Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Issues Around Sharing Photos on Facebook

My 24-year old daughter, Cece, spent a lot of time over the Christmas and New Year's holiday period taking photographs of old photographs from her Grandmother's albums and posting them to her Facebook account. As Cece reports, the response has been largely positive, with many family members remarking on fond memories of vacation and birthday gatherings and complimenting her on her initiative and energy in doing this tedious and time-consuming task.

So, it was somewhat of a surprise and perhaps even a shock to Cece to learn that I was not necessarily in the camp of those family members regarding photos that had me tagged in them. (Tagging in Facebook means that my name is associated with my image in a photo.) I was aware of the photos going up on Facebook, because I get Notifications when I am tagged, but I had not taken the time to look at each photo as it was being posted.

My initial impression when I first looked through all the photos posted by Cece was generally positive, because I was looking at them through her Facebook photo albums. Granted, some of the photographs of photographs are grainy, blurred or show the reflection of the camera's flash, but the quality of the photographs and whether or not the photographs were flattering to me were not what gave me pause. The fact is that I really did look like that when the photograph was taken, and I'm not into editing history or glossing over my physical appearance.

I did not realize, however, until I looked at my own Photos tab on Facebook that all photos with me tagged in them, posted by any of my Facebook friends, show up in "Photos of Lelanda." When I scrolled through "Photos of Lelanda," I recognized that I did not want all of those photos on my Facebook pages. Unlike the random one or two photos that friends and colleagues post from activities we've shared together, the photos posted by Cece were a sizable collection spanning my entire life, from my toddler years through my childhood and teens till the current day.

I have very carefully and deliberately culled, selected and edited the photos that I have posted in my Facebook albums. Each of my albums tells a story of a particular event or grouping of photographs such as "Our Family," "Herb and Lee Through the Years," and "Devons." I approach the assembling and posting of each album in the same way that I approach crafting a blog post or writing a poem: it is a creative process that tells a story with a particular point of view and purpose in mind. It matters to me as the creator and storyteller which photograph is chosen, how it is cropped, and its placement in the sequence of photos just as much as it matters to me which words are chosen, the punctuation and line spacing when I write a poem.

I have no objections to the photographs with me in them being in Cece's Facebook albums. I have no interest in censoring them, although I did ask that a photograph of me nursing her as a newborn be removed, because it felt too intimate to be shared so publicly - so, call me old-fashioned. Cece's Facebook albums tell her story. I just want to be the one who tells my story on my Facebook pages. That seems like a reasonable parsing of rights to me. Our compromise is that Cece told me that I could untag myself in photos on Facebook, and she retagged them with "Mom" instead of "Lelanda Lee" so that they only show up in her Facebook albums.

I've had occasion to discuss this with a few people, because I was curious to know whether I was behaving like a dinosaur in today's online consciousness or if my concerns have validity. I pointed out that I am willing to own all that I have done in my life, including the things that I'm not proud of, that I don't believe in rewriting history, even our personal histories. My 40-year old son said, "It's one thing to own your stuff. It's another thing to be outed." I think that sums it up very aptly. I'd be curious to know what you think.


PseudoPiskie said...

I don't normally identify specific people on FB. When I posted photos of the OCICBW blogger gatherings, somebody else identified everyone. I am not particularly comfortable with that.

As for your story, you were right to ask for the changes. I would be uncomfortable if someone in my family posted my history. Fortunately nobody in my family would do that. They can't understand why I'm on Facebook. They don't understand how I know and love so many people. LOL.

Oaktree said...

I think your son has the right words to express how I feel. I own my image, I am not a public figure. That's just one of the ways the law protects us. I own my image. Need I say it again?


Shelley, you do know a lot of people, and they sure do love you.

Facebook is inexplicable to those who haven't tried it and who don't embrace the new tech. It really is like speaking a foreign language to them.




I wonder what it means to own one's image in the context of social networking media. Certainly if someone were to appropriate one's image for financial gain or deleterious purposes, but just to post on a social networking site for "friendship" purposes? These are new circumstances that are being decided anew all the time, I imagine.


C said...

I think it's interesting that you had no problem updating the whole facebook world via statuses without even talking to me in person about it, when Dad had to go to the ER... so medical and health updates aren't "too personal", but old family photos of you ARE "too personal"?