Right now, I get a lot of satisfaction out of sharing our moments, but ultimately I want my kids to be able to look back when they’re teenagers or adults and be glad I documented their lives in a fun way. Photo by Jakob Schiller.
Lots of parents refuse to put their kids on Instagram because it feels too public. I respect that but have gone the opposite direction and plastered my five-year-old Lulu and three-year-old Marcos all over my feed. I was a newspaper photojournalist for years, and I’m used to capturing and sharing photos publicly. Since I’m now a dad and not chasing news stories, my kids are my subjects and I chase smiles, passed-out toddlers after a day on the hill, and other moments that capture the awesomeness of childhood. I’m so used to shooting photos that I can’t not pull out my phone when they do something funny or cute. Plus, it helps build my personal brand.
There are rules, of course: I never share anything that I think they’d hate to see once they’re older. I thought about posting photos of them throwing fits—as a way to be more honest with my followers—but my wife and I talked it over and decided that the kids might not want to see themselves losing it. They can’t control themselves right now, so I felt like it wasn’t fair to show them pissed off.
If it’s even close to the line, I pass the photo by my wife, who’s not a photographer and has a thicker filter. Right now I get a lot of satisfaction out of sharing our moments, but ultimately, Instagram motivates me to shoot more photos. I’m not just taking pictures and letting them sit on my phone; I have somewhere to share them. My feed only captures lighthearted moments—like Marcos learning to ski by himself or Lulu honing her rock-climbing skills at our camping spot in Moab, Utah, last summer—but that’s what family albums are all about. I hope that one day my kids are thankful I documented their lives.
In full transparency, my feed also promotes my brand as an adventure writer, which I’m fine with. Instagram proves that I don’t just talk about skiing with my kids, I actually do it. I don’t just want that beautiful Patagonia onesie for my boy because it’s cool—he actually uses the crap out of it. Instagram builds my equity with the brands, agencies, and magazines I work with. At times I question whether this is exploitative, but the answer I always land on is no. My career as a journalist has provided my family with a lot of gear and opportunities that we might not otherwise have had, and if Instagram helps keep that going, I’m all for it.
Currently, I have about 2,400 followers, which is small compared to the influencer crowd but larger than your normal parent. I do use two hashtags specific to my kids: #lulugrams and #marcographs. Most of my followers are family and folks I’ve met on the road as a journalist. I’m not close to everyone, but I consider them friends or acquaintances, so it doesn’t feel like I’m sending my kids’ photos off to some random group of people. Instead, I feel like I’m sharing my daily life, just like people might share their family highlights on a Christmas card.
For my mom, who lives two hours away from our home in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Instagram is a way to keep up on the day-to-day of the family. She checks it every morning to see what’s going on. For my aunt who doesn’t get to see the kids very often, she feels closer to them because she knows what’s going on when she sees my posts. My mother-in-law loves to share my photos with her friends.
My feed will eventually change. If either of my kids feel like they’re sick of me posting their images, I’ll stop. I know that people are not going to be as interested in seeing my children once they’re older because that cute-kid factor wears off. And I realize that Instagram will probably go away and be replaced by some other social platform. I’m fine with all of this, but until it happens, I’m going to keep shooting and posting.