I’m a recovering sharent.
No. That’s not a typo.
You’ve never heard of a “sharent?” It’s a portmanteau of the words “share” and “parent,” and it refers to those of us who post and share way too many pictures and videos of our kids on social media.
It’s the #TMI (i.e., too much information) version of parenting.
Of course, the act of sharenting is not new. Most of our parents were sharenting offenders long before social media came along.
My parents kept boxes and albums full of photographs and old 8mm films in the hall closet. Over the years, if we wanted to sift through childhood pictures, it required digging through shoes and blankets and holiday decorations to find those memories.
If I brought a girlfriend home to meet the family, Mom would drag out those albums to relive the early years of my life, from blurry baby photos to awkward, acne-pocked, pre-teen pics.
It was embarrassing. It was meant to be. But, in a strange way, it was also her way of showing love and care.
There’s a good chance that no one outside our family and former girlfriends will ever see these pictures now (at least not while I’m alive). There’s also a good chance no one on social media will ever see these pictures unless one of my siblings decides to publically reminisce about our childhood (please, not while I’m alive).
Like my mom, who was really good at preserving those memories, this was our way of chronicling and preserving family history.
But this was also pre-social media.
Unlike our parents who shared these moments with “friends” and family in face-to-face settings, we take current-day sharenting to a whole new level on social media.
I suspect this happens for several reasons:
I learned to stop posting “in the moment.” I still capture these precious moments on my phone, but I take a beat and think about whether or not to share the content on social media.
Here’s why: aside from the privacy we give up, we don’t often consider the long-term consequences of sharenting on our children. We don’t even fully know the consequences. That scares me.
So, the next time you take amazing pictures of your kids doing something adorable, save them, print them, and put them in a box.
It’ll be nice to have a few memories to share when the boyfriends and girlfriends come to meet you.
Dr. Adam C. Earnheardt is professor and chair of the department of communication at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, USA. He researches and writes about communication and relationships, parenting and sports. He writes a weekly column for The Vindicator newspaper on social media and society.