Renee and I were approved last week to be foster parents.
I am 47, and she is 40. We have spent the 10 years we have been married without kids in our house, which means that having kids around will be a big adjustment. We will have to think about things we have never thought about before, and most of our dinner conversations these days involve us trying to figure out what those things are, and to talk through them.
One of those things is how I talk about kids in my life on social media and this here blog.
I strive for authenticity online. I once had someone tell me that I seemed exactly the same in person as I do social media, and that made me quite proud.
But the reality is, no matter how hard I try, there is always a degree of curation to what I post here. I show you the picture of me I like, but not the one where I look like 10 pounds of flour in a 5-pound bag. I check in at the art museum, but not at McDonalds. We all do it. My life (and yours) is a mini-reality show – produced and curated.
There is a concept I taught everyone who worked for me called Selective Vulnerability. Meaning you decide, in advance, which parts of your story are open to the public, and are fair game to use when talking to someone, and which parts are not. It just happens that the limits to the selective vulnerability in my life are wide.
But the key phrase in that last sentence is MY LIFE. I signed up for this life, I have agency over how much of my life I share on Social Media, and as a result, right now easily 98% of everything I post here is in a public post. If I wouldn’t say it on a street corner with a microphone, I won’t say it here. But any child I may be responsible for did not sign up to be a character in the reality show that is my life online.
Here is a non-conclusive list of the things I won’t be doing:
•Sharing pictures of the kid/kids – even the “private” ones with stickers over their faces – publicly.
•Telling anecdotes about them where I am the hero
•Telling stories where they are anything but incidental characters
•Telling you their names – even their first names.
•Using pictures of them to make me look like a hero
•Using them in stories from the blog or pulpit or stage without their permission.
•Telling you stories that would be embarrassing to the kid if you, me and the kid were in the same room.
In short, pretty much all you will know if you only know me from following me on social media is that there are kids in my life. But the kids won’t be part of my “selective vulnerability”, the part of myself I have made available to the public.
I hope you understand. But if my work has been about anything, it has been about giving people agency and control over their own lives. I don’t know any way I could be an “Instagram parent” and still be congruent with my values. So, that part of my life will be private. Thank you for understanding that.
Like most foster care systems, Mississippi has strict rules around what we can share online and what we can’t, but if you know any foster parents, you know people get around that all the time by putting stickers over kid’s faces, filters, and etc. My own rules are much stricter than theirs are.
Also, Renee has a much more limited reach, Social Media wise, than I do, and her friend list is curated much more tightly. She is her own person, and has her own rules about what she shares. These just apply to me, the guy who opted into a life of being an almost semi-famous gospel preacher.