Baby Photos and Clinging to My Principles

I used to think I'd never post photos of my son on the public Internet.
He's discovered dirt. (Alexis Madrigal)

I had a strict rule when our son was born last summer: I wouldn't post any photos of him in public settings. 

It made sense to me at the time. I live a pretty public life, and the decision to keep him off my Twitter feed and this space felt like asserting that I had a right to privacy. Really, I'd already been in the digital media game for so long that I needed to give permission to myself not to share. Living an intellectual life online, sharing becomes the default. Do thing, share thing. 

But everything about my wife's pregnancy and then the birth of our child did not feel like a part of the digital realm. No experience has ever grounded me more in the physical fact of our existence than watching the kid grow from a finger of a fetus into the baby that emerged in August, and then onward as he's grown up and looked out.

He has to learn every single physical thing. The thought that circles my brain as I watch him squat and stand and clap and wave is that there are so many ways to not walk and yet almost all kids converge on the same locomotive solution eventually. It's such a fascinating lesson in humanness, all these people walking and no one thinking anything about the fact that we're all doing it the same way. It's not exactly that we're all born the same, but rather, given the basic constraints of the human form and the dictates of physical reality and the modern world, we all must figure out how to walk, and we do. 

So, hurrah for physicality, for bodies in space. That's been one lesson of this first year.

Hurrah for closed social networks, too. The grandparents get the full, raw feed. And for friends, I feel comfortable (or a reasonable facsimile of comfortable) sharing on Instagram because I know every single person who follows me there. And it's 400 people instead of thousands: more than Dunbar's number, but easy enough to imagine as a global village.

Everything's good, then. Baby O suddenly has toddler written all over him. He's healthy and he has very sparkly eyes that he flashes at grandmas in the street until they come over and start blowing him kisses and cooing. He loves dogs. A lot. Especially golden retrievers. And some days, all it takes to make him happy is to let him parade through the streets of Oakland holding not one but two pinwheels, spinning gently in the breeze. One time he even slept through the night. And we have a great record of this adventure of coming to know our child, shared with only a select group of people, people we know care about him. 

And yet. Some part of me feels like I really want to share him—or his digital representation, at least—with the broader world. 

Presented by

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well. Bestselling author Mark Bittman teaches James Hamblin the recipe that everyone is Googling.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus


How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.


Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.


The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.


Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.


Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses


Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Technology

Just In