STFU Parents: Back-To-School 101: Parents Can Chill On Posting Photos Of Their Kids On Facebook
The “end of summer” has been discussed at length on social media since the last week of July, so you guys know what that means: The first week of school is upon us! Of course, not everyone on Facebook actually has kids (myself included), but somehow it stillÂ feelsÂ like school is upon each one of us because there are dozens of photos acknowledging as much in our newsfeeds.Â Four yearsÂ intoÂ writingÂ thisÂ back-to-school column, I’m halfway wondering why JanSport or American Eagle isn’t directly sponsoring it. Parents have inspired me to write essentially the same thing five times in a row, because minor irritations like witnessing a flood of “first day” photos never seem to go away. If anything, those irritations get just a wee bit more irritating, year after year, as we say to ourselves, “Wait, I thought Brayden justÂ “graduated”Â from third grade.Â You’re trying to tell me that was only kindergarten? FML.” I’m not trying to be crass here; as a scholastically-minded student in my youth, I took the first day of school pretty seriously. I had my outfits planned and pencils sharpened (I guess kids today just sharpen their iPads, I really have no idea). But no matter how much importance I placed on the first day of school, I was never delusional enough to think everyone else cared, too. My own parents had a firm disinterest in snapping “first day” pictures (why waste perfectly good 35mm film on that?), and I can’t imagine even my own grandparents saying, “Where’s the photo of her getting on the bus?” They were too busy living their lives, which didn’t revolve around me.
I think that’s partly why some people get irked byÂ back-to-school pictures. Aside from the sheer abundance of photos, coupled with the fact that, to the average Facebook friend, this year’s photos hardly differ fromÂ last year’s photos, it’s hard for many of us who are a certain age to understand why this showiness is necessary. Parental pride is a wonderful thing, but it can be experienced offline, as well. Do the photos that Mom and Dad are taking of little Ryleigh at the bus stop really deserve to be Liked? Or are many of us just Liking them out of forced obligation, so that Ryleigh’s parents know how proud we are of her for climbing up some bus steps and going to school like it’s her job (because itÂ isÂ her fucking job)?
When people justifiably criticize kids receiving “participation trophies” in sports, they’re criticizing the idea that every kick of the ball deserves lavish praise. And the way detractors like me seem to feel about first day of school photos is similar. It’s cute to witness our friends’ children growing up and starting school (or in some cases, high school or college), but it almost seems like parents are rewarding their kids before the kids have really done anything other than get dressed, eat breakfast, and MAYBE tie their own shoes. I’m sympathetic to the parents’ pride, but it’s hard for me to experience that pride myself. Hence, I often feel a wave of boredom set in through the month (or at least the last half) of August when I’m on Facebook, becauseÂ every other photo is a celebration of the mundane.
*Note: While they can’t possibly rivalÂ “first day of school” pictures, summer camp photos may get their own column someday, too.
Every phase of life should be exciting, and every first day of school is as important, if not more so, than the last. But in my opinion, those milestones are personal, andÂ no one else can possibly careÂ like you do as a parent or did as a child. Even if my mom had snapped 100 pictures of me trying to braid my own hair and dressing myself in head-to-toe neon (hey, it was the late ’80s), no one else knew what I was thinking or feeling. No one knew that I had memorized every single word ofÂ “Cantaloop”Â on the school bus, or had a toilet explode on me in the middle of the school day, or got punished for talking too loudly in the cafeteria. Those were my experiences, shared only with myself or my classmates, and not with my mom’s giant network of friends, or all of my friends’ parents (who probably wouldn’t have been remotely interested anyway). Now that I’mÂ grown up, I’m usually happy to see my friends’ children’s smiling faces and crisp new outfits during back-to-school, but I’m still a little uneasy withÂ the onslaught of bus stop galleriesÂ in my newsfeed. (PopSugar even has a post calledÂ ’25 Must-Take Back-To-School Pictures’Â which suggests that parents “Set up a mini back-to-school photo session with your tot the weekend before school starts.”)
Like the kids in those pictures, though, I’m trying to learn. Who knows? Maybe one day I’ll photograph my own little STFUP, Jr. casually holding an apple, a ruler, and a stack of books while shaking the bus driver’s hand (but I really doubt it). Let’s check out some examples of how parents handle photos during the month-long back-to-school-fest on Facebook. And remember parents: If you named your kid ‘Kempton,’ your friends (and kids’ teachers) might not be able to take you seriously no matterÂ how great theÂ Pinterest-inspired, high-definition photo is that you post.