A new feature on Facebook allows parents-to-be the opportunity to list on their profile page that they are expecting a child. But the idea of a digital baby announcement has left critics saying the feature is both too impersonal and simply another way Facebook can target its users with ads.
Facebook users have been able to add family members to their profiles for about eight months, but now they can select an "Expected: child" field and include information about the due date and baby name. The announcement is then published to the user's news feed.
However, the news of the feature has been met with some concern. Some Twitter users have noted that it takes the human element out of spreading the news, calling the option "too impersonal" and "almost creepy."
According to Scott Campbell, an assistant professor of communication studies at the University of Michigan, the feature is just a modern extension of human behavior that has been happening for years.
"Just as students have always passed notes in class and are now sending text messages instead, this is just another way to spread news and information about your life through social media," Campbell said. "People have announced baby news on Facebook for years."
"However, the feature makes it a very clinical way to share what some consider very sacred information," Campbell added. "Facebook makes listing a child announcement as casual as updating job information and hobbies."
Another concern is that acquaintances may potentially find out about the news before close friends and family members. In addition, there is also the issue of pregnancy complications and how a user may have to deal with loss in such a public manner.
"Couples or individuals will likely have similar concerns when announcing they are expecting a child as they have in the past," Campbell said. "Many will probably still wait three months until it's traditionally safer to tell people about the news."
"There's a lot at stake with making the announcement on Facebook — no one wants to have to backtrack that information and have the news spread so quickly during a difficult time,” Campbell said.
"Since Facebook is always changing its privacy information, some may not realize that their settings aren't protected and that their personal data could be sold as a commodity. That's just one more thing to think about before updating a profile with sensitive information."
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