One day Claire and I got asked a very peculiar question: Why aren’t we putting more of our baby on Facebook?
It’s very evident now – at this age and this stage in both our lives – that Claire and I are no longer DINKs (Double Income No Kids). We are now with child, and still with social network.
For years our own personal Facebook news feeds became increasingly flooded with our friends changing their profile (and header) pics from their own hopeful faces to those of their babies. Often, in a lead up to the birth, there was a pre-amble of activity involving grainy womb scans as declaration of the news.
For years Claire and I watched this with fascination, because we didn’t do any of that once we learned we were expecting. Maybe we didn’t clue in that this was now expected (even encouraged?) behaviour, but we are sceptical about Facebook.
On a knee jerk level, this “flood-your-timeline-with-baby-news” activity symbolises a transition in someone’s social expression; the life of party pics and embarrassing tagging is over (or at least on pause). Now lives (and by extension identities) need to be broadcast through the medium of baby. And let’s generate as many “congrats” comments and likes as we can – it feels great to be adored.
Let’s be honest, everyone thinks their baby is the best, the cutest, does the most amazing things. This is primal. This is base. This is Darwinism; We back our genetics. (As an aside, I’ve also noticed that as people ramp up to having a baby (call it a pre-pre-amble to parenthood), they seem to increasingly publish photos of their cats, dogs and cars to serve as a stepping stone).
But here’s the thing; until you have a baby, you won’t get it. To non-baby people, the pictures all look the same. Your baby is generic; it does the same generic things any other baby does. Hide the profile names on your news feed, and I wager you would be hard pressed to know which baby belongs to who.
And then there is another truth to confront; despite the explosion of camera phones, quick-edit apps like Instagram and frictionless, real-time sharing in recent times, the general quality of photography in terms of composition doesn’t seem to have improved. In other words, to your non-baby friends, the photos of your generic baby doing generic things is… generic. The photos lack creativity, or a point of difference in a crowded news feed.
So what really is my beef with babies (and putting our baby) on Facebook?
And the answer is; identity, self worth and a resolution not to be boring…
Claire and I have social network profiles because we’re people. Grown people. With friends we want to stay connected to. We don’t feel compelled to merge our identities on a social network with our progeny.
One day, inevitably, our son Milo will develop his own unique online identity. It will be his. And who knows what social networking will look like in a few years, but I do hope that he develops a profile with a twist (more on that in number three).
Not even Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s sister understands the privacy settings on Facebook (click here to read that story). So we stick to the rule of thumb: never put online what you wouldn’t wear on a sandwich board in Times Square with everyone watching you. It’s a pretty good rule.
3) Don’t sin (be boring)
Writer Christopher Hitchens was fond of quoting his late mother’s assertion that “The one unforgivable sin is to be boring.”
Yes, we are new parents and everything our Milo does is amazing. To us. And maybe a few others. But it’s amazing because it’s happening live. Shifting that to Facebook loses something in the translation; these are clearly “you had to be there” moments going online. It strikes me as sinfully boring to publish them to a timeline and hope to get little red blips of validation as your friends reward you with something as low value as clicking a “like” button or writing “cute! <3”.
Is there a better way?
So far I have indeed put some photos of Milo on Facebook, but they don’t compromise 1) our or his identity, 2) our privacy. On point three, I have promised myself that the photos I put up always should be…
A macro shot. Something he wears. A scene he was involved in that makes you think, or is quirky. That way – whether you have a baby or not – everyone on my news feed wins; they see something interesting. Below are some of the photos I’ve put up on Facebook so far – see if you think they are a bit more interesting than generic?
Indeed come meet and experience our baby in person if you are a real friend. It’ll be grand. Facebook is a poor substitute for real life (although it is a great way to message someone to pop over.)
Let’s make some memories together, in real life. And I promise you, I won’t snap, publish and later tag you in a photo that says “[Your name here] was here and ate this steak – with my son, my wife and 3 others”.
But I might shoot something interesting, and then everyone wins, and hopefully no one will ask why we aren’t flooding up their timeline with our generic baby news.