Forgive me for getting personal, but here goes: I just became a daddy. My wife and I had our first child, a beautiful baby girl named Lucille, and it’s been exactly as amazing an experience as all of the hoary tearjerking books and movies and songs led me to believe. So I was feeling pretty good about my two weeks thus far as a father — until I checked Slate today for my usual daily dose of contrarian life guidance and, lo and behold, found out that we’re already doing it wrong and have managed to ruin our poor baby girl’s entire life. And all because we can’t resist putting her adorable face on the Internet.
What have we done? Well, it’s simple: most of our family and many of our friends are back in our home state of Kansas, so we took advantage of social media and used our Facebook accounts to post pictures of our newborn baby. But in doing so, according to Slate‘s Amy Webb, we are helping create “a generation of kids born into original digital sin,” and thus “preventing her from any hope of future anonymity.” And here I thought our teenage daughter would only hate us for our curfews and lack of coolness.
You see, by putting picture of our sleeping newborn on the Facebook, we are helping Zuckerberg and his evil minions “merge her digital and real worlds. Algorithms will analyze the people around [her], the references made to them in posts, and over time will determine [her] most likely inner circle.” And in daring to share information and photos of our sweet little slice of angel food cake, Slate assures me, we could jeopardize her attractiveness to “prospective homecoming dates,” and even “affect her ability to get into a good college.” Guess we’ll write this one off as a loss and try harder next time!
Come to find out, we fucked this up before she was even born. Back to Ms. Webb:
The process started in earnest as we were selecting her name. We’d narrowed the list down to a few alternatives and ran each (and their variants) through domain and keyword searches to see what was available. Next, we crawled through Google to see what content had been posted with those name combinations, and we also looked to see if a Gmail address was open. We turned to KnowEm.com, a website I often rely on to search for usernames, even though the site is primarily intended as a brand registration service. We certainly had a front-runner for her name, but we would have chosen something different if the KnowEm results produced limited availability or if we found negative content associated with our selection.
You won’t believe how embarrassingly analog we were on this point: we went with a meaningful family moniker for her first name, and used my wife’s last name for her middle. Nobody told me we were supposed to do an entire digital archaeology dig! Should we have hired a hacker? I don’t know any hackers! And what about these “negative content associations”? How am I to know if there are any negative content associations? Is that why celebrities give their babies such weird names? Should we have named her Apple?
Is it too late to change her name? Is it too late to fix these horribly irresponsible parenting errors? Not if I can help it. I mean, sure, my wife maintains that this article is utterly asinine, the worst kind of concerned organic Brooklyn yuppie paranoia, insisting that we should rob our parents of the opportunity to check in on their first grandchild in order to feed some sort of insane Philip K. Dick fantasy about facial recognition and supercomputer algorithms.
But she’s wrong! Our girl has been tagged! She’s on the grid! And now there’s only one solution: break into the hospital and shred her records, move from our current address before that social security number arrives (why oh why did I check that box?), take up in a solar-powered cabin in the woods, snap no more pictures of her until she’s 18 years old, and only send her out into the world in an elaborate disguise, so that no one will be able to recognize her from the two dozen pictures I already, irresponsibly sent out into the digital ether. I’ll buy her some giant sunglasses and a wig. And maybe a hat to match mine — it’s this really snazzy tinfoil number.