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Obtaining consent before posting family photos to social media?
May 22, 2014 11:41 AM   Subscribe

Am I wrong to want for my 25-year-old sister to get consent before posting photos of our family to >900 followers on social media sites (including Facebook and Instagram)? I feel annoyed by the Pinterest-perfect ideal of our family life that she's selling, and like my privacy is being violated in a big way. We're currently arguing about this and I can't tell if I'm being unreasonable, or if there's a better/more productive script I can follow so that we might actually resolve the conflict.

For Mother's Day, Father's Day, National Siblings Day (ugh) and birthdays, etc., she'll typically post a collage of old photos from our childhood. This bothers me on two counts:

1) It's clearly meant as an expression of her personal "brand," where she attempts to keep up with the smiling-happy-family photos her friends are posting in similar veins. Despite the fact that our childhood was not super happy (and I suspect her friends' weren't, either, but appearances are everything). I resent that she's, in a sense, rewriting history and putting together a master cut of all the smiling moments, then packaging them for her social media followers. This possibly has to do with her career as a PR gal, and her peer group of privileged East Coast sorority girls.

2) They are private photos, taken during private moments, and I never knew or anticipated that they'd be shared with hundreds and hundreds of strangers and acquaintances. I feel this even stronger on behalf of some family members (grandparents) who don't use the internet and have no idea they're being exploited in this way.

The other scenario is that she'll have her iphone out during Christmas or other family gatherings now, and later I'll find that she's posted a handful of photos she's just taken. I'd have hoped to enjoy a private time and not gussy myself up for photos, but it seems like the new normal is that every moment is a potential snapshot, so I should be camera-ready all the time. I hate this. I miss the old days of waking up on Christmas morning and piling into the living room all pajama'd and tangly-haired.

When I bring it up to her, she responds (via text, of course) that "Even though you think me posting pics is rude it comes from a place of love and caring ab you so sorry to offend," and "I'm not changing how I live my life and use social media because you want me to. I'm sorry but no. It's been duly noted now that I need to crop you out of every picture so don't worry I'll be sure to do that going forward." Talking to her on the phone or in person about this is not an option--she shuts down and/or throws up her hands in an appeal to whoever's around, like an "I give up with this nonsense!" gesture that usually hands her the win.

What line of reasoning might work in this discussion? Should I even bother? Is it my curmudgeonly attitude that needs adjusting? Any advice, or similar situations, or solutions, or "snap out of it!"s will be welcome.
posted by magdalemon to Society & Culture (41 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
"It's been duly noted now that I need to crop you out of every picture so don't worry I'll be sure to do that going forward."

Well, problem solved then? Other people can have the same conversation with her, and pretty soon she'll have to crop most of her photos, which might be enough of a pain in the ass that she'll stop posting them.
posted by desjardins at 11:45 AM on May 22 [15 favorites]


you are not being wrong or unreasonable in the slightest. your sister is breaching your privacy. the current photos are more troublesome than the childhood photos, because with ubiquitous tagging and facial recognition technology, any image of you, taken anywhere, can now be linked to your identity. we don't do this in my family.
posted by bruce at 11:46 AM on May 22 [4 favorites]


(1) is, frankly, none of your business. She has the right to present her life however she wants (within reason, and this is well within reason -- she can't go out accusing other people of terrible things and whatnot)

(2) you are definitely within your rights to tell her you don't want to be included in these pictures. It sounds like you have, and she has agreed not to going forward. That's a conversation you could have had better with her, but regardless, it's resolved. I don't really think you get to speak for anyone else in your family on this issue, though you may politely let them know that if they mind they can speak with her separately.

And this:

it seems like the new normal is that every moment is a potential snapshot, so I should be camera-ready all the time. I hate this. I miss the old days of waking up on Christmas morning and piling into the living room all pajama'd and tangly-haired.

Is entirely on you, and about how you want to present yourself to the world. There's nothing inherently wrong with the tangly-haired, pajama'd pictures making it to the internet, and there's no need to gussy yourself up for anything just because there might be a picture of it. If it's a situation you would gussy yourself up for anyway, then great, but otherwise, if you're willing to present your life online it's ok to present an honest view of your life online. If you're not, then you've dealt with that already, so no worries.
posted by brainmouse at 11:54 AM on May 22 [18 favorites]


This isn't about your sister, it's about you. You're not wrong to feel how you feel and she's not wrong how how she feels, but clearly there's a conflict.

I would ask her to leave you out of photo taking, unless you specifically ask to be in one and the let it go from there. Unless you keeps putting up photos that you're in, then I'd bug her about each time.

Getting outraged on your grandparents behalf when they don't even use the internet seems as though you're looking for reasons to not like what your sister is doing. Which is fine, but realize this is a you thing, you can feel however you feel, but so can she.

I resent that she's, in a sense, rewriting history and putting together a master cut of all the smiling moments, then packaging them for her social media followers.

Who cares why she's doing it. It seems you're getting overly involved in her life and being judgmental about how she's living it. Let it go and stop trying to figure the why's and what's of she's doing, because it's her life.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:54 AM on May 22 [6 favorites]


Since she's already said she won't post photos of you anymore, I'm not sure what you're hoping to get out of this.

Do you want her to change the fact that she posts family photos on social networking? Because, dude, look, this is a thing basically everyone does all the time. You're not going to be able to convince her that, despite the fact that this is ubiquitous in 21st century America, it is Wrong and she needs to quit instagram and wear a hairshirt or whatever it is you wish she would do.

You have a degree of control in asking her to stop posting photos of you. (In that you can ask, and a reasonable person will most likely comply.) You do not have any further control. You can't make her not post "Throwback Thursday" type photos of herself or other people. You can't make her not use social media. You can't make her not be like whatever it is that you dislike about her character, as reflected in her social media presence.

You're different people. You can't make her have the same opinions you do about social networking. Just be glad she's offered to crop you out of the photos she posts and move on.

Also, you should know that this is more and more just an accepted thing that people do on the internet. If it bothers you that much, you should maybe just ask people not to take photos of you, period, rather than assume that photos people take will remain "private".
posted by Sara C. at 11:54 AM on May 22 [6 favorites]


Yeah, I have a relative who works in PR/communications and also does this. It is definitely A Thing. (I've ended up as part of her profile pic before, without her asking me or anything. ARGH.) I hate it, but on a practical level, I have no control over what she does with the photos she takes of me (or already has of me) beyond untagging myself (which I always do). (I do have some pretty unflattering shots of her from childhood, and I've toyed with the idea of posting them in retaliation... but it's not a war I could win. So.)

If she's agreed to crop you out of photos, I would personally count that as a win. If she posts anything of you moving forward, just remind her, in a low-drama way, to crop you out. ("Hey, sis! Please crop me out of the photo you posted today. Hope you're doing well, love you!")

As for her posting pictures of your relatives, or framing your family as a Cleaver-like Happy Family -- I totally get why this bothers you so much, but unfortunately, I think you have to let that one go. :-/
posted by pie ninja at 11:55 AM on May 22 [1 favorite]


I agree that her Hallmark presentation of her life is gross, but that is her problem and not yours.

The only thing you can do is refuse to let her take pictures of you at all and alert the members of your family about her behavior so they can make their own decisions.
posted by winna at 11:56 AM on May 22 [3 favorites]


One thing that's come up in a few comments is that she's agreed to crop me out/stop doing this with regard to photos of me.

I have no reason to believe she will follow through on that. She tends to make claims/promises to shut me up or stay out of trouble, and then as soon as the matter is dropped...she's back at it.

Another thing that troubles me about this is the idea of our future children. If this bothers me so much now, I can't imagine the rage I'll feel when she wants to post photos of my kids without my knowledge or consent.

So the issue is not resolved yet.
posted by magdalemon at 12:00 PM on May 22


OK, that's fine, but you need to take the judgment of her life out of it. Ask her not to take pictures of you. If she posts one, ask her to crop you out. Ask her not to put pictures of your kids online and ask her to take them down if she does. When you do so, don't make it a referendum on her life or tell her that the act she's doing is inherently rude (because it isn't), but rather that she's violating your wishes and that's hurtful to you (which is a not ok thing to do). But right now, she hasn't done the thing you're worried about yet, and kids are, from how you phrase it here, a minimum of 9 months away, so take it one day at a time. There's no magic bullet here.
posted by brainmouse at 12:03 PM on May 22 [8 favorites]


I'm not sure how old either of you are, but I think a fair amount of sanitization and rose-colored glasses-ing (that's a word, yes?) is considered appropriate and perhaps even expected on social media these days. If not a majority, at least a plurality of people are cultivating their online presence in such a way as to present the best, happiest appearance of themselves and their lives possible. Which makes a kind of sense.

Your sister's motivations aside, and I truly don't think they matter aside from how annoying you find them, you should be able to adjust your Facebook settings so that you have to approve every post and photo tag of you. I've done that, because I'm a bit vain and don't want any particularly double-chinned family holiday photos of me showing up in my profile. She's already offered to crop you out, and the only people whose images you get to control online are your own, and your minor children's. Beyond that, what she is doing is within the bounds of modern social norms, you have expressed your preference, and you should probably accept her solution and leave well enough alone - or get used to ducking out of photos.

The only way I'd alter that is if it bothers the other people in your family, too. Then, it might be worth declaring certain things device-free - for instance, NOBODY takes photos Christmas morning/during meals/of people in their bathing suits. But that will probably be an uphill, and losing, battle.
posted by bowtiesarecool at 12:03 PM on May 22 [3 favorites]


Hm. Well on the other side, it's hard for me to think of any photos as "private" unless you're talking being unclothed. Photos of someone else's relatives around their Christmas tree from 1968 aren't shocking or likely to make me think less of them, even if they all have bed-head. If anything, they tend to point out that every family seems to take the same kinds of badly-composed, underlit snapshots, so they all kind of run together.

You mention "exploiting" your grandparents but unless the photos are humiliating, I don't know that I would worry about that too much. You can also talk to your grandparents and show them the stuff she puts online and ask them if they are bothered at all.

Which doesn't mean you're wrong. You absolutely should have the right to not have pictures put online of yourself (or your kids) without your permission, any more than they could be published in a magazine without it. I have asked people to take down pics of me that were really unflattering and feel absolutely justified in doing so. It's my face, I get a say in how it's broadcast.

Your question touches on a lot of obvious conflicts between you and your sister that seem to go back a long way, and that's probably making this more fraught than it might be otherwise for both of you. Maybe she is trying to turn your family into a "brand" and that's annoying, but if you aren't forced to participate, I wouldn't see it as a major issue.
posted by emjaybee at 12:03 PM on May 22 [6 favorites]


One thing that's come up in a few comments is that she's agreed to crop me out/stop doing this with regard to photos of me.

I have no reason to believe she will follow through on that.


Yeah, that was my assumption. That's why you can't let her take pictures of you at all. She pulls out the phone, you have to tell her to stop every time.

I have to do this and it makes you look like a loon, but if you don't want your picture on the internet you have to look like a loon.
posted by winna at 12:04 PM on May 22 [9 favorites]


I resent that she's, in a sense, rewriting history and putting together a master cut of all the smiling moments, then packaging them for her social media followers.

For what it's worth, that's kind of what all media do for their followers. Every magazine model doesn't really look like that. Every TV news puff piece leaves out a lot of details like yes, the guy who rescued the puppy is actually a jerk in real life. Books are an interpretation of what the author thinks the story should be, not what actually is (biographies are a good example--Charlie Chaplin's is full of idealized notions, for example). Not much you can do about that, unfortunately.
posted by Melismata at 12:06 PM on May 22 [7 favorites]


On preview, if she's not going to honor her promise, you can protest when she takes pictures/refuse to attend events if she won't stop, and you can also flag/complain about any images of yourself or kids on whatever social media, which may not solve the issue but will make it more of a hassle for her to keep doing it.
posted by emjaybee at 12:10 PM on May 22 [1 favorite]


She's not going to stop. She's passive-aggressively giving you lip service, but she's going to do what she's going to do.

You can block her on social media. It won't stop your image being all over the world, but at least you won't see it.

You can refuse to show up to events for fear of being photographed and posted on facebook.

The problem is, she has all the power in this particular dynamic, and you're both regressing to your childhood 'thing'.

In my world that would be my pounding my sister and her clawing at me.

I can see where this is infuriating, but short of cutting her out of your life completely, I don't see a real resolution on this.

I'd give it one last try, "Sissy, I'm weird about this, I admit it, but I don't want my pictures on your internet feed. I want to decide how my image is presented in the world. You say you'll crop me out, but honestly, I don't see you doing it. Let's agree, if you post stuff, you won't tag me in it, or even better, you won't post pictures with me in them. When kids come along, it goes double. If you cross me on this, you will live to regret it. That's not a threat, it's a promise." (Well, maybe eliminate those last two sentences.)

As for your anger about her Hallmarking up your family photos and childhood, yeah, that's everyone. don't worry so much about it. Accept that some people deal with the disappointment of their shitty childhoods, by cobbling together a nice childhood out of old Christmas photos and Brady Bunch re-runs.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:12 PM on May 22 [7 favorites]


Unfortunately, there's not a lot that can be done if she insists that her right to post her Pinterest fantasies trumps all. I am not the best role-model for taking the high road when it comes to stuff like this, so I'd probably just start flipping the bird in the direction of her camera/phone if I saw it out. At least that way, she *has* to crop me out to get a usable pic. There are probably other, more lady-like options that would be equally effective.
posted by quince at 12:15 PM on May 22 [5 favorites]


I have found that if you tell people that you don't want them to take a picture RIGHT THEN AND THERE and then flip out on them if they do, they tend to stop. I'm with you - I hate surprise photos, I don't want people putting my pictures to god knows what use on the internet, I don't want to be "tagged"....And in general, my obvious rage and panic when people have taken my picture unannounced have raised the stakes enough that people stop. You have to be willing for some people to think you're weird about this, but I personally don't care - taking my picture without my permission is a violation and I'd totally deep-six a friend who took such a picture and posted it on the internet.

My point being - get really upset with her every time she takes your picture and she'll stop. Start by asking her not to, finish by asking her to delete the photo and maybe yelling.

The point here isn't to seem nice or reasonable, because "nice" and "reasonable" don't work with this kind of person and these kinds of values - the point is to raise the effort required to take your picture to the point where it's too much trouble.
posted by Frowner at 12:15 PM on May 22 [12 favorites]


Re whether she will comply with your requests, what do you want us to tell you to do? Hold her down and threaten to give her a purple nurple unless she relents?

You guys are adults. All you can really do is ask for something and hope she holds to her end of the agreement. And continue to remind her of your agreement if she violates it. What else can we possibly advise you to do?

One possible course of action -- though not a mature adult thing to do -- would be arm yourself with some kind of social media ammo you could hold over her head. "If you don't take down this photo of me that you promised not to post, I'll put up the video of your choreographed dance routines to N'Sync songs you made when we were kids." Still not guaranteed to work, though, if she's an over-sharer or ultimately wouldn't be embarrassed about whatever it is you have on her.
posted by Sara C. at 12:27 PM on May 22 [2 favorites]


While you have every right to expect that your privacy be respected by your sister your tone is a little over the top. Exploiting your grandparents by putting photos of them on social media? Is she using their image to sell a product or promote a social cause they don't agree with? Do they feel they are being exploited? Or are you just feeling exploited yourself and extrapolating that everyone else must also feel the same way?

You seem to have a big issue with how she portrays her life (and sometimes tangentially yours too, I guess) but that's your problem. You live your truth and let her live hers. You can't force her to frame her life in a way that feels more authentic to you. Maybe she feels differently about your shared family experiences and childhood than you do.

That being said if you feel exploited by photos of you being used on social media then you have every right to insist she not use them. It may mean that, should she not crop you out like you've been assured she would, then you refuse to attend activities with her. Ultimately I think you will need to decide how far you will take this and if the outcome is really important enough to you to wage the battle it will take to get you what you want.
posted by teamnap at 12:35 PM on May 22 [16 favorites]


She said she'd stop posting pictures of you. You need to at least give her a chance to follow through.

Then, every single time she doesn't, you mention it. "Hey, you promised not to put pictures of me up. Please remove this."

Since you do not currently have children, don't borrow trouble.
posted by jeather at 12:40 PM on May 22 [16 favorites]


You'd like to reason with her, but in some of the examples you've given, you are expressing some unreasonable expectations of her, and she is pushing back against you for trying to exert that control.

1. You want her to obtain your consent first before posting pictures of you = Reasonable request, and that problem was already solved when she texted you "It's been duly noted now that I need to crop you out of every picture so don't worry I'll be sure to do that going forward."

2. You want her to stop "re-writing history" and to start Keeping It Real about your unhappy childhood. = Unreasonable request. You may have grown up in the same home, but it seems she feels differently than you do about the relative happiness she felt growing up. Now maybe she is in denial or maybe you are or maybe the truth is somewhere in the middle there - in any event, she has every right to feel her feelings about your childhoods, as do you. You are different people, different ages. On this particular point, worry only about yourself - stop trying to change her. Her choices are not judging yours.

3. You want her to stop taking liberties with the images of your older, non-social-media-using relatives - you say "I feel this even stronger on behalf of some family members (grandparents) who don't use the internet and have no idea they're being exploited" = Unreasonable request. Her behavior, as you have described it so far here anyway, just does not meet the definition of the word "exploitation." Can it be said she's really using them for selfish purposes if they would also enjoy seeing those old and new photos? Because every elderly relative of mine ADORES both old and new family photos. Also, and this is important - it just does not concern you. Photos with you in them, however, do concern you, and again, she has already said she would crop you out of all of them.

4. You are bothered by the fact that she has "a career as a PR gal," and "a peer group of privileged East Coast sorority girls." = Unreasonable request. There is nothing per se offensive about these particular life choices of hers. If you don't like folks who fit those descriptors, then the solution is don't hang out with any of them. Again, her choices are not judging yours.

5. "She'll have her iphone out during Christmas or other family gatherings... I'd have hoped to enjoy a private time and not gussy myself up for photos, but it seems like the new normal is that every moment is a potential snapshot, so I should be camera-ready all the time." = Unreasonable request. Like it or not, Cameras! Videos! Everywhere! in 2014 is a well-established US social norm. Has been for nearly the last decade or so now. Unless the person hosting says "Sorry, no cameras allowed in my home, not at the dinner table, etc" it is going to be up to you to draw the boundary, and you've already successfully done that. So there is no need for you to feel "camera-ready all the time" - you're already cropped out of these pictures.

So. All of that being said, I'm really sympathetic to your plight here, OP. I'm old enough to have come of age at a time when more privacy was the norm. I'm also probably the last parent in America who does not use social media and insists that no pictures of my young children be put on the internets. But alas, there are pictures of my children out there somewhere. I give up. I accept it. I don't try to change people. There are just some things in life you cannot fully control and I'm afraid in 2014 this is one of those areas.
posted by hush at 1:06 PM on May 22 [16 favorites]


It sounds like you have two distinct issues: first, you don't like candid photos of yourself posted on social media accounts, and second, you are irritated because your sister is projecting a false, sanitized image of what you say was not a happy childhood.

Lots of commenters above have addressed your first concern, but I'm wondering if your second concern is an opportunity to start a conversation with your sister. Something like "Hey Sis, I saw that you posted a collage of Mean Aunt Joan on National Aunt's Day, saying how great she is, but I remember her being really cruel to us. I'm wondering if you still feel anger toward her or if you've forgiven her. I'd love to know your experience as I try to forgive" or something like this. Which could go into the larger theme of choosing to present a sanitized image rather than being real.

Approaching it in this way could possibly make you two closer and her more likely to respect your wishes for issue #1. Or it might not - I don't know you or your sister. But worth considering.
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 1:13 PM on May 22 [3 favorites]


Well you could retaliate by taking really bad pictures of her and posting them in all her favorite places. That isn't the mature high road but it would really get her attention.

The only reason that evilness comes to mind is because I have a bunch of crazy facebook picture posting relatives and we have all agreed to only post the good pics of each other and all of our animals. If anyone steps out of line more than one person will retaliate.

It seems like you are very emotional about this, and as sisters sometimes do, she is kinda poking you with a stick, cause she knows its really bugging you.

It may be something you have to let go but you could really fuck up her family photo shoots for awhile with all kinds of inappropriate behavior. That's what would happen in my family.
posted by cairnoflore at 2:00 PM on May 22 [1 favorite]


Um, would it be possible to intentionally, like, stick your tongue out at her every single time she pulls out the cell phone? Refuse to play along with the happy, perfect life image she is trying to project? Just fail to be anything she wants associated with her public image? Be intentionally tangle haired and pj'd -- even greasy, oh-god-the-horror-without-make-up unpresentable for little miss sorority girl and PR person?

I mean if your thing is she is violating your privacy, hey, that might work. But it sounds like your feelings are a lot more complex than that and need a bit of sorting because although you protest her happyland PR imagery, you still feel pressured to "get all gussied up for all occasions" because of this. Why? Why not be The Butt she does not want to admit to being related to? If you honestly do not care for that hype, why feel pressured to fit the pretty image?

I have trouble imagining that I would put up with this. But I spend most of my time with my adult sons, whom I adore and get along with very well and I can just ask them to preview any pics or whatever I might want to post about them and get their explicit yay or nay answer (which will always be honored, whatever it is). They don't post anything like this ever about me or anyone, so I have no worries there. I have little to do with most other relatives already, so it is super easy for me to flippantly reply DTMFA or something but that may not be realistic at all for you.

Still, I feel like this is something that would break a relationship for me. I don't think you are being unreasonable at all but I suspect I would handle it very differently from your attempts to ...um..be nice or something. But I am not actually having to consider rearranging my life to avoid someone like this since I long ago rearranged my life to avoid annoying people for other reasons. And I am sort of wondering if this is really part of the issue since you indicate your childhood wasn't super happy. So I am wondering if this has other, older roots. And maybe that needs to be looked at in order to figure out what you want solved and how best to solve it.
posted by Michele in California at 2:26 PM on May 22


She has already agreed not to post photos of you, but you say you don't trust that pledge. What could more conversation possibly accomplish if you don't trust her to uphold any agreement she makes with you? It sounds like what you really want is for her to admit that you're right, not comply with your wishes, and I don't see that happening (because, as aforementioned, this is A Thing and society is on her side).

If you don't trust her to not take photos of you and/or future children, then you will have to stay away from her.
posted by telegraph at 2:52 PM on May 22 [3 favorites]


You're mostly being unreasonably, and you're also getting mad at her for your issues that you need to get over.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 4:12 PM on May 22 [1 favorite]


You seem determined to turn this into a conflict, to the point of thinking about imaginary kids and projecting your own anxieties about this onto other relatives.

It's clear you don't like it, but I feel like you need to acknowledge that you cannot control your sister's emotions or behaviours and you don't have the right to, however immoral you may find them.

What you can do is ask that no pictures of you and (when you have them) your kids, are posted. That is that. You don't have the right to tell her or other family members how they should feel about the picture taking.

I feel, op, like your emotional turmoil about your family is really driving a lot of discomfort about this. There seems to be a lot of issues about resentment, control, and representation at play your question, the idea that a particular representation your family is immoral/invalid the importance of representation. I can't help feeling you might get more satisfaction from thinking about where these feelings come from, why they are so strong, and how you might resolve them -the real problem -than dwelling excessively on the photos thing, which to me sounds like a proxy for the real conflict.
posted by smoke at 4:40 PM on May 22 [6 favorites]


I resent that she's, in a sense, rewriting history and putting together a master cut of all the smiling moments, then packaging them for her social media followers.

...

I'd have hoped to enjoy a private time and not gussy myself up for photos, but it seems like the new normal is that every moment is a potential snapshot, so I should be camera-ready all the time.

There's a pretty big disconnect between these two statements.

This is 90% drama for its own sake that you are the sole proprietor of. The small other portion, that you don't want to be put on the internet seems almost reasonable*, depending on the circumstance, but you're trying to win a war instead of a battle.

She's said she won't post photos of you again. Call her on it when she does. Until then, quit causing trouble.

* - My $0.02 here: get over it. This genie is out of the bottle. You're going to be on the internet all the time, for better or worse, for the rest of your existence. You can try to minimize, but the most effective course of action, long term, is to just accept it and move on.
posted by toomuchpete at 5:37 PM on May 22


If it does make you feel any better, most people I know are WAY more respectful of new parents requesting "no photos of my children on FB/etc!" than they are of adults asking not to be in photos. It's easy to do the "For my children's safety, I don't want their pictures, names, and frequent locations posted everywhere", "I want my kids to start with a clean Internet slate when they grow up", "No one likes people who post naked baby butts on FB," etc and get people to respect it. Whether or not it's right that people respect requests like this but not others is not the point; point is , this behavior now does not mean your kids are doomed to living life on social media. If that's fueling the fire, maybe back off a bit and focus on the immediate hills you want to die on.
posted by olinerd at 5:37 PM on May 22


1. You can make her stop posting pictures of you by freaking out at her if she aims a camera at you.

2. You can up the ante (I'm not saying you should but you could) by posting something humiliating for all her friends to see on photos of you if she does post them. "Haha look at the face I'm making, you cut that smelly fart right before the shutter went off!"

3. You can't, and shouldn't worry about other people being "exploited." If they don't want her posting pictures they'll tell her. If they don't use social media, it won't bother them anyway. You don't have children so don't worry about this.

4. If it makes you feel better, be assured that all the Pinteresters know exactly how full of shit they all are, and in the same way they protest too much in their own feeds, they know the rest of them are protesting too much right alongside.
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:40 PM on May 22


I totally sympathize with your plight and agree that you shouldn't have to have pics all over the Internet if you don't want 'em, but there is no way for you to stop her if she refuses to stop. You can't stop her from doing Throwback Thursdays of your bed head. You can walk out of the room every time she takes a photo IRL (and I think you should do it, actually), but then she'll probably post pictures of your ass.

Unfortunately, the desperate need to post pics all over the Internet where everyone you know will see them is apparently mandatory in life now. You can't stop the runaway train. I wish you could.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:09 PM on May 22


If your elderly grandparents are being "exploited," it seems like fair payback for the millions of times they probably whipped out analog photos of their descendants, back in the day.

Point being, this sort of image shaping has gone on for as long as we've had societies. This is just a newer expression of a very old thing. (Almost literally everyone does it, to some degree.) One way to make peace with it -- to "flip" it, if you will -- is to realize that this sort of curated online existence has become so common that it has largely become a sort of white noise. Everyone looking at your sister's perfected public persona is probably taking it with a large grain of salt, if they're taking it in at all. They are roughly as happy to have her sanitized life pushed in their faces as those peers of your grandparents, whenever the ol' wallet/slide projector came out.

As for your legitimate desire to avoid being photographed all the time, you'll just have to become "that" person; whenever a camera/camera phone comes out, make a scene. Curl up and moan about hating pictures. Pull a face. Etc.

Last Thanksgiving, I was taking my typicall talented-amateur shots of the meal, the countryside, and the participants. I lined up a great shot of my girlfriend, her mom, and her beloved great aunt. My girlfriend's mom really came at me; she was clearly upset to be included in the picture, and made no bones about it. I was embarrassed, and a little freaked out (her mom is normally quite mild and easygoing). Needless to say, I will not attempt another photo of her unless specifically asked. She had every right to ask not to be photographed, even though I personally had no intent to broadcast it. It had only been meant as a keepsake for my girlfriend (she and I have a pretty strict online-picture vetting agreement in place). She didn't have a right -- nor did she attempt to claim one -- to prevent me from taking, or sharing, snaps of all the other people and things, however.

You also have every right to refuse to participate (and to protect your children, if and when that becomes a risk). You don't, however, have much of a right to dictate how your sister engages in the ancient custom of putting a best face forward.
posted by credible hulk at 6:50 PM on May 22 [1 favorite]


What you want from your sister is perfectly reasonable,. and I'm surprised at the number of people saying it's not.

However, they are correct that there aren't too many options available to you for getting her to stop. The only course is to keep calling her out on it each and every time she does it. "You told me there wouldn't be any more pictures of me on your FB feed. Please take this one down ASAP." "You told me I wouldn't be in any more of your pictures - point that camera somewhere else." You can't turn her into a decent person, but you can keep on insisting on having your own boundaries respected. Hopefully, there will be enough other decent people in your family to support you on it.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:02 PM on May 22 [2 favorites]


One way to make photographs unpublishable is to obscure your face by holding one hand outstretched toward the camera. If you block your own view of the camera lens, you're doing it right. Perhaps counter-intuitively, it works better the farther your hand is from your head, because then you'll block more of the camera's angle of view. The result looks like this, and makes it very clear that the the subject did not consent to the photograph.

When I do this, I usually find the photographer shortly afterward, apologize for ruining his shot, and ask if there's anything I can do (e.g., stay to one side of the room) to make it more convenient for him to keep me out of the frame. I guess under the circumstances, you can skip that step.
posted by d. z. wang at 7:20 PM on May 22 [1 favorite]


Another thing that troubles me about this is the idea of our future children

Unless you're pregnant or in the process of adopting right now, this isn't worth worrying about; by the time you have children your sister might no longer be doing this, you might have relaxed, social media might be entirely text based, who knows.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:21 PM on May 22 [1 favorite]


I also think you're being perfectly reasonable and your sister is being amazingly rude.

I'd go for the 'hand outstretched at the camera' solution, and a grimace. That should force her to crop you out.
posted by Salamander at 8:24 PM on May 22 [3 favorites]


rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto: "Lots of commenters above have addressed your first concern, but I'm wondering if your second concern is an opportunity to start a conversation with your sister. Something like "Hey Sis, I saw that you posted a collage of Mean Aunt Joan on National Aunt's Day, saying how great she is, but I remember her being really cruel to us. I'm wondering if you still feel anger toward her or if you've forgiven her. I'd love to know your experience as I try to forgive" or something like this. Which could go into the larger theme of choosing to present a sanitized image rather than being real. "

There is also a chance that this is a very deliberate act of rewriting - instead of focusing on the ugliness of reality, she is choosing to focus on the happy, or at least the appearance of happy. I would seriously resent this kind of question because it's just a photo it absolutely is not a claim of forgiveness or understanding or emotion. The outfits, the feel, the appearance of the photos is the value. What do you want? Her to post photos of ugly horrible scenes? I mean, do they even exist, and that sort of thing is a hugely emotive act in and of itself. You're within rights to ask that older photos of you don't go up either, but you can't act on behalf of everyone else.

Not having photos taken of yourself, fine. That's your decision and your deal. But you cannot impute motives to others without confirmation (my grandparents think it's great that the kids put up old photos, even if my grandmother bodyshames herself perpetually). Worrying about future kids is just borrowing trouble and again, most people are actually good about this - I've found people are far better than organisations, for example.

You have to work out exactly what you would prefer, before you can start demands. And right now some of your reasoning doesn't match what you're wanting.

(Part of the joy of candid photos is the crazy hair and bad faces and pyjamas - let go of some of that control and photos stop being so awful.)
posted by geek anachronism at 12:35 AM on May 23 [2 favorites]


Thanks, everyone, for your input--the context is really helpful as I try to re-frame this and figure out how to proceed.

I would like to clarify one point: as geek anachronism said, Part of the joy of candid photos is the crazy hair and bad faces and pyjamas - let go of some of that control and photos stop being so awful.

I do find joy in candid photos, and I'm not a particularly vain person. My issue isn't that my sister is taking photographs, it's that she's taking them and posting them online. I have a professional reputation to maintain, and I like to limit exposure of my personal life on the internet; additionally, it just rankles that the doors and windows have been flung open and essentially everyone she's ever met is now able to "join" us for what were, in the past, intimate family times. I mourn the loss of that intimacy and privacy, but this is apparently the way we live now.
posted by magdalemon at 7:52 AM on May 23 [3 favorites]


Based on your update, I wonder if the 'professional reputation' thing might be a good way to get your sister to take your requests more seriously? I don't know her, so I don't know how well this would work, but perhaps reframing this as less of an emotional request and more of a "Hey, this could really hurt me in my career/I need to maintain a certain level of professionalism in my online 'life' because of the particular job I have" might work well? Since you mentioned your sister also seems to be concerned with cultivating a particular online image for the purposes of her work, she might be more amenable to this type of explanation...the idea being, look, we are BOTH concerned about the online image we project, but the specific careers we have chosen simply have very different expectations and requirements for what that looks like, and I need you to respect that.

Also: if you are indeed concerned about your boss or coworkers coming across these images, it is easy to change your Facebook settings so that you can't be tagged in pictures without your approval. For other social media platforms, you can often avoid this by simply not being friends with/following the person. Although the images would still EXIST, there would be less worry that they would be showing up in your profile/easily identifiable by those you work with.
posted by rainbowbrite at 9:42 AM on May 23 [2 favorites]


Protest where all the people who she is trying to impress can see it. Call her out publicly whenever she posts a pic of you. It is unprofessional behaviour in her line of work to post pics without consent.
posted by Omnomnom at 10:41 AM on May 23 [1 favorite]


My issue isn't that my sister is taking photographs, it's that she's taking them and posting them online. I have a professional reputation to maintain, and I like to limit exposure of my personal life on the internet; (emphasis added)

This is a real issue, one not made clear initially. I wish this had been clear sooner. I would certainly not have replied in the way I had if this had been made clear earlier.

additionally, it just rankles that the doors and windows have been flung open and essentially everyone she's ever met is now able to "join" us for what were, in the past, intimate family times. I mourn the loss of that intimacy and privacy, but this is apparently the way we live now.

No, it does not have to be that way. I have a facebook account. I deleted it once previously and have considered deleting it again. I participate selectively on a few forums/social things. On a previous blog, I had one and only one photo of one of my sons, posted with his permission. I sometimes post photos of myself to my blog. I do talk about my kids and relatives. I am much more careful about how I do that than a lot of people realize. Often, I ask permission of my sons before saying anything about them if I think it might be something they might be unconformable with. It does not have to be this way and individuals can make personal choices about how to relate to all of this internet craziness.

This sounds like a really sticky wicket for you. As indicated in my previous reply, I, personally, would not put up with this. If someone is part of my inner circle and repeatedly disrespects my stated wishes and personal boundaries, they start getting moved out of that inner circle, blood kin or not. I just don't put up with it. Period.

But I realize I have spent a lot of years making choices that make it possible for me to do that and that may not work for you. One thing to keep in mind in any social conflict is that you have the most control over your own choices, the least over the choices other people make. Some options: You can not attend these events. You can leave the room every time sis whips out her camera/phone. You can make some choices about which hurts less: Being in pjs and without make-up for the event because that is how you like living or having those types of images of you up on her facebook.

Given her lack of cooperation, I see no quick, easy solution here. I am very sorry you are faced with this kind of difficult to solve issue.

Best of luck.
posted by Michele in California at 4:06 PM on May 24 [2 favorites]


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