Last week, it came to our attention, as a group of moms who love photographing our kids and posting them to Instagram, that someone disguised his twisted fetish with the appearance of a hub. The hub was called @boysphotograpy (sic – I know how to spell.) He would actually sometimes even tag the original photographer, but not always, and repost their images.
At first glance, it seemed like a children’s hub, sharing adorable pictures of boys. Most of the photographers whose work he shared were ladies that I follow and I enjoy their work. On its face, there was nothing wrong with these pictures at all.
But upon closer inspection, the common thread with all of these pictures was that the boys were only wearing underwear. The captions were sometimes benign…but sometimes downright creepy!
Aaron of @thequesnelles posted this image to her feed, and I wasn’t initially going to repost it – I try not to get into controversy and I do try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. But as I looked closer, I just became sickened and angry. I heard stories from these photographers, whose work had been reposted, that they were begging this person, AND Instagram, to remove the pictures.
A groundswell of disgust rose up in us mamas and I think we all fought even harder.
Many of you reported and blocked the account. I reported it in several different ways, from several accounts and blocked him from all but one account (which is private anyway. Mostly so that I could keep an eye on what he was up to.) I heard that Nicole of @niccrocker went to the Huffington Post to try to make even more noise! (Which is so awesome, by the way.)
On the repost of this image on @photographerhack, the comments kept piling up and my heart broke for these mamas, who felt violated in this space that we’ve all felt so safe until now.
Thankfully, by Saturday morning, the account was gone. I don’t know if we moved the great arm of Instagram or if the sicko finally relented and deleted the account. I’ve been checking his favorite hashtags occasionally to see if he makes a comeback.
But in the last few days, I’ve gotten maybe a dozen DM’s asking this question: Should I go private?
That’s a tough question to answer. I replied back to those messages with my honest opinion and I’ve had more time to consider it over the last few days and want to share with you some advantages/disadvantages and things to consider.
Should I switch to a private Instagram Profile?
- You absolutely could. You can switch back and forth whenever you please. People that are not already following you will not be able to view your images, who you follow or who your existing followers are. (They will see gray text that will show mutual followers, if there are any. This, for me, is actually a clue as to if I want to request to follow a private account. If all my friends are following this person, I probably want to, as well. Non-followers CAN see your profile picture, your bio, your link in bio, as well as suggested similar accounts.
- One huge piece of good news that I’ve learned in researching for this is that Instagram no longer automatically has a map view of where all of your pictures are taken. Until a recent update (2016) you could tap a “location pin” from your home screen and see where all of your pictures were in a map view, and even see other people’s posts too! This was a serious privacy and safety risk, and so Instagram did away with it. Now – this is different than proactively geotagging your location. This was an automatic thing that you didn’t have much control over.
- How will I grow my following on Instagram if I go private? Well, it’ll be slower, especially if you don’t have a large group of followers already. I know for me, I only follow someone if I like their pictures. If I can’t even see their pictures, I’m reluctant to follow them. That is, unless I see that gray text indicating that all my friends follow that account. Ah, the bandwagon effect!
- Do you really care about growing a following? Life isn’t a popularity contest. Maybe you need to ponder if having a bigger following on Instagram is really important to you, and why. Now, I would argue that if you’re growing a business, you would want visibility and to grow your audience. If you’re hoping to gain photography clients, I would argue you do need to at least have an Instagram account where you do share some of your work. If you’re hoping to teach workshops or classes, it certainly helps a ton to have more followers than less.
- You could have two accounts – one public, one private. Share whatever you like on your private account, share only your best images, modest images, images that don’t show identifiable locations or people, client images (with permission – I think we all have a better understanding of why some clients ask for us not to share their images online, right?) to your public account. I have four active Instagram accounts, currently. I’m actually about to add two more for another project I’m working on. It’s VERY easy to switch between accounts (up to five accounts. Over five and you will need to log out of one to make room for another.) You do need to sign up for a new Instagram account with a separate email address.
- Will I ever get featured on a hub with a private account? You definitely still could, however, there are hubs that only follow (meaning, they’ll only be able to see your photos, even if you use their hashtag) their own mods. It’s easy to tell which hubs do that, just tap on their following tab. If they’re only following 8 or 12 people, well, those are the mods. If they’re following 1000’s of people, then maybe send them a DM and ask them to follow you, because you’ve made the decision to go private. Just know that anything you hashtag to their hub is fair game for featuring. If you don’t want it featured, do not use their hashtag. Now, if you still DO get featured on a hub with a private account, you probably will grow your following (people that request to follow you) a bit more quickly than if you don’t ever get featured.
- Only share modest pictures of your children. Yes, I know….I have two girls that look so stinkin cute in their pink ninja turtle undies. My boy in his darth vader undies – there is NOTHING cuter, y’all…. But we’ve seen that people take what is seemingly harmless and can twist it into something wrong and gross. Believe it or not, Instagram actually has a policy of removing pictures of children that aren’t fully clothed. Some of you even commented that you couldn’t get that creep to remove your picture, but Instagram has removed your OWN pictures of your children. I think this stinks. It does. But there are just really sick people in the world.
- Accept that there are really sick people in the world. The gift that this turd gave us is that he actually reposted these pictures so we found out! I think most weirdos just stalk silently, or maybe even screenshot pictures they like! If your account is public, people absolutely can do that.
- Keep your specific location under wraps. If you are comfortable posting images of your kids in their skivvies, maybe consider not geotagging your location or use a more general location. I live in suburban Atlanta, which is HUGE. But I actually could tag my exact neighborhood! A freakazoid could figure out where I live! In fact, I’ve taken shots with my home in the background (because I love old pictures of my childhood home, and I want my kids to have those too) but anyone could easily, knowing my neighborhood from a geotag, be able to drive around and find me.
- Examine every new follower. When you get a notification that someone has followed you, tap on their profile. If it’s public, just be sure it looks normal. If it’s private, does their profile picture and bio indicate that they’re a mama? A photographer? Do you see common friends (that gray text that shows mutual followers…) If they don’t have a profile picture, or are following 1000’s of people and have no posts, just block them. If it’s a legitimate account worth following, you’ll probably run into them again. (To see who you’ve blocked, you can tap on your settings – the circular gear-ish icon in the upper right corner of your account grid view screen. Scroll down a bit and tap on Blocked Users.)
- Go through your followers. For those of you that have a TON of followers, this is a tedious task that you can either set aside 10 minutes a day to do or use a long car ride or plane flight to knock it out. I don’t think you have to click and inspect every account. But look for tell tale signs like no profile picture or weird profile picture…. If you just have a ridiculous-Meg-Loeks-number-of-followers…then, you can either skip back to #7 or #8.
At the end of the day, as long as I take precautions against local predators, those that could figure out where I live, I have to accept that if some creepo that lives in another country has a weird fetish, I can’t stop him from looking at my pictures if my account is public. It’s gross and weirds me out, but he’s not doing harm to me or my child by being a weird stalker. But, I don’t want to feed into any obsession that could compel him to do harm to anyone local to him either! It’s a difficult situation.
I’m pleased that the account is now gone. It took a day. For many of the mamas whose boys were in that gallery, it took WAY TOO LONG.
I can’t make this decision for you, but hopefully I’ve given you some things to think about and precautions to take when posting pictures of your kids, especially if they’re less than fully-clothed. Maybe save those for your own family, a private account, or even Facebook, where we typically have more control over who sees those images?
I actually messaged my friend Zaida Lucia, an AMAZING photographer out of Texas. She used to have a public account, but I noticed recently that she was private. I asked her about it. She said that something happened like this awhile back and she made the switch. She was nervous about hashtagging and getting featured. But she prefers to “play it safe instead. This world is just getting crazier and crazier.” When I asked if she’s happy with the decision, she is. She will occasionally switch to public, to do a loop or something, but then switches back. That way she has way more control over new followers. Instead of worrying about checking all new followers, she has the peace of mind knowing that she controls who sees her pictures.
Ok, so those are my thoughts…I hope you’ll add to this list by commenting below – what tips can you share? Have you gone private? What are your thoughts?
I’m a family photographer in Gwinnett County, Georgia.