How I learned to love photos of your kids on Instagram

In a world of filters and fakery, children are the most pure thing on social media

Kids play as the sun sets
(Image credit: iStock)

Dear Person With Kids on Instagram,

You probably think you know what I'm about to say. You may be holding your breath, waiting for the inevitable criticisms of your online behavior — in this case, your tendency to share numerous photos of your child or children for the whole world (or your exclusive followers, of which I am somehow one) to see. How dare you be so bold? How dare you throw your kids in my face!? Instagram is for adults, after all! You're not even giving your kids a choice in the matter! How will they feel when they grow up and realize they've already been liked 100,000 times? How does one follow that first act in a life?

But that's hardly what I'm about to say. Because the truth is, I really like seeing your kids on Instagram. Far from being about to censure you, I would like to thank you. You are making Instagram a happy place. Your life seems chaotic and beautiful and magical and I'm a little bit jealous you get to have this small person in your life, even if I don't know that I personally want babies, now or ever.

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Here's the thing: Instagram, like Facebook, like the internet, like the whole wide world, can only be as good as the people in or on it. And your kids' faces, whether they're grinning or twisted in petulant snarls demanding more cake, make the world a better place. They remind me that other people and life choices will forever exist, that just because something isn't in my own immediate universe doesn't mean it's not important, and that little kids continue to be little kids, even in the most excruciating political or social or global situations.

That picture of your daughter dressed as a dragon with curly red hair and your son as a unicorn-slash-dog, costumes they insisted on themselves, gives me life. That photo of your baby hugging another baby even though neither of them look like they have any idea what's going on? Dear God, bring it on. The notes your 8-year-old wrote for her teacher, saluting her for her work in the school? PLS SHARE MORE THANK YOU. That post of your niece screaming and hiding in the corner when she's presented with a toy rocking chair that looks like a sheep? That seriously made my day. (Oops, that was MY niece, but the sentiment still stands. She got over it, don't worry.)

Correct me if I'm wrong (and I know you will), but it's not like people on Instagram as a whole behave perfectly wonderfully. It is not a platform that makes you think, Oh, wow, humanity is really integrated and working together on our goals. There is much derision about what people post, and what their intentions are in doing so. Many things are condemned as selfish, or simply not "couth." Please, not another duck-faced selfie! No one wants to see you go on about your dream vacation at your over-water bungalow in Fiji, or your new engagement ring, or your house/apartment/furniture/outfit to die for, or your washboard abs, or your idealized butt. And don't even get me started on your avocado toast. (I am guilty of posting all — or most — of these things.)

But your kids, they cannot be controlled and manipulated and posed and filtered the same way your avocado toast can. Sure, you can style them and put them in matching clothes or set them upon a beautiful backdrop, but somehow, some way, their true kidness will come through. They will throw a wrench in your backdrop, literally or figuratively. They will be kids. As parents, you are amused by them, overjoyed by them, irritated by them, overwhelmed by them. You share them with us in photos because they bring out your humanity, too.

And I love that.

So, I will like any and all of the pictures you post of kids being kids, whether they're screaming, pulling your hair, pulling their own hair, pulling MY hair, looking at a manatee in wonder from a boat, or eating a chocolate ice cream and smearing half the stuff all over their faces. I love watching them attempt to clean rooms with too-big brooms, or sing with their grandparents, or just being cute.

In a medium in which we are relentlessly purposeful, intending to present a certain message to the world, all filtered and ready to consume, kids may be the most pure thing on Instagram. They're just defiantly kids. They remind us of what we could all be, if we stopped trying so hard and were simply ourselves. And I don't even have to have any myself to enjoy them.

So, keep posting.


That Weird Friend (of a Friend) Who Keeps Liking Your Kids on Instagram

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