I REMEMBER COMING HOME FROM SCHOOL that afternoon when my mom called me into the kitchen, excited. It was a particularly difficult and draining day. I was looking forward to cookies.
“I want to show you something!”
I remember most the look on her face, gleeful, as if it was something she was genuinely proud of. Like her years of deceitful work were about to go on the fridge…
“Look who all liked your picture today!”
“Liked my picture?” I wondered. She flipped the computer around and… there it was, like a punch in my tots. My cheeks felt red. My stomach hit the ground. I forgot about the cookies. My name. My picture. My date of birth. Everything. There. In the open. For anyone to friend request and see…
“Uncle Joe, Aunt Rose! Your cousin Max…”
She kept going, some names I recognized and was friendly with, but by and large she named people I did not know and certainly did not want in my life, much less professing their “like” of any photo of me. I felt powerless, betrayed. By my own parents, the people I was supposed to trust most in the world. How could they do this? Without my consent? How could they be so… So… Lame? But, it only got worse…
“Go ahead, take a look around…”
I scrolled down in horror. Not knowing what to expect, but certainly never anticipating what I found… Half a decade’s worth of misrepresentation and over sharing. A complete online version of me. A version of me, I did not authorize and worse, I did not recognize…
“Oh that’s my favorite! Do you see that life event we added? How cute is that?”
It said I was in a relationship with Ronnie the Rhino. It was complicated. I didn’t understand–what was complicated? Ronnie and I were on good terms. What did my parents know of my relationship and furthermore, what business of it was theirs?
“This is your most popular photo… Aww!”
It was my first selfie. Taken at 8 months old. The phone precariously perched in my hand with the help of my, until now, trusted mother. It was an awful picture. Terrible angle. Amateur work. Something I would never have wanted to share with the world. Yet here it was. Thrust out there, naked. Figuratively and literally, in the picture.
“And this is your newsfeed, you can see all the things your friends are up to. Let’s see what Aunt Ellen just posted…”
Aunt Ellen is not my friend! I screamed, internally.
“See, look at this! A picture of Hillary with a Hitler mustache! You can react with a lol face! And let’s leave a comment…”
She commandeered the keyboard and spoke as she typed,
“Not my president, yuck!”
They’ve been doing this my entire life! Who knows what embarrassing or compromising things they’ve posted or liked or reacted to? I may never be able to run for class president! How am I supposed to defend my image?
“Isn’t this neat? You can look back on your entire life this way!”
And see what? This complete fabrication of the things that are important to me? All this content, yet not one mention of my Transformers toys! Not one mention of my massive Pokémon collection! Not one mention of my Minecraft adventures! They knew nothing about me! Was I merely a creature who they could project their hopes and dreams onto without paying any attention to what I actually am as an independent human being?
They don’t understand. There were no social media outlets back in the 2000s. Before Facebook. My parents, our parents, don’t understand the embarrassment of creating an online presence before they even really knew who they were. I haven’t even watched an R-rated movie yet! But apparently Big Hero 6 is already my favorite movie of all time!
“We think you’re old enough to manage this on your own now.”
Now? Now! There is a week by week photographic account of my growth from age 1 to 68 weeks! I am mortified. I am exposed. You’ve placed a version of me out into the world that I have no control over, Mother! I wanted to yell. What kind of damage control will I have to undertake my entire life to erase this complete exposure of myself from the Internet! Exposures that include not only the patently false and untrue but also the truly bizarre.
I have never graduated from “The School of Chewed Socks.” I’m currently attending kindergarten at Shetland Hills Elementary School.
Under “About Me” was just listed “rad dude with ‘tude,” don’t know what that means, never said it.
My favorite quote was never “Live. Laugh. Cookies.”
I’m unsure why there was the need for multiple pictures of me holding cookies with my “favorite quote” memed on them.
It’s been a year since I’ve found out and the repercussions reverberate every second of every day. I can’t look at my parents the same way. I can no longer enjoy activities, that my profile indicates, I once used to enjoy. Who might be watching? Ready to capture this moment of innocent enjoyment in order to turn it into some crass display of childhood for the likes? Exploited. By my own parents.
I decided it was important for me to share this story. Even though the thought of the word “share” triggers flashbacks. It feels important though, if only to inform, to warn, that your parents may be doing the same. Defining you. Exposing your secret relationships. I just don’t want you to end up with the same situation I am in. Desperately trying to reclaim my online identity after having been completely hijacked for half a decade.
*this piece was adapted from Show and Tell, February 3, 2016. Names have been changed to protect privacy*
The Higgs Weldon is a humor website with funny stories, articles, cartoons, and one liners. It was started by the Los Angeles stand-up comedy community, but takes submissions from everybody. Please read and enjoy our jokes!