This week, in news that will surprise precisely no one with a Facebook account, The Times has revealed that parents will post an average of 1,500 photos of their kids on social media before they turn five.
These stats are the result of behavioural research, by domain registry company, Nominet, into the online habits of parents – but none of that really matters right now, because OF COURSE PARENTS DO THIS. That the social feeds of new parents are just a grid of square featuring a series of near-identical pink fleshy blobs is a fact of life – just like the sun rising in the east, and the fact that you will ONLY see the most eye-wateringly handsome doctor of your life if you ever need to have warts lasered off your vagina.
And there is nothing wrong with it at all. I admit that, before I became a parent, it irritated me. “Why do I have to scroll through all these babies to find my friends’ pithy quotes about zeitgeisty events?” I’d think, although I did realise that if your biggest complaint is that your social feed is full of adorable tots and cute kittens, you’re probably doing okay at life.
“Still,” I told myself. “If I have a baby I won’t surrender to this sort of thing. I’ll still write posts about THINGS and STUFF; it won’t be all babies.”
Readers, this is my Instagram feed:
Because, once I had my son, Herbie, I understood. I understood that, firstly, when you’re a parent you don’t have the time or energy to post updates about THINGS or STUFF, because you’re too busy wiping a bodily fluid out of someone’s crevice, stopping your child from getting electrocuted, or trying not to nod off.
Secondly – and more importantly – I understood why people are always taking photos of their children. Because having a child is like seeing a star explode in the distant night sky, then seeing a RAINBOW shoot out of that star, and a SPARKLY WINGED UNICORN ride that rainbow all the way across the heavens and land at your feet. If such an amazing thing actually unfolded in front of you, OF COURSE you’d have your phone out in a jiffy, and you’d be snapping photos like nobody’s business.
Every new inch of growth – every tooth, dimple, or word – is a fresh miracle that somehow never loses its ability to shock and awe
Well, the first few years of a child’s life is a bit like that, only slowed down. You start off with this tiny scrap of humanity you can’t believe came from you, and over 24 months it turns into a PERSON. Every new inch of growth – every tooth, dimple, or word – is a fresh miracle that somehow never loses its ability to shock and awe.
From the outside, I realise, this very much looks like daily blurred shots of a toddler in various states of porridge-coverage, but rest assured that, from where I’m standing, it’s basically the second half of 2001: A Space Odyssey, and we can’t help but try and share these moments with the world.
When I was a child in the 1980s, my father would attempt “candid” family shots by yelling “STAY RIGHT THERE” then running off to fetch his camera, tripod, flash cube, and power and lipstick because the flash cube would wash out our faces. Which is why all our family photos look so staged:
Here in 2016, new parents have a miraculous child they can’t believe is real in one hand (generally inserting something unwise into an orifice), and a professional-grade camera in their other hand. Of course we’re going to put thousands of photos of these daily revelations online.
At least I do. Which is no great shame, really. Because before Herbie came along, my Instagram was just full of half-eaten meals I’d forgotten to photograph when it was first served, because I was too hungry. Now, which would you rather see?