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.
For one, he is so damn cute. You should see the little curls he's developed behind his ears... [parental fawning] ...
I spared you that paragraph. But he really is. But also, over the years—and it is many years now, on Twitter—I've built a kind of connection that's hard to define. It's a long-term loose tie. I know thousands of people by their work or a few nice exchanges we had one time about food carts or geology or tensile strength or water heaters or HTML. And I've learned so much from these people, been pointed to so many interesting resources, peeked in on so many different lives and minds.
It's not as Dave Eggers would have it in his book The Circle that "Not sharing is stealing." It's not exactly Fear of Missing Out. It's something more subtle: the dawning realization not that my relationships with these invisible figures don't exist or aren't important, but that they do and are. It's not a particular person, but all the people put together, the melange, who can deliver thoughts from outside the temporal, geographic, demographic, and work bubbles in which I exist.
When I used to see parents post photographs of their babies on Twitter, I'd cringe, imagining the facial recognition algorithms as laser beams scanning their child's still unformed features. Now, I'm like, "Awwwww"—not just because all kids are now cute to me and this is a legally required reaction—but because I'm jealous that they feel comfortable popping the kid out there.
It's almost the same feeling I get when two kids are doing something in a park that may or may not be very mildly dangerous. Do you want to be the twitchy, hovery parent who is narrating possible disaster—"Watch out honey! Hey, that can tip! Don't touch that! It's heavy!"—or do you want to be the parent who is clearly optimizing for risk-tolerance, sitting there on the grass, cool and French-like, watchful but with a wide behavioral envelope.