American author, journalist, and New York University professor Katie Roiphe examines the phenomenon of mothers putting pictures of their children in their Facebook profiles instead of their own and asks: “Where have all of these women gone?” For Roiphe, the choice of a woman who is otherwise smart and engaging to voluntarily represent herself as her children in this social media platform signify a “larger and more ominous self-effacement, a narrowing of worlds” where the message she is putting across is: “I don’t matter anymore.”
While having your child’s image on your Facebook profile seems innocent enough, Roiphe finds it disturbing for two more reasons. First, using the angelic images of your kids to “create a picture of self” is equating yourself with your children on a subliminal level. Second, substituting your face with that of your innocent child is, for her, a way of leaching yourself of sexuality which is akin to “wearing sneakers every day or forgetting to cut your hair….a way of being dowdy and invisible.”
In this article, she also points out that this kind of over-zealous attention we give to our children today has also resulted to them lacking in independence, of the “inner resources that we seem to remember….from our own childhoods.” Roiphe ends her essay by hypothetically asking what if Facebook is only the start. “What if passports and driver’s licences are next? What if suddenly the faces of a generation were to disappear, and in their places were beaming toddlers? Who will mourn these vanished ladies, and when will Betty Friedan rest in peace?”
Not everyone, however, interprets putting their children on their FB profile pages the way Ms. Roiphe does. In her blog Fabulously Random, Nicole considers herself “guilty of posting pictures of my child on Facebook and wanting to talk about her non-stop.” However, she says that she “is not defined by my child even if even if she is the center of my world.” She thinks that women now are more independent compared to forty years ago when they “were more confined and defined by their children” and that alone should be a cause for celebration. She writes: “My purpose right now in my life, is to make sure she thrives and grows into a capable and competent child and adult. It is solely my duty as a parent. But, is that who I am? NO, absolutely not! It is simply a part of me. By far, the most important part of me, but just a part.”
In another lengthy reaction, InstaPrincess answers Ms. Roiphe’s contentions paragraph by paragraph and asks: “Does anybody for a second think that a profile photo is the sum total of who a person is? Do we really lack such imagination that we can’t handle this one little piece of a person’s Facebook identity being anything aside from a literal rendering of that person’s actual face?”
Share your thoughts – do you or do you not post pictures of your kids in your profile picture?