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STFU Parents: Oversharing On Social Media Sites That Aren’t Facebook

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Lately I’ve received a lot of emails asking, “Do you accept submissions that aren’t from Facebook?” My answer, of course, is that I accept any and all submissions taken from social media or “sharing” sites, the number of which continues to grow. Aside from the biggies (i.e. Facebook, Flickr, Twitter), newer social sites like Instagram and Pinterest have quickly become saturated with content that can be classified as “parent overshare,” especially when it comes to birth pictures. The difference, though, is that unlike Facebook, where some people post upwards of 200 photos depicting the entire labor process, sites like Instagram and Pinterest are often used to showcase the most idealized, shocking or beautiful images that have already been edited down (and in many cases, touched up).

At the height of this recent trend late last year, birth photos that were in the running for the National Geographic 2011 Photo Contest started spreading like wildfire. Images like this, this and especially this began showing up on parenting blogs, on Facebook, and on sites like Pinterest where users “pin” images, which increases a photo’s chances of going viral. It almost seems like the more photos of childbirth are shared on the internet via these platforms, the more accepted they become, whether they were taken by a professional photographer and entered into a photo contest or not.

For me, that raises some interesting questions, such as, “Is that a bad thing?” Is it really so bad that pictures of labor and birth are floating around the ‘net much more freely, or is it actually a good thing? Maybe the more people see pictures that honestly depict the childbirth process, the more we can open up discussion about sexual education and birth options and healthcare. OR, maybe the pictures don’t achieve that at all, and they’re just as unnecessary and unfiltered as a picture of a toddler’s first poop on the potty. At what point do photos or live tweets of the birth process go from “beautiful” and “meaningful” to “TMI,” and how do sites other than Facebook contribute to the larger point I try to make on STFU, Parents that some things should be kept private? Those are the questions I’ve been asking myself, and today I’m asking you. Here are some examples:

1. Flickr

This is a mesmerizing picture, and I’m sure there are many people who would be fine with noticing it in their Flickr stream. There’s also a slight feeling of guilt associated with thinking, “This is disgusting, who wants to see this woman’s legs spread eagle?” After all, this is the circle of life we’re looking at. A crying, healthy, brand new baby and its mother – what could be more beautiful…right? Unless, of course, you didn’t expect to get served a side of vagina as you surfed through Flickr on your lunch break.

2. Pinterest

Pinterest is site beloved by scrapbooking women who can make “mood boards” for virtually every category imaginable, ranging from “fashion” to “interior design” to “placenta prints.” What started as a site full of gorgeous images of vintage tea cups and wild flowers has now become a free-for-all with pictures running the gamut on what’s considered “beautiful.” If you’re a certain type of lady, you’d much rather see a bloody print of the tree of life than a picture of an actual tree on a country road. Where’s the originality in that?!

3. Twitter

 

This Twitter account is shared by a husband and wife who decided to live tweet the birth of their son, including pictures, of course, as well as document the process of cooking the placenta post-birth. Theirs is a multifaceted process, as links to their Twitter updates were being shared simultaneously via Facebook, as well.

Oh, and you didn’t think Mark would leave out the picture of the cooking placenta, too, did you? That would just be irresponsible reporting.

 

I’m guessing Heidi wasn’t the only one of Mark’s friends with that response. Just think, as recently as a decade ago you might not have known a friend or relative had given birth until as many as several days had passed. Now, you can watch your friend’s placenta simmer on the stove mere moments after it’s been delivered!

4. Instagram

 

 

Finally, there’s Instagram, which provides an array of editing tools to users who want to “pretty up” their images on-the-go. It’s a great service with an active sharing community, and in some ways I’d make the case that Instagram is a good option for those who want to share their birth pictures. You can easily blur out certain details, and the images really do look fantastic. Still, I think there’s a difference between sharing a photo like the above, which captures a tender – if private – moment, and a photo like this:

 

From a medical standpoint, a knot in the umbilical cord can be a big deal (although “only one in 2,000 deliveries will have a true tight knot that could present problems for the baby”). And yet, I’m still not sure why this picture was put through an editing filter and uploaded to Instagram. The symbolism and artsiness of the shot are not lost on me, but personally, if it’s splattered in blood and was developed from a yolk sac, I’m good without seeing it. Those 26 “likes” aside, I’m guessing this is not the kind of photo the makers of Instagram had in mind. But hey, I could be wrong.