My Son, The Hashtag

Leigh Kellogg
7 min readSep 12, 2022


I left social media around 2018. I didn’t actually delete my accounts but I did stop logging in. At that point in time, it felt toxic and overwhelming. And now 4 years later, my perspective has only strengthened.

I recently had to rejoin Instagram because I started a side hustle selling jewelry. Instagram has changed a lot! Within one week, I was already locked out of my account for some reason I never truly understood. When I finally got back in, I looked around and despite many platform changes, some things still looked exactly the same.

Cue the disappointment.

It’s August in Georgia and first day of school pictures are all the rage. I get it, you want to track your kid’s growth and share important new moments with your network. I used to do that too, but I don’t anymore. At least not on social media. Let me explain.


Giving birth to my son was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I labored with him for over 40 hours and when he was born (breech might I add!!) I was exhausted, proud, and overwhelmed with love. And as with any new mom, so started the onslaught of baby photos across my social media. I quickly gave him a hashtag and started posting regularly with it. I wanted a way to categorize and track my photos of him on Instagram. I wanted to share him with the world.

By the time he was five, I was still using the hashtag though not at the same cadence as before. Now when I search it, I can scroll back across an instant collection of his life. I can easily find photos I’ve posted, and it is nice having immediate access to that kind of a digital collection.


So, my son’s entire life up until 5 was cataloged online. I’m not going to lie, my Instagram was funny. I took the whole “look my life is a circus” approach to my content. It was real. It was raw. It got likes. It felt nice. But, in my line of work (data, research, and analytics), I began to better understand some of the privacy considerations and methods used to collect your data and build algorithms for advertisers. As a marketer I understand the power in that. I have tracked and measured digital and social media for countless clients and marketing campaigns. Hashtags are a record, a tracker. Posts are forever. And then the realization hit me. I had created a giant data set that represented my son’s life.

Me realizing what I’ve done.

So then came the question. Was this fair to him? Will he be ok with it when he’s 12, 22, 35? I wasn’t sure, and he couldn’t tell me at 5. This was why I stopped posting. I think about this a lot and what this means for this generation (like my son) that we are raising and how this data will impact them. Parents are bringing up an entire population of people who have had their lives scattered across social platforms with no say in the matter. Their images fuel their parents’ quest for likes and comments. Sometimes the moments are hilarious and embarrassing and sometimes they even disparage their children just to get a like and a lol. These kids are a collection of hashtags, videos, photos and comments. Their whole life is targetable and queryable. They conceded to none of it but it’s all out there. And the internet is forever.

The cold hard truth.


So what’s the takeaway? As a data strategist and marketer, I spend a lot of time in data. I think a lot about how toxic digital behaviors can negatively impact our lives. I can see that these dopamine hits only create the need for more. It’s a vicious cycle. We are building an increasingly anxious culture, and our online habits teach our children to use themselves digitally to gain approval from strangers and walk around with their heads down in an iPhone.

So take a step back and ask yourself if you are you being intentional about what you do online. It’s a serious question.

  • Are you using your kid(s) for likes?
  • Are you building and contributing towards a positive community?
  • Are you lifting people up?
  • Are you creating healthy digital boundaries?

These are desperately needed behavior shifts to work towards a healthier digital future for all generations.

As a mom, I work to apply this thinking to my personal life but as a consultant and as a marketer, I also work to apply this thinking in how I enable and support brands. And if you think about it, many CMOs, CBOs and marketing leaders are actually functioning like parents for their brands. So as a thoughtful and intentional parent, let’s talk about some ways you can bring this kind of thinking into your marketing practices.

Ask yourself why.

Attention is the largest online commodity up for grabs and everyone is trying to get some. As I referenced earlier, many parents use inane or disparaging childhood moments in an effort to score a few laughing emojis. And then again, sometimes the content is just not that interesting. So it’s a good question to ask why you’re posting something. In my case, I originally wanted to inform my family about my son’s growth, and then I shifted into creating entertainment as he grew older and funnier. Even though I stopped posting, I always understood why I was posting it. Brands should have the same sort of self awareness. It’s posting with intention and not only that but posting with positive intention.

Generally brands that use their energy for positive purposes online are holding consumer attention in a healthier way. Time spent is not lost time. For example, this includes brands that educate about sustainable practices and celebrate inspirational consumer stories … not brands that troll each other on Twitter for a trendy Adweek headline. We have enough of that already in media and politics.

Consider the future.

We’ve all heard the adage that the only constant is change. It’s so true. Remember when side parts were cool? Not anymore! The digital universe and what’s deemed acceptable changes daily it seems. This means that the concept of “the internet is forever” should scare the crap out of you. This was the biggest a ha moment I had when I stopped posting my son’s life online. I wasn’t sure he’d be ok with it when he was old enough to tell me.

The same holds true for brands. Remember that delving into quick wins and hype cycles doesn’t always pan out. Remember that content is forever. So many brands have fallen victim to the trend trash pile in major ways. Strong marketing leadership understands that and holds themself to a consistent standard that holds value over time.

Don’t default to digital.

Part of why I stopped using social media was due to the toxic behaviors that come out when you’re behind a screen. I always joke that no one would cut each other off the same way on a moped as they would in a car. Something about the shielding enables bad behavior in a way we don’t exhibit when we are exposed, but that’s a whole other article.

When I took that space from my device, I realized that life is so much better IRL. I’m often saddened when I see a group of young people out to dinner and all of them are just Snapchatting together heads down in an iPhone. Now, I’m not saying technology is bad. I’m saying that moderation is good.

The same principle holds for brand initiatives. It’s very easy and sometimes cheaper to default to digital experiences. Think zoom calls, and the Metaverse. (I have a lot of opinions on that. ) But if the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that humans need real life connections. We thrive when we are together. The pandemic has shown us this at global scale. Brands should be thinking about ways to build community based experiences. Think local. Bring people together for a common cause, and this should naturally lend toward positive brand sentiment if done well.

In closing, I know we can’t fix this problem overnight, but it is worth starting the conversation. As a parent or as a marketing leader, I believe that how we treat and encourage digital behaviors over the next 10 years will change the cultural trajectory of the next 50. This is the moment. And currently, as a culture we are losing ourselves to the dopamine of likes, comments, digital formats, and quick wins. We are losing to the systems we built to connect us, and it’s time to change that.

Dendro is a creative growth consultancy. We believe in asking questions that no one else is asking and thinking about things differently. For more information on how we think, and how we can help you please reach out via our website.



Leigh Kellogg

Passions include momming, learning, making, and writing. Life motto: Question everything. Website: Social: