Baby pictures on Facebook: Audience, nuance and joy

My baby son’s toes — just three weeks old here — make frequent appearances on my phone’s camera roll.

I didn’t believe it at first. One second my husband was filming our son with my phone, the next second he stopped. Our baby was just getting started, pushing himself against the sofa like he was standing his own. I was smiling so much it made my face hurt.

I thought it could happen, but there was no way it would happen. I mean, it’s never happened to me befo —

“Your phone’s full,” Jason said, tossing me the phone. “It can’t fit any more.”

I blinked. What? Really? My thumb swept down the camera roll, as endless as a slot machine spin. My smile grew wider.

So this is what it took: For the first time in six years, I’d stuffed an otherwise spacious iPhone with pictures and videos. Pictures and videos of my baby.

Last April I was six months pregnant and anxious about whether I’d annoy friends on social media with too many baby updates.

Today I’ve understood something. While I find new meaning in every one of the hundreds of moments I’ve captured from his wee little life, not all my friends are in a position to do the same. As a result, my sharing has gained a level of segmentation it never needed — almost on its own.

To most members of my family, who gobble up every morsel of baby I post almost as soon as I post it, today’s video of my son laughing this way is clearly different from yesterday’s video of my son laughing that way. But to all but my closest friends, the nuance is cloudy, and the deeper joy all those moments carry can get garbled as repetitious, redundant, or, for the untold souls in the outer circles of my network — annoying.

And that’s just human nature.

Monica Guzman

I would not be wrong in sharing everything I share with my family more widely. As many of you assured me after the last column, there is no right and wrong when you’re sharing what’s true. But I wouldn’t be comfortable. I hover, sometimes, above the Facebook audience drop-down and consider sharing something I planned for “Family” with all “Friends.” Some of my friends would love it, I know. But they heard about him a couple daynu ago.

Besides — and I can’t help but think this — what kind of reckoning are we headed toward when we share everything our drooly, fussy little kids do for the world to see, and they find the updates with all the comments as self-conscious teenagers and go, “Hey Mom. WTF?”

Or maybe they’ll thank us. Who knows?

Last August, word spread about a Chrome extension that promised to rid your Facebook news feed of your friends’ baby pictures. It’s called Unbaby.me, it got 44,000 likes in a matter of days and yes, it still exists. I used to think this was a sign that people were mean and terrible. They’re not. Watching your baby grow is an intensely personal experience. You notice things no one else would. If they’re seeing it all the time, then hey — it can be tough to relate.

Plus, let’s be honest here. We’re selfish creatures. We see everything — especially other people’s social media updates — to some extent as a reflection on ourselves. Take me and cats. I’m allergic to them. They seem to hate me. I’d never block my friends’ adorable cat photos. They’re sweet. But the more of them I see, the more I’m reminded that I just don’t get it.

A lot of people love babies, had babies, can’t wait to have babies. Others, not so much.

No big deal. When you share things on social, you can choose to consider other people. When you keep them to yourself, you don’t need to consider them at all.

Before I had my son I said I’d probably take a bajillion photos of him. But I didn’t actually believe it. The only reason I took photos anymore was to share them. A couple years ago I found out that Jason had never uploaded, anywhere, these beautiful pictures we had taken on a trip to the park the year before. I was furious.

The day after my phone overflowed with baby things, I moved them over — load by load — to the 1-terabyte hard drive Jason so wisely bought before the birth. Then I sat and clicked through the whole collection. One in ten things we’d shared with family. With friends, it was more like 1 in 30. The picture of him playing piano at Grammy’s house. The smile from the first time he sat outside on the grass. Ah oh yeah — still can’t believe we got this — video of his very first laugh.

It’s amazing. He looked so much littler just a couple months ago.

It got late. I ejected my phone.

Time to fill it up again.

Mónica Guzmán is a community strategist, freelance journalist and award-winning digital life columnist for GeekWire. You can find her tweeting away at @moniguzman, subscribe to her public Facebook posts at facebook.com/moniguzman or reach her via email. See a list of her clients on her website. Also see this archive of her weekly GeekWire columns.

  • n8

    I segment who see my kid pictures on FB, too. If you’re connected to me on FB and haven’t hide me you see them, if you’re not connected with me or hide me, you don’t see them. I am who I am and you can take it or leave it.

  • TheVoiceOfReason

    I have a friend who HATES baby posts on FB. Her reason, though, is jealousy. She so desperately wants a baby of her own and is not in a position to have one, so seeing that daily hurts her just a little bit all the time. Now you could look at that as bad, but really, I think it’s also not very courteous to brag to EVERYONE you ever meet about your child every day. Also, I have to say, with something as public as facebook, did you ever think about the safety of your child being just a little bit less in posting their photo all over the place? Guess I’m overprotective, but I wouldn’t do it.

    • n8

      Hey, the same reason I hate seeing vacation pics, new car pics, having fun at work pics, traveling for work pics, etc. etc. etc. It really comes down to jealousy most of the time!