My daughter turned 12 last week. In the days leading up to the ‘big day’ all she could talk about / ask about / beg for was the thing she’d been wanting for weeks, and weeks, and weeks.
An Instagram account.
We had pushed it off in the past, saying we would “talk about it when you’re 12” as if it were some far-off milestone that would somehow never arrive, and therefore we would never have to deal with it.
Except, of course, it did arrive, and so we had to deal with it.
I went online and did all the research about how to lock down her account, enable all the privacy settings and had a serious discussion about the rules. The rules about it being a privilege and safety and (not so) common sense. (I also couldn’t help but throw in a few pleas for proper grammar and spelling which were promptly ignored.)
Then I sat there and watched her post her first picture (a cartoon). She leaned over and said “do I press this button Mom? The one that says ‘share?'”
That word stuck in my head and rolled around for a few days.
I can try and help her navigate the world of social media (until her knowledge quickly overtakes mine) but how do I guide her about what pieces of herself to share, not only online but offline as well?
I didn’t grow up with Instagram or Facebook or the Internet for that matter (wow, now I sound old), but I still struggled with this very idea.
If I’m being honest, I still struggle with it now.
Which secrets about yourself do you tell your friend over a cup of tea?
Which dreams do you bring out of the deepest depths of your heart and into the daylight for others to see?
Who is worthy of knowing you? Not just the you everyone sees but that other you, the one that exists in the corners and shadows?
How does someone prove they are worthy? Is there any way to know without risking being hurt? Where does the line exist between an open heart and a safe one?
To protect yourself is to close yourself off. To share too much is to be vulnerable. This was a hard enough road to navigate when secrets were passed around on tiny folded pieces of paper and whispered behind hands at recess. But now, now there is no end to how far and how fast the pieces of you can be spread.
Each and every time I put my words on this blog I wonder. I ask myself the question of ‘is it too much’? Too much to share, too big a piece of me to put out there? If someone turns my words around to hurt me, am I strong enough to keep going, keep writing, keep sharing?
And yet, what is the other option? A life lived only with boundaries and fences and people who know us just a little bit but never completely?
Is that worse?
These are big questions that I can’t answer, not for myself and not for a 12 year old just dipping her toe into the future that awaits her.
But I will try.