of photos from my childhood which I cherish. Am I not creating a vast photo album and book about this one life I have as a gift for my kids? I am not trying to rob them of their privacy. I want to showcase their immeasurable influence on my life. With every photo or blog post or tweet, I am writing another chapter of our lives. Will they really be embarrassed by this in the future? Are they really being endangered by this exposure? In a world of pixelated noise, I am just scribbling my love songs on the millions of tiny threads in our tiny corner of the web.

I love life and I love sharing what I love. To me sharing the joy and anger and pain and beauty of life is the heart of happiness and the spreading of joy. I see little different between the sharing of life and the living of it.

1 comment:

  1. I'm with you and appreciate the exchange. Hell yes privacy is important but it's not absolute. If there were iron clad rules we all held to, we'd have a sterile world lacking the things that make us human. We'd have pictures of perfect poppies in the field, and narratives of our own perfection.

    To be it's all negotiated. Constantly. Not like a contract, but it's all a moving, dynamic blob of things, which we waver about on some amount of consistency but making mistakes. We do not delete because of a chance it might invade privacy, we revisit, rethink, revise. Your students may or may not know you blog about them. I bet some do. Do we constantly have seek permission to include our experience? The experience is both yours and the student, no one owns it.

    And there are ways we can relate experiences to still write about them, but as you did, remove the specifics that might identify a person. Yes, those in the room can likely figure out who it is.

    I will continue to write about other people, take their photos, paraphrase their words. It's a shared world. If they are young, I will not include their name, or maybe just an initial (which my not even be accurate). And I likely will make mistakes, and if brought to my intention, I will fix.

    But if we start from am absolute, pure position of no risk, well,as you say, that lives little to write about.

    Keep writing of life experiences, keep negotiating.