Sofia and I have run the gauntlet of thoughts parents go through when learning they are going to be bringing life into the world. What school will they go to? Who will they play with? What sport will they play? What will they want to be when they grow up? The newest one: will they want to friend me on Facebook someday?

With the timely announcements for Google Photos, Apple's iCloud Photo Library, and the birth of our first child, there is more to consider than ever on the state of this next generation's online identity and privacy. There has never been a time in history where so much of our personal information is shared without consumers’ full understanding, and the ownership of personal content misunderstood and debated. 

Our current society easily takes 1000x more pictures than any other period in history. When looking through a giant box of photos from at my Grandfather’s house last month, it dawned on me the box contained almost every single picture he and my Grandmother took and collected in their lifetime. I could have filled that box with every picture I took just while I was in college. 

With all of this in mind, what is the right way to share moments with family and friends as we navigate the world together? Finding a middle ground between social media and postcards is no easy task. I am not comfortable preemptively removing our child's ability to live and remain in a private social realm; I want to let them make their own decision when the time comes, which will coincide with a maturation of internet businesses and a general understanding of how they will operate and thrive on the internet. Once something goes on Facebook or Twitter it is on their servers forever with no guarantee that is a secure archive to reference and view in 15 years. 

To keep up with all that is happening with our family and our baby, the website you are on will be the place to come: ShanahanClan.org. Sofia and I control what happens on this site, including copyright of the photos, legacy of the posts, and management of the content, such as blog posts and videos. The point is: We want to control our family’s presence on the Internet, and modern social tools make their money off of obfuscating and removing that control. I will use this site to build a digital photo journal or archive of my family that can live on forever and not be a slave to a billion-dollar company’s whims.

There was an interesting phenomenon that I experienced the week of my Fathers' funeral. Many friends that I have lost contact with in recent years came through viewings, which means a lot to me. The little time I was afforded to interact with them had a feeling of confusion and misaligned communication due to the fact that I already knew everything they have done in the past 3 - 6 years because of a few random updates on Facebook. Social media isn't destroying relationships and communication, it’s just changing it. 

I see photos of my child cousins who live in Erie almost every day at their hockey games, and even pictures of them with Lebron James. But the excitement they feel about telling me when I see them is partially lost because I already have an understanding of what that experience looked like to them from the eyes of their Father taking the picture.

I FaceTime with friends in different states who have moved but nothing can replace the comfort and joy that we feel when we get together in the same room. Even when you are video chatting with someone, you still say “I miss you”; when sitting on a couch with them, you don’t feel that way anymore. Digital tools can never replace the bond physical proximity creates. 

If social media and digital tools could replace human proximity, the day before Thanksgiving wouldn’t be the busiest travel day of the year, the classic Christmas song “I’ll be home for Christmas” would have no emotional resonance, and I wouldn’t have bought a house one mile from my parents and within 15 minutes driving distance to ten family households in the area. 

There is no fighting the way we will interact as humans in a socially connected world, but I can try my best to control that experience for my family and myself. Gaining sporadic insight to moments of my extended family’s lives based on Facebook’s algorithm leaves me with a partial picture of who they are and what they are going through. What I hope to do with this website is to recreate the type of bond that would typically come when we used to pick up the phone and call each other to talk for 30 minutes at a time. 

I cannot prohibit every single instance of my children’s photos making their way to Facebook, that is unreasonable. I hope their lives are filled with time spent with cousins, friends, and family and if that gets shared so Facebook and Instagram then I am happy the moment was able to happen and it was worthy to share. We will be posting to our website regularly with updates on our family- photos as we grow and exploring the world together. A digital accessible photo journal of milestones such as birthdays, first teeth, first steps, new children, etc will live here.

The Facebook news feed is an incredible feat of engineering, but letting control of how my social circle learns about what we are up to be based on an algorithm does not evoke the sentiment of the old timey phone call and connection that is built when you focus your attention on something for more than 5 seconds at a time. Our baby photos won’t be pushed into your news feed as you’re checking your phone at a dinner party or distracting yourself in an elevator; you can come right here and see it all on your own time.