Because I have trust issues, I struggle when it’s time to find a new babysitter. My wife has been traveling a lot for work and I’m starting a new job so now we need to search all of Los Angeles for a total stranger to care for our precious only child (P.S. writing that sentence got my stomach churning so I needed to take a break… OK, I’m back). It’s been a few years since we’ve gone down the babysitter-hiring road, and I’ve recently discovered there’s a new player in the sitter-search game: Instagram.
Instagram is obviously a fun way to show beauty shots of your favorite food or how cute your kids are, or, in my case, how hot I am. But now it has also become a way for me to self-righteously assess someone else’s judgment. When I’m researching a new babysitter, I need to browse around that person’s inner psyche. And lemme tell you something – Instagram can be a real dealbreaker.
For example, my wife got a babysitter referral from a friend of a friend (for me this was already too many degrees of separation away for comfort, but let’s continue). All seemed great after a quick chat on the phone, so we set up a meeting with this referred twenty-something. But before we met, I did what any self-respecting father would do: I looked her up on Instagram and… uh oh. The first pic I saw was a nude-selfie-adjacent-I’m-about-to-pull-up-my-half-shirt pic. You know the one. The next photo was of her wearing a trucker hat that read “Eat a Bag of D*&^s.” The nude-adjacent selfie / “D*&^s” hat combo (and an assortment of weirdly-angled thong shots) amounted to a bag of red flags.
Here’s the thing. I understand that social media is where you’re supposed to express yourself. So you should post whatever you want on Instagram. Go ahead, take some pics in that thong (thong th-thong thong thong – shoutout to Sisqo). Wear a hat that says “Eat a Bag of D*&^s.” You be you. But if you know that your profile might be dissected by some helicopter parents who are hoping to hire you, maybe…I don’t know…don’t do that?
We decided to not move forward that particular babysitter. But the incident started an interesting chat between my wife and me. She didn’t totally agree with me when it came to my IG character assessment. She brought up the fact that social media is used really differently by 20-somethings than by my ancient, Friendster-remembering self. Most younger people don’t look at every tweet or Instagram pic as a complete reflection of who they are, nor do they expect others to. They just post a funny or serious but mostly disposable image and who cares? My wife also added that some women put up provocative, nude(ish) selfies as an expression of empowerment. “Strong is the new sexy,” as she put it. And if someone’s worked hard on their six pack or wants to share a more provocative moment, they are the ones choosing to do so. Having never had a six pack (or even a one pack), this thought never occurred to me.
In talking to my wife, I realized maybe she was right and my IG appraisals were perhaps not entirely fair. It should be OK for a person to be one person online and another person IRL. For example, I 1000% trust my twenty-three year old cousin with my child, but I wouldn’t be surprised if one of her Instastories was a Boomerang of her next to a vodka luge, captioned #ItsOnBitches.
So, in researching babysitters, where am I supposed to draw the line with the IG pics? What if someone gave the camera the finger? Or wore an I Heart Limp Bizkit shirt unironically? Or smoked a joint around a campfire? Pot is a dealbreaker for some people, but marijuana is legal in the state of California. And if you perused through my buddy Andy’s photo album, you might (emphasis on MIGHT) find a similar picture or two of College Me with a bong b-bong bong bong (also shoutout to Sisqo).
And speaking of myself back in the PIT (Pre-Instagram Times), I used to be in a comedy troupe, and our big closing number was a song called “F**k You in My Robe.” We’d come out in robes and sing a smooth 90’s R & B ballad which stipulated that even though we weren’t rich or great looking, we’d have sex with you in our plush, terry cloth robes. The chorus of the song was a soulful repetition of “F**k You in My Robe.” I’ve often wondered if I could run for President with that song floating around YouTube. Would it also disqualify me from being hired as a babysitter? Side note: the first time my wife ever laid eyes on me was while I was performing that li’l ditty. So even if it wasn’t babysitting material, it was marriage material!
Bottom line: I need to know that a potential babysitter has good judgment. Yes, it’s a slippery slope on Instagram mountain. But if Instagram can give me a little more info that will help me assess the situation, I’m gonna see what I can find by doing a deep dive into that Bag of D*&^s hat. Is that definitely the most appropriate way for me to have phrased that? No, probably not. But, as it turns out, I’m not interviewing for jobs as a caregiver to children. And I’m not wearing a hat. See? It’s all case by case…