I sit next to L Magazine Music Editor Mike Conklin, and often I notice that he is giggling uncontrollably. “Mike,” I ask (or, rather, ichat), “Mike, why do you giggle so?” And then he sends me a link to an amusing video on YouTube. Usually this video is of a cute dog. (Mike is a huge dork. He loves Christmas, and sweaters.) (Curiously not Christmas sweaters, though.) Lately, though, these videos have often been videos of small children doing the darndest things, like singing along to Nirvana songs. How adorbs. But wait. Surely these children are far too young to be posting these videos themselves. So who is posting them? Their parents. This is fucking terrible.
This is terrible, and a difference in kind from showing home videos to friends and family, because in this case you are exposing your child — children are, to borrow a legal term, “incapable of consent” — in a public forum.
Now believe it or not this is not actually yet another of my screeds about how awful the internet is (though the internet is awful, and makes you stupid!), but rather is mostly a sigh at the fact that all of our most impressive technologies are mostly just being used to facilitate the natural human tendency towards narcissism.
This, however, is no mere narcissism. Posting a video of yourself is narcissism. Posting a video of your child in the same manner — indeed, any exposure of an incapable-of-consent child — suggests a really creepy tendency to think of your child as merely an extension of yourself. A surrogate you, to soak up public interest and praise in the same way that narcissists require public approval for themselves.
So, ok. No, this is nothing new. Like: Yes, I am familiar with the popular television program America’s Funniest Home Videos (“America, America, this is you”); and: Yes, I am also familiar with for instance the phenomenon of the stage mother. And yes, I quite enjoy the funny videos of cute dogs that Mike also sends me. But a child is not a dog (and, indeed, rarely as cute).
In conclusion. Get your kid off the internet; at least allow her to figure out on his or her own that nothing is private, rather than starting her out with that assumption. In any case, she’ll be fashioning her own Facebook page before you know it, they grow up so fast.