Why UnBaby.Me Doesn’t Really Work for Me
By now you’ve all heard about the unbaby.me extension for Chrome that automatically replaces photos of babies in your newsfeed with those of cats (or bacon, or Justin Beiber, etc.). If you haven’t, you should consider getting wi-fi for your cave. The day it was released, nearly everyone I’d ever met emailed, texted or Facebooked me about it. At first I found this amusing, but after the tenth person sent it my way, I thought, Good Grief – these people think I’m a real baby-hater!
Believe it or not, I haven’t downloaded unbaby.me and have no plans to do so. Is it because I secretly relish seeing photo after photo of progressive baby bumps, or infants with enough cake smeared on their face to feed a small village in Africa? No. It’s because unbaby.me doesn’t actually solve the problem. Which is that I now know more about the potty training habits of my friends’ kids than I do about my friends themselves.
Here’s the thing: I DO enjoy seeing the occasional photos of my friends’ babies (particularly those who look creepily like their parents). Much in the same way I enjoy seeing snapshots of the first house they just purchased, an impressively decorated cake from one of my culinarily-inclined friends, or an action shot of their latest half-marathon (preferably looking justifiably miserable or on the verge of puking). Because it gives me a glimpse into their life and keeps me connected to the things that are important to them, and that’s what Facebook is good for.
But all too often, when those same cake-baking, marathon-running, house-purchasing friends have a baby, we’re abruptly blacked out of what’s going on with them. Instead we begin receiving all too intimate (and let’s face it, all too boring) details of the life of someone we’ve never met. This…baby. I would never begrudge anyone a wild streak of posting about their baby after it’s born. If the rumors are true, it’s the most exciting thing that’s ever happened them. What bothers me is that for many (not all) of them, the streak never ends; we never get our friends back. The updates move from teething to how hard it is to drop them off at the first day of preschool to complaining about the cost of high school sports equipment.
Some will say those people were never really your friends if Facebook was your only source of staying in touch. And while that may be true, it’s not always easy or practical to keep up with everyone from your past, even if you want to. After high school and then college, my friends and family scattered to the wind. I wound up hundreds or thousands of miles away from everyone I knew, and reading status updates and seeing photos of those that I miss makes me feel like I’m in some small way still part of their lives.
So while I like a good calico wearing a sombrero as much as the next guy, a photo of that replacing my friends’ babies with an update of “Baby removed” isn’t going to give me my friends back. If anything, it’s going to be a prominent reminder that that’s all they’re posting about these days.
A Silver Lining to un.baby me
There’s been (predictably) a bit of outrage amongst the parenting community. One mama writer summed up the prevailing parental reaction with her article, Un.Baby Me? Unfriend Me Instead. And I can’t say I’m surprised. It’s certainly driving a bigger wedge between parents and the Childfree, and it’s human nature to want to go on the offensive when you’re insulted rather than examine whether there’s any truth to the attack. But what if we did take a closer look at what we’re posting on Facebook and how it’s being perceived?
I’m not just talking about parents here. I’m also talking about myself and other sans-kids people who can be just as bad by using Facebook as a place to brag, endlessly blab about one issue, look clever, or shamelessly self-promote things like, ahem, our blogs. It’s really a selfish little business when you get down to it. But I wonder what our newsfeeds would look like if we all thought a little more about what we were sharing? If we focused on putting out thoughtful, funny or interesting comments from the many different aspects of our lives?
Before you post yet another baby-related update, political meme, photo of your boring lunch, or whatever else you’ve been obsessively and singularly sharing, consider shaking things up. Why not share a joke, publically compliment a friend out of the blue, or ask a thought-provoking question like Why, WHY have we not, as a society, come up with a less-disgusting name for “lady fingers”? Maybe we can get back to what Facebook used to do best: starting dialogues, making people laugh, and allowing us to share a little bit of our lives with the people who haven’t yet become so annoyed with us that they’ve blocked our updates.