What is it about women and babies? You can’t log in to Facebook nowadays without a dilating 3D foetal heart monitor with an Epidural on its head looking you straight in the eye. One friend confided to me recently that a previously sane person he was acquainted with had just given birth to a child who already had a nine month Twitter feed by the time it entered the world. And it seems like all the non-parents nowadays are trudging in their droves to the other end of the internet when they see another little Maxwell’s first bath getting all up in their social network’s face, shaking with the effort of just not caring
100 times a day, and signing themselves up to the wonderfully ridiculous app Unbaby Me
, which scans your Facebook for baby pics and automatically replaces them with such delights as cats, artwork, and even bacon sarnies.
There’s no doubt that the social network generation has done terrifying things with pregnancy, childbirth, and the years thereafter. Sonograms have definitely made their way onto my Facebook feed more than once; iPhones are now uploading birthday pictures to a Pinterest board quicker than you can say ‘make a wish.’ There was a time when childhood was sacred, a halcyon haze of luminous sugary E-numbers and shopping in the lost property box. Nowadays, little Damien can’t even pilfer a Pick’n’Mix without someone pinging it somewhere into cyberspace with a charmless abbreviated caption like ‘LMAO.’
Yes, women must be the driving force behind these changes. Everybody knows that they were waiting in the shadows for the opportunity to use the world wide web to their advantage, surrounding us with toothless children at every unwitting turn. Despite the fact that one (out of three) of Unbaby Me’s chief developers was a woman, this attitude has prevailed. Femininity has come out in its droves and made a perfectly good porn hub smell like Rusks! The cheek of it! Drive them out the internet with pitchforks!
Even as I peruse my own social networks, however, my doubts about this theory are confirmed. An equal amount of male friends now have their children as their profile pictures - and one childless man has invited me to become Facebook Friends with a giant Mario toy that he and his fiancée share (‘my name is Mario Smithson-Price [their surnames, changed to protect the idiotic] and my mummy and daddy are getting married.’) My brother and his girlfriend have similarly started to refer to their pets as children to each other, on their Facebook walls. There is absolutely no reason to broadcast that sort of thing - texting and private messaging exist - apart from pride. They WANT us to know that Fluffy isn’t just a regular old Rottweiler to them. And that, of course, is why Unbaby Me exists.
Meanwhile, fathers the world over are stalking their progeny across the net to varying degrees. Girls I knew at university would forever be wringing their hands over Facebook privacy settings as another night out at Cheapskates club in Soho produced an array of defamatory photos. A relative of mine made his daughter sit with her laptop facing him throughout her teenage years, so afraid was he that an untoward Tweet might cause her to stray from the straight and narrow. So even as they could claim to post fewer cutesy pics of baby’s first steps, there are certainly ways in which Overprotective Dad Syndrome has translated into the Habbo Hotel age.
The downside of creating a presence for your child in the social media space - aside from all the ‘making your friends de-friend you IRL’ issue - is that the kids themselves might grow up and use it for evil. This is the biggest deterrent I can actually think of for prospective mummies and daddies who start Myspacing away from the three month scan. We all know that kids can live to let you down - just imagine how much Prince Charles (or James Hewitt, eh? Controversial) is cringeing right now at his son’s bollocks being plastered all over TMZ
. Yep, one day it could be one of your little angels leaning butt-naked over a topless girl in a Vegas hotel room, and then you’ll rue the day you fashioned them a slice of the internet all to themselves. Computerless hut in the woods, anyone? I’ll give you and your darling offspring a lift to the nearest forest.