That picture of your baby/dog/child on the couch is almost as cute as the one of her on a chair! Which is almost as cute as the one of her sleeping! Which is almost as cute as… OK STOP.
Check it out, parents of all species: Your friends and I are so happy for you. We come to your showers and dog birthdays. We hold babies. We might even have babies of our own. But using facebook like a family album undermines the way facebook is evolving.
More and more, social networking is not just about hanging out from afar. It's about personality-based information aggregation. It's where many of us turn our friends into curation engines that filter news through their various areas of interest and expertise. The new promise of the Internet—especially on facebook—is that it can allow you to create a personalized newspaper. And you're totally screwing it up with widely shared albums like Disneyland 2011: AGAIN!
Most of us have facebook friends we don't actually consider friends: people who don't merit dinner invitations, holiday cards, or Sunday phone calls with no aim other than to just shoot the shit. So why keep them on facebook? It might just be courtesy—professional or personal—but it's just as likely because they are interesting sections of our individual newspapers.
They might be reading the news in a foreign country or posting pictures of your long-distance sweetheart. They might have a knack for finding the funniest pictures on the Internet, or even organizing a demonstration for a cause you believe in. You might not want to talk to this person in real life, but, on the Internet, you value what he has to say.
And then, between his dispatches from Egypt, your cousin's first story in his college literary magazine, a high-school friend's side-splitting animated GIF, and a thought-provoking Times article about the health benefits of shortbread cookies: 35 camerphone snaps of a dog that has finally learned to lift his leg to pee.
Now, some of your friends might want to see that. I might want to see that. (I really do love your dog.) But others, well... It's probably more polite to assume that they don't. At least not every day. Fortunately, facebook makes it very easy to control this. Instead of just posting every photo into Mobile Uploads or the ubiquitous Randomz! albums, be a little more deliberate.
Got a bunch of uncles for that adorable pooch? Create an album called Paddington's Fan Club, and only make it visible to a select group of people. Or, better yet, sign Paddington up for his own facebook page. You can still post the occasional picture of him to your profile—three times a week is a perfectly reasonable frequency—but you don't have to dump all of them into our newsfeeds.
TO CREATE CUSTOM PRIVACY SETTINGS ON A FACEBOOK ALBUM:
- At the top of your newsfeed, click Photo
- Click Create an Album
- Upload a billion photos
- Hey! a box just popped up; click the dropdown menu next to Share Album With
- Select Customize
- Another box just popped up! Here you can delineate exactly who sees the photos
- THANK YOU
If you have a new baby, the same rules apply, but you can actually take this same thinking a step further and make it easier for Grandma to see that adorable bundle of joy. Start a dedicated Twitter account for your baby, and post pictures incessantly. Hospital pictures, nursery pictures, eating, sleeping, pooping—you name it. Your friends can choose to follow or not, but for your mother's sake, you should be doing your level best to hit Yfrog's redline.
Also for your mother's sake: Set up a Twitter account for her as well (assuming she doesn't have one), so she can follow Baby Bird. And while you're at it, click the little cellphone icon next to the follow button to have the photos sent directly to her cellphone. She'll melt.
And the rest of us, well, we can visit your baby's feed on our own terms. And then we'll go back to facebook, where we'll probably Like the next photo you post, instead of glossing over it.
Original image by Gizmodo guest artist Chris "Powerpig" McVeigh. Be sure to check out all of Chris' other work on Flickr and his personal photography website. You can also buy prints of his work or follow him Twitter
For photography commissions and other contract work, his contact details can be found at ChrisMcVeigh.com.