Facebook quietly launched a new tool this week that is sparking controversy around the globe. Now in addition to posting favorite bands and vacation photos, Facebook users are also able to announce to their followers if they are expecting a baby. While this seems like a natural progression to the “I’m Engaged” announcement, the “I’m Expecting” function is fueling a lot of discussions. One of the most interesting conversations that arose with the new Facebook option is the concept of giving children an overwhelming online presence before birth. The “Expected: Child” section on the future parent’s website allows for a photo, presumably for a sonogram picture, and also a name, meaning the unborn child is primed to have their own mini-Facebook page while still in the womb.
This Facebook option is not the beginning of this trend, but rather, an addition to a growing movement. Two months ago ABC News ran a feature that highlighted the Facebook page of Marriah Greene, the unborn daughter of a couple in Texas. Matt and Ellie weren’t sure how to announce the birth of their child to friends, so after waiting until Ellie was at a late stage in her pregnancy they decided to launch a page using the sonogram photo for the profile picture. And did you know unborn babies can tweet? Expectant mothers can purchase a service provided by “Kickbee” that is a band stretched over a pregnant belly, and will send out tweets when the baby kicks. The twitter account is set up in the unborn child’s name, and when they kick it automatically lets followers know “I kicked mommy!”
Taking this idea of giving babies an online presence before birth one step further is a site called “Babysquatter,” a website that allows you to “call fives” on a web address in an unborn child’s name. Should I plan on giving birth to a child with a relatively common name, I can pounce on their soon-to-be scooped up web address before that other baby down the street has the chance. (That’s right, www.cornflakemargolispineo.com is mine.)
Some parents are even taking to creating email addresses for their unborn children and sending them emails throughout the pregnancy and infancy. Rather than that old-school scrapbooking where parents would lovingly paste in photos and hospital bracelets, parents can now conveniently connect with their future child in a very 2011 way. Have five minutes to kill between drafting law briefs? Why not shoot your baby a note to say “what’s up”?
So how early is too early for an online presence? In an article on mommytracked.com my aunt Abby wrestled with the idea of my cousin getting a Facebook page at the age of 12, but it seems many parents have no problem with their children signing up before they’re even able to voice their own opinion. Is this new step by Facebook taking things too far because it allows for a photo? Is it positioning itself to register younger users in an attempt to dominate the social media sphere (even more)? Or do people need to just chill out? Right now I’m not really sure, but I’m excited to see where this argument takes us.