Should You Delete Pictures of Your Ex on Facebook? (and 2 Other Dilemmas)
Please settle a debate: Isn't my 15-year-old entitled to her personal space on social media? I want her to know that I trust her too much to spy—but my husband says no way!
—Meg In Nebraska
Dear Meg and Dear Meg's Very Wise Husband,
This has nothing to do with whether you trust your kid; it's about trusting the bazillions of people out there who are not your kid.
I believe it was the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens who put it best when he observed, "Oh, baby, baby, it's a wild world." Now, there are three things you need to know here: (1) In 1970, that seemed incredibly profound. (2) Cat Stevens decided it was a wild world before the Internet was even a gleam in Al Gore's eye—just imagine how he feels now that he's become Yusuf Islam. (3) Whatever his name, the guy has a point.
It's your responsibility to monitor your children's phones, tablets, and computers. Also remember that new apps pop up daily, and predators posing as kids know how to "befriend" a child faster than you can say, "Guess what? Your new pal Judy is a 48-year-old dude named Adolf who's out on parole." So here's the straightforward method I use to protect my daughter, who's 13: I stick my nose in her business on a regular basis. This isn't spying because I've made it clear that her social media is not a parent-free zone. I've explained that I'll reevaluate this policy every 15 years until she's 65, at which time I will be 107, and on to more exciting challenges.
When one ends a marriage, should one delete the (many, many) photos of her ex from her social media accounts? Is the answer different if she's dating someone new—a man whose family is steadily connecting with her on several platforms?
—Ivy In Rhode Island
It sounds like you've managed to work your way through the righteous indignation, serious sorrow, deep rage, unbridled hysteria, and ungodly mountains of pudding pops that generally accompany the end of a relationship. That, darling, is a victory!
As for the pictures, whether one is currently seeing somebody new or not, my answer is the same: Clear away most of the photos, but don't feel that you have to totally delete what was a substantial piece of your world. Grant yourself permission to hang on to a couple of pictures that show you have a past and, at least for a while there, this man was part of it. Let everybody think whatever it is they're going to think—you just stay true to the story of your life.
Recently a friend brought over her new baby, and I said, "That's the cutest child I've ever seen!" The next day on Facebook, she posted a shot of me holding her son and directly quoted what I'd told her. Should she have posted my comment without asking first? I mean, we share the same circle of friends, and they all have babies. Am I being hypersensitive?
—Heidi In Louisiana
It sounds pretty innocuous—but then again, some new parents are hell-bent on believing that their baby is pure perfection. Couple your remark with roiling hormones, a gut full of gumbo, and a harrowing lack of sleep, and there could be some hurt feelings down on the bayou. I'm sure your friend meant no harm, but a private conversation should not be quoted on Facebook.
That said, who are we kidding? Not only is there no such thing as privacy anymore, there's really no such thing as conversation—at least not the kind that involves actual eye contact. So Heidi, my friend, I think you gotta let this one go.
Lisa Kogan is O's writer at large and the author of Someone Will Be with You Shortly: Notes from a Perfectly Imperfect Life. To ask Lisa a question, email firstname.lastname@example.org.