Yesterday, I wrote about the new “service” that allows Facebook users to automatically replace their friends’ baby photos, Unbaby.me.
The gimmicky, and apparently glitchy, technology scans a user’s newsfeed for words that are likely to come alongside a photos of a kid, like “cute “ or “adorable” or “first birthday.” If it find a trigger word, the accompanying photo is automatically replaced with a photo of a cat.
It’s a way for a friend who does not have a biological or instinctual connection to a child to say no to all those snapshots without insulting the oversharing offender, a.k.a. the parent.
The concept, thought up by three childless friends, is funny. Most of us have enough self-awareness to know that few people share the same fascinating devotion we have to our own children.
Still, the commentary that’s cropped around Unbaby.me, a slew of snarky and mean-spirited tirades, has revealed, yet again, a deep well of resentment. Some folks really do think that parents, in general, are overindulgent and too self-involved.
“Thing is, I’m not excited about your baby. Or babies in general,” wrote Unbaby.me user Ryan Lawler in Tech Crunch. “They’re a little annoying and loud and don’t really care where they poop. They’re really bad conversationalists.”
Another commentary was titled, “Unbaby.me makes Facebook tolerable again.” Tens of thousands of people have “liked” the service that uses the tagline: “Rejoice: Now you don’t have to look at all your friends’ annoying kids.”
Ha, ha. Sort of.
This would be more hilarious if parents in the U.S. enjoyed real community support. Here I am talking about both institutional policy support, like comprehensive parental leave, and also more general acknowledgment that an adult does not cease to enjoy life once a baby arrives.
This parent vs. non-parent tension has spilled over into other arenas recently. Recent restrictions and bans on children in restaurants and airlines have inspired startlingly loud cheers. Almost as loud as the griping that can be heard when a bar expands hours for kid-friendly happy hours.
Often, in my own posts and other writing about these tensions, there are responses along the lines of “you made your bed, now lie in it.” In other words, you decided to have kids, so get used to the downsides.
But why? Not all cultures are so hostile to families. A friend of mine last week sent me a link to the café where she and her family plan to spend plenty of hours during their vacation in Berlin. The relaxing-looking café has a separate play area for children, complete with a sandbox.
For the parents, it provides some downtime, for the child, a new play space and for everyone else, no harm no foul.
This is a small amenity, but it’s the kind of acknowledgment that is so often ignored here. This same friend, for instance, tried to shop for fabric a while back in Washington but was told by the shopkeeper that to do so she’d have to leave her stroller — and child — outside the store.
As many of us travel to other countries, or more family-friendly regions of our own country this summer (perhaps on airlines that now charge extra fees if a family wants to sit together), I’d be interested to learn about other more child-welcoming venues and practices. If you find any that might translate to Washingtonese, e-mail me. (I promise I won’t block any accompanying vacation snapshots of the kids.)