I saw the first sign about six weeks ago, on my street. ‘Suzy’ lives several houses down and I knew she was a varsity cheerleader at the local high school. (Even though we’ve never met … in fact, I’ve never even seen her.) Now I knew she was about to graduate high school. Thanks to yard signs throughout the neighborhood, I can confidently identify where all the neighborhood graduates lives, and I can call them by first name.
Then, as we left the neighborhood a couple weeks ago, my jaw nearly hit the ground. Massive banners at the entrance to the neighborhood congratulating the dozens of graduating seniors who live here. Featuring the graduates first and last names, high school from which they’re graduating, and college they’ll be attending next fall.
Face palming, quickly followed by cringing, was my gut reaction.
I found ‘Suzy’s name on the banner and was able to quickly put a last name with her first name. I’ve already mentioned that I know exactly where she lives, and while I’ve never met ‘Suzy’ or her parents, I’m slightly more than slightly concerned about her ‘offline’ privacy. Or lack thereof, to be more precise.
Graduation yard signs are not new to me. I’ve been seeing them for years and I completely understand a families desire to celebrate their graduate. We used to see them throughout the local neighborhoods back in Ohio, and over the past few years, I began to wonder why more parents weren’t more concerned with
advertising passively sharing where their child lives.
The banners at the neighborhood entrances, however, are new to me. And they’re at nearly EVERY neighborhood in the area, down here. When I first inquired about it locally, I heard the same thing over and over … “Oh they’ve been doing that forever, down here in the south! At least 20 years that I can remember!”
And, OK, I get that it’s tradition.
But, it’s also 2017. And if the idea of putting a toddler’s full name, and preschool that they attend on a sign in a yard seems appalling, then the same should hold true for a high school student. You know, the one with multiple online social profiles.
I know, I know … don’t worry, all of ‘Suzy’s social accounts are set to private. Right?
Wrong. (Although her parents may think otherwise.)
And because I know ‘Suzy’s first and last names, where she lives, which high school she’s graduating from, which college she’ll be attending, and that she was a cheerleader, she was super easy to find online. (Not so much 20 years ago, but today, no problem.)
Thankfully, for ‘Suzy’ and her family, I am not a stalker or a creeper. But I am tempted to go knock on their door and introduce myself, considering how much I know about her, I feel like she should at least know we’re neighbors.
Here’s the thing, we’ve taken a lot of online abuse from (too many) total strangers who think that Mayhem doesn’t play with other kids (or doesn’t have any friends) simply because we don’t share photographs of her with other kids. And nothing could further from the truth. In fact, the biggest reason we don’t share images of her with other kids, is because we respect their privacy. And the responsibility of choosing what parts of those kids’ lives should be shared online, should be up to those families. (I also have legitimate concern over whether or not other kids’ parents’ profiles are public and whether what they share on those profiles jeopardizes any privacy … online OR offline).
I realize that our journey is a bit different. And because of that, we’re consciously aware of what we’re posting at all times. Heck, Mayhem was recognized twice while we were in Nashville for a quick 36 hours, and both times were because people had already seen (on our Instagram story) that we were in town.
So we’re always aware. And we decide together what gets shared. As Mayhem gets older, she’ll have more need and desire for privacy. But make no mistake, we will do our best to be aware of how the online and offline worlds collide, and the impact of our actions in both. And when the opportunity to include friends feels right for all involved, we’ll do that too.
But for now, we’ll just wish our best to the graduates. And maybe, as a gift, we’ll go take those signs down 😉
Stay safe, friends!