Oh, the good old days when having a baby meant flipping through a name book and setting up a nursery. Now, according to Facebook sibling Randi Zuckerberg, there’s also the business of pondering your baby-to-be’s digital footprint.
Mark Zuckerberg’s older sis, author of the new book Dot Complicated, told Canadian Press writer Michael Oliveira that savvy parents are Googling baby names for any potentially embarrassing hits, snagging URLs, and planning social media accounts.
“Of course I did that for my son,” Zuckerberg, the social network’s former director of market development and current CEO of Zuckerberg Media, told CP. “Your digital identity begins from the moment you’re conceived now, you’re announced online and you’re entering the world and as parents you have to be responsible and diligent to make sure you’re carving out the best online real estate for your children as well.”
She admits that our culture’s obsession with strange names could take yet another turn for the absurd when cross-referenced with available user names.
“I was joking with someone that I can’t wait to see the first name that has three letters in it, like the first Marisa with three Rs or three Ss, because they’ll be like, ‘Well, the Twitter handle is available,’” Zuckerberg said. “Now, I think that’s definitely extreme, I don’t think that you should drive the choice of a name by search engine optimization, I’m not advocating for that at all! But I do think that doing a quick search of a name that’s on your short list and if you see they’d share the same name with someone who has pretty negative Google results, it might influence your decision.”
This is becoming familiar advice among digital denizens. But it’s not all about getting kids online at an early age.
Recently, digital expert and author Amy Webb wrote a Slate article about keeping her daughter’s image offline due to fears about facial recognition software, among other privacy issues. At the same time, she and her husband secured social media accounts and a URL as a “digital trust fund.”
“On the day of her birth, our daughter already had accounts at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and even Github. And to this day, we’ve never posted any content. All accounts are kept active but private. We also regularly scour the networks of our friends and family and remove any tags. Those who know us well understand and respect our ‘no posts about the kid’ rule,” she writes.
Salon writer Andrew Leonard responded with a pointed essay suggesting the upside of loose online standards: a sense of community with friends and family.
“What riles me is the assumption that I and everyone else who posts a baby picture are falling short of the proper standards and dooming our children to a life in the pitiless panopticon. This is, on the one hand, arrogant and obnoxious. And on the other, it completely misses a key reason why so many of us are joyfully sharing our videos and stories and pictures. In doing so, we are strengthening the ties that bind a larger community of family and friends together, embedding our stories and lives in contexts that are larger than those of the individual nuclear family or neighbourhood street. Some anonymity may well be lost through this process, but something valuable is also gained; a sense of togetherness that is often missing or attenuated by modern life.”
His is a compelling argument for those of who have already been happily – and, yes, a little mindlessly – posting first-day-at-school and birthday snapshots to share with our far-flung family and friends for years now. It may be too late for a digital blackout, anyway.
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