From ‘Never too young for social media’, 1 May 2016, article by Venessa Lee, Sunday Times
One-year-old Kallista Choo has several social media accounts, including Instagram, Facebook and Tumblr. When she is old enough to access those accounts herself, she will see herself growing up via the photographs her parents have uploaded over the years.
They set up an Instagram account for her when she was two months old, and then a Facebook page and Tumblr blog.
…On Instagram, Kallista has more than 1,300 followers. Mr Choo says: “We wanted to give her a voice before she could even talk.”
Kallista Choo, Instagram talking baby, social media darling, is an influencer extraordinaire in the making. While other parents set up bank accounts, enrol their toddlers into modelling classes, or sign them up for cutest baby competitions, our ‘millennial’ parents have created the modern equivalent of the ‘Truman Show’ around their oblivious children.
We know how that movie ended. The protagonist, sick of having his life documented to micro-detail and shown off to the world by a father figure-dictator named Christof, walks out of his manufactured stage, saying ‘Kthxbye’ to surrogate Daddy and his tens of thousands of followers. Today, Harry Truman lives on among our children thanks to their over-enthusiastic, controlling Christofs.
In the neglected recesses of my old house my parents keep an endearing nude pic of me as a baby, among an embarrassment of forgotten memories like me dolled up for a kindergarten play. It’s the kind of stuff you would dig up only once in a while and laugh at the sheer stupidity of it. And that’s all it’s meant to be, as a private family joke, away from prying eyes of kaypoh relatives and pedophiles. Mentioned once or twice and then we move on. If it’s bad enough you will remember it FOREVER. You don’t need Facebook to send you random throwbacks. If they had put me on Instagram, or worse, Tumblr (renown for its porn blogs), with the caption ‘I’M TOO SEXY FOR MY DIAPERS’, for over 1000 buggers to scoff at, my teenage years would have gone beyond pustulant acne, exam stress and thoughts of cutting. I could be picked on at school because the first friends I have on Facebook are my damn parents.
Social media is a rose-tinted filter. You don’t see the likes of Kallista throwing a fit, bawling and giving them hell in the middle of the night. Her parents have presented her to the world as a cute-as-a-button bundle of joy. When the time comes for Mom and Dad to hand over the accounts to their teenage kid, she would have been drilled into believing that ‘I post, therefore I am’. She risks being overdependent on Likes, Facebook Reactions, the opinion of others, affected by ‘Unfollows’, and growing up constantly seeking mass approval, an ingratiating mess. On the flipside, if your kid screws up his life and ends up in the papers some day for felony, people would go ‘OMG that’s @hamsumboiboi! He used to be SOOOO adorable!’ But breeding a narcissistic complex, attention-seeking behaviour, a rebellious streak or generally annoying the heck out of singles or couples trying for kids are probably the least of your worries.
Over-sharing your children’s pics puts their safety on the line. For anyone with ill intentions, your baby photo could end up as a link to a paedo porn site. If some psychopath wants to steal your baby, stalking has never been easier with social media tagging. In the past, if I wanted to kidnap your baby I would have to physically get out of my house and follow you around, peep around corners and even buy a pair of binoculars. Today, all I need to do is log into Instagram from the comfort of my home in my dirty underwear. Grudging baby-haters may cyberbully her before she could even walk. And if you think you own the right to your pictures and they should never be reproduced without permission, think again.
But the absolute shittiest thing you could do to a baby online is Faceswap away whatever dignity’s left in your child. What kind of sick, creepy-ass parent are you, really. I formally disown you, Faceswap Father!
I’m sure parents would have thought all this through and adjusted their privacy settings accordingly. Except that most of us get so excited when our babies express their first sentences or emit farts louder than Grandpa’s that we lose our minds and let our fingers and thumbs take over. I don’t know how many of Kallista’s 1300-odd followers are friends, random admirers, spambots or lurking sickos. I don’t know how many of those would remain loyal followers when the kid grows up to be a boring as hell teen. It’s a good time, nonetheless, to be a child psychologist. My Dad abused me as a baby – by putting his ugly mug over mine for laughs and I haven’t been sleeping well since.
Maybe all this isn’t about the baby at all, but a vanity showcase of ourselves as awesome parents. Some folks have been known to even set up accounts for their unborn foetus. If I insist on documenting the birth of my child from scratch I may post a photo of Mummy’s positive pregnancy test, right down to the graphic details of how I pumped our shared DNA into Mommy’s cervix. I long for the old days when parents remain as parents and do normal parenting stuff like teaching their kid how to ride a bike so that kids can, well, be kids, and grow up in a world where their development isn’t being constantly hampered by the pressures of being an unwilling Internet celebrity, where a memory doesn’t need to be hashtagged and commented on for it to exist.