Media babies are crying on a Twitter near you
Harper Estelle Wolfeld-Gosk has 6,282 Twitter followers. She's 2 weeks old. The daughter of Today show correspondent Jenna Wolfe (58,610 followers) and NBC News correspondent Stephanie Gosk (12,356 followers), Harper was registered for an account at birth by her moms to "give her a little voice in the loud world of social media," said Jenna.
Among the folks lining up to JonBenét their infants, according to New York magazine, is ABC Nightline anchor Dan Abrams, who's apparently decided his kid's Twitter persona will be "that guy in the Mac store that everyone hates."
I have decided that I prefer wires and mobile devices to any lame kids toys.— Everett Abrams (@EverettAbrams) April 7, 2013
Another one is ABC News Correspondent Darren Rovell, who told the outlet that getting his newborn daughter a Twitter was a "capital investment."
"It was just a simple strategy," said Rovell. "Before I announced her name to the select people—before maybe it could get out—I locked down her name at Gmail, her dot-com, her Twitter handle. It was just an intellectual capital investment."
Surely, surely, there are ways to teach your kid meaningful social interaction without also teaching them about social media marketing and personal brand-building before they're old enough to know their favorite color.
It's not just that thrusting your kids into the Twitter spotlight before they're old enough to type—much less use emoticons and angry hyperbole—is a douchebag thing to do to any developing child who may not turn out to be who you want them to be. When you spend so much time in the media spotlight yourself, presenting yourself as a public figure, you're enforcing a standard of public scrutiny on someone—without allowing her to choose for herself whether or not that's what she wants.
If you're a Suri or a Royal Baby, sure, the choice is pretty much out of your hands. But putting babies on Twitter isn't about helping them adjust to a world where every action is public. Instead, it's instilling in someone from birth the expectation that at all times, they should be able to pause living their lives and increase their Klout score with a filtered Instagram, complete with ironic self-aware commentary.
What happens when Darren Rovell’s daughter turns 13 and decides she's really a dragon-form otherkin named Skynard and she wants to only be known as 'Nard? Will she use it to tweet messages from her sister-fire-breathers on the astral plane, things like "mergh" and "lol, my dad is such a dweeb, he got me this Twitter when I was negative 3"?
No one deserves to be forced to meet, much less buy into, the demands of social media, with its nonstop activity levels, its complicated nuances of communication, its inability to function as a substitute for real time spent with friends, and its insistence that the best things in life are, at minimum, suitable to be turned into pithy, retweetable quips.
Knowing how to use social media is not a life skill. We're all on it because we love it and because we find meaningful connections through it, not because we're interested in manufactured sound bites from the mouths of children ghostwritten by their semi-famous parents and imbued with all the ironic cynicism of a civilization that knows it's on its last gasp, so it’s willfully participating in its own nihilism by tweeting things like this:
Overheard: Mom1: Does she need diaper change? Mom2: Smell her Mom1: OMG! Yeah she poop'd. It's a doozy Mom2: It reeks! Me: I'm humiliated— Harper Wolfeld-Gosk (@harperestelle) August 28, 2013
Then again, the originator of that tweet has over 6,000 followers. At this rate, by the time she's 6, she'll know more people through the miracle of the Internet than I've actually met in person over three decades of actually meeting people.
Besides, if humanity is doomed to end in a narcissistic wail, no one wails louder than a bunch of smarmy, attention-hungry babies.