on privacy and safety.

Today, a person identifying themselves as Concerned Blog Reader posted the following comment on my last installment of Dad in Plaid:

I think you should respect your child’s right to privacy and not go spreading his image and story all over the internet. Rory’s hardly an age where he can give his consent to such things, and should be allowed to grow up without being in the spotlight, so to speak, since day one.

Setting aside the judgmental and presumptuous tone of this comment, I think Concerned Blog Reader makes a fair point. Rory truly lacks the ability to consent to the publicization of his earliest days. He may very well grow up to resent the fact that I’ve shared his baby pictures and information about his birth and infancy. This is something I considered before launching this project, and it’s something I take into account when identifying topics and writing posts. Most important, I think, is the subject of safety. I am a public figure within a small cultural bubble and the executive director of a nonprofit organization with global reach. Lauren is a public figure within an even larger cultural bubble. I have thousands of followers on social media; Lauren has nearly 60,000 subscribers on YouTube (n.b., Lauren is sharing much less about Rory through her own channels, specifically because her reach is that much higher than mine and she deals with many more trolls and invaders of privacy as a result). We’ve both encountered stalkerish behavior within our respective fan bases. Certain offenders have been blocked from viewing our social media accounts, and we’ve even had to alert event organizers about certain attendees in order to ensure that we could avoid/escape them if needed.

This presents a dilemma for us now that we’re parents. In the Harry Potter fandom and in the broader nerd and DIY music and art community, we’ve found a welcoming home where we’ve been able to thrive as creators and community leaders. For every individual who’s crossed a boundary and made us feel uncomfortable or unsafe, there are literally thousands of people who’ve treated us like real people and extended their generosity and support to us in one way or another. Back when we were touring full time, we frequently played house party shows that lacked any kind of boundaries between performers and fans. We ate dinner with our hosts and slept on their couches. Over the years, we developed genuine friendships with wizard rock fans all over the United States and Canada, to the extent that we looked forward to seeing specific people in almost every city we played.

Because of this overwhelmingly positive experience, I have always felt very little need to set up even the most reasonable boundaries for myself on the internet. While many of my colleagues created specialized lists on facebook in order to protect their more personal content, I remained stubborn and gave equal access to everyone, working under the assumption that most people would handle themselves responsibly. If someone ever crossed a boundary, I simply blocked them and left it at that.

Rory has changed that for me. I finally caved and created a list for friends and family who have access to everything — all the pictures and personal information that I wouldn’t feel comfortable posting in public spaces. I agonized over this list for weeks because it felt so weird to draw the line between “family and friends” and the broader community that has treated me like family since 2005. The end result is a list that includes around 300 people and feels a bit silly at times. This was after several rounds of narrowing it down — I believe my first pass had around 600 people!

Anyway, Lauren and I obviously care about Rory’s safety, and we understand that his very existence ups the stakes for our family. The stalkerish behavior we’ve encountered usually comes from people who feel they’re closer to us than they truly are. The last thing we want is for anyone to think they’ve earned a privileged level of access to Rory based on an inaccurate sense of their relationship with me and Lauren.

It may seem that by creating this dad blog, I’m inviting this type of behavior. Here are a few reasons why I’m not terribly worried:

  1. This blog is getting around 600 to 700 views per post. It’s a respectable amount of traffic, but the vast majority of it is coming from links I’m posting on my personal facebook, and thus most readers of this blog are people who I recognize by face and name.
  2. Contrary to what Concerned Blog Reader implies, I’m not indiscriminately spreading Rory’s image and story all over the internet. I am sharing my own story as a new father. The past two posts have been about as in depth as this blog will ever get, in terms of sharing specifics about Rory himself. The primary focus of this blog will be my personal growth and development as a parent and how I’ll balance that responsibility with everything else in my life. This is a story that I have every right to tell.
  3. Parenting blogs are totally a thing! This blog is just one in a sea of dad and mom blogs, all of which inevitably share information about children who are too young to consent to an internet presence. Yes, parenting blogs present an ethical question, but where you fall on the issue is a matter of personal opinion, and in my opinion it’s not unethical to maintain a parenting blog and share information about your child, so long as you’re actively taking into account your family’s privacy and safety.
  4. I’m not scared of the internet. I think it’s worth noting that we currently live in a time when over 1.2 billion people share their identity and personal information on facebook. And that’s just facebook! We no longer live in a time when hiding behind a screen name is the norm. It’s hard to say where the internet will be by the time Rory’s old enough to care, but the trajectory seems headed toward more open sharing of personal information, and that’s not an inherently bad or dangerous thing. Shielding Rory from the reality of the internet might do him more harm than good in the long run.
  5. Given how normal it’s become to share personal information on the internet, I don’t see how posting Rory’s picture on this blog is any more an invasion of Rory’s privacy than bringing him into other public settings, like a crowded store or a restaurant.
  6. Consent is an interesting choice of word in this context. As Lauren wisely points out, parents or legal guardians are usually in charge of providing consent on behalf of their children. In the case of this dad blog, I’ve acquired the consent of both Rory’s parents to post our family’s personal content, including pictures of Rory.
  7. I still have plenty of time to delete this blog before it could become an issue for Rory.

So, all of this considered, I respectfully disagree with Concerned Blog Reader. I don’t believe this blog is invading Rory’s privacy and I don’t believe it’s putting him in any kind of substantial spotlight. However, I am paying close attention to how people interact with the information I’m sharing. I’ve already blocked one person on Instagram, and I’ll continue to create boundaries as needed in order to protect Rory’s privacy and safety.

I’m very interested in hearing what people think about this issue and I’m happy to discuss further in the comments.

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10 thoughts on “on privacy and safety.

  1. I think in this day and age our generation has become so ingrained with social media, it’s just part of who we are and how we interact with people as a whole. I know when I have children I will no doubt be posting pictures and events that take place in their lives just like you have done, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

    You have definitely given personal security lots of thought and I believe you are doing what any other new mom or dad would do, share your joy of becoming a parent with friends and family.

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  2. Matt, I think you’re totally right. Solid points. I’m glad you’ve put so much thought into Rory’s safety, and also yours and Lauren’s safety as well.

    I’m 23 now, but I have many, many memories of being a teenager and going to The Space in CT and being overwhelmed by even the though of talking to you and Lauren because you guys were like rock stars to me. And I sincerely hope that I never made either one of you feel uncomfortable because it was the last thing I would have ever intended, and (if you even remember me) I’m sorry if I ever did.
    But I just can’t imagine, especially now that you have a baby, why anyone would have stalkerish behavior with you guys. I feel like that’s just so disrespectful to Rory and to you and Lauren. When I was a teenager my dad was constantly reminding me at concerts that you guys were just people and your family deserves respect and privacy. I think you’re handling it very well, and I hope you keep up with your Dad blog. I love reading your posts and hearing your insight on new parenthood.

    Tl;dr I used to fan girl over you hard at concerts as a teen, don’t understand why people can’t respect your privacy and understand proper boundaries, and I love your blog and agree with everything in this posting 100%.

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  3. I am so proud of you and Lauren! I remember welcoming you into our home just because you are a friend of Crystal’s & Brandi. I didn’t know you, but trusted my daughters intuition. You, Lauren & little Rory will always be welcomed to our home!

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  4. Welcome to parenthood, where people offer unsolicited “advice” designed to make you question everything!

    We try not to over share pictures of our baby and have certain things we avoid (unclothed, bathing or potty time in the future, only because I don’t want her to be embarrassed one day) but I don’t think there’s a need to pretend your baby doesn’t exist.

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  5. I understand this person’s concern, buuuut yeah. It’s 2016, privacy settings are a thing, and as Rory’s parents, you totally have final say over whether to share adorable pictures with select family and friends. And that’s the thing – we also wondered about this for a while right before Eve was born, but ultimately decided that we have way too many loved ones around the world who would love to see pictures of her and hear how’s she’s doing. Keeping her totally off social media just seems unfair and unrealistic. She is a major part of our lives; why keep her hidden? This blog is wonderful, and I’m sure Rory would love to read it one day.

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    1. I hope Rory isn’t horrified by this blog, assuming I don’t delete it before he has a chance to read it. I really do try to keep future Rory in mind when planning out content and when approaching posts that are more about him than me. I’m very glad you’ve been sharing pictures of Eve because she’s adorable, and your family’s happiness is very inspiring to me and Lauren.

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  6. Being a new parent myself, I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your posts about how you’re navigating the waters of father hood. Honestly, I haven’t given much thought as to what I post about my daughter, Ruby, on social media. But my reach is significantly smaller than yours.

    I’m so excited about this tiny human I helped create that it’s a point of pride to be able to show her off to the people I know. Even if they are just acquaintances.

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  7. The way information is transmitted as well as reach from one person to the entire world has changed in a relatively fast way. There are those that grew up with it and it seems like it’s not a big deal. There are others that are older where this whole sharing thing is new and seems to them to be a fad and dangerous. Of course not all people, but I’ve noticed more younger people share without a second thought at times. For a small community like any fandom online we saw the progression as it happened. We know how to deal with it safely, I would say, just because of our experiences. Honestly, between 2005 and 2015 I would call the rise of the Social Networking age.

    As individual privacy comes into play as people are born in this world of constant sharing, so many have opinions. I’ve seen this come up quite a bit in the past couple weeks. I don’t know why now. Maybe I’m just noticing people talk about it.

    I believe it’s up to the parent. At the end of the day our children are guided by us and what we do. Are you guys sharing Rory’s image too much? I personally don’t think so. Is sharing any baby pics on the internet a bad thing. I don’t think so. I do believe that there can be too much sharing and that if anyone is on the internet sharing photos of themselves or loved ones that said person should know how to use the internet. Like if you are going to cook, learn how to use an oven.

    The one conversation I saw about this topic, many were saying that people could take the baby’s photos. This is true. Anyone’s photos can be used by others easily. It’s something we have to deal with when posting on the internet. Is the possibility that high? No. So, there’s a fear aspect to it as well. Which I totally understand.

    I get the privacy aspect too. Like I said it’s up to the parent. Baby photos have been shared in countless ways throughout the years. Now, instead of being limited to family and friends it’s possible that the world can see them. I’m reminded of that “Success Kid” meme. At first the parents weren’t happy about it. The photo was taken and used without their permission. He’s around 8 years old now and a GoFundMe page was made because his father needed a kidney transplant. They surpassed the amount they needed. His father got his transplant. Not every story of a taken photo ends happily though. It’s something to think about.

    Many don’t know this. I’m not really known either expect maybe besides through Leaky and the HPA, but I’ve been a step-mom for the past year. I don’t share his image much, if at all. I may have once or twice. He just turned 9 and I feel when you get to a certain age you should ask. Do you feel comfortable with this picture going on the internet? It’ll be on Instagram. I did that with his first day of 3rd grade. He was cool about it. He said his mom puts him on Facebook all the time. I don’t think it’s a bad thing at all but I like to look at all the points. I asked him another time if he liked his photos on the internet. He shrugged and said, “yeah, I guess,” then ran off to play. I wonder if he really understands what that means. I believe he does but it’s not a big deal because he grew up with it. Then again he may not understand until he gets older. I have tons of pics of him I chose not to share. It was more because I’m not his legal parent. Both his dad and mom don’t find a problem with me sharing but I wanted to wait until we were settled. Which we are and have been. Now, the Dans (I call them that – Senior and Junior) always hide when I try to take pictures though. Junior hides because Dan hides. He doesn’t like to take pictures. So, wish me luck getting any type of pic of them.

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  8. I agree with you on all of your points!

    As someone who has met you on only one occasion and follows Lauren in her craftdom, I have to admit I sometimes feel a bit creepy following along in your lives, as I do with any other person I follow and have barely/never met. I wonder if you’d even remember me if I bumped into you one day. But still, there’s something that allows me to enjoy reading and following along with you guys. That’s the fun of the internet, it allows you to make and keep connections with people that might otherwise have been lost. That being said, I do understand the scares of sharing so much information, but only you and Lauren really have an idea of your audience. Only you can determine the “risks” and decide whether too much of Rory is too much. I think the precautions you listed already are great and like Lauren said, you are his parents and therefore can consent for him.

    Anyway, enjoy your blog and enjoy others enjoying it. There’s always room for opinions and discussion. And there’s always the option to block, remove content or stop altogether if things get uncomfortable. I love reading what you choose to share and I respect your decisions to choose what you do share.

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  9. I am sorry that people have been invading your privacy. That sucks. I just want you to know this I have been greatly enjoying this blog, and love hearing about how you and Lauren and Rory are doing. Have a great day!!

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