Maternity-leave laws aside, now is a pretty awesome time to be a new parent.
Anyone with the Internet can get advice, connect with other parents and share photos and updates with interested parties in real time. (Think about it: Twenty years ago, it'd be much easier to feel isolated when you were at home all day with a little blinking infant who couldn't do much other than sleep, poop and cry.)
"Reaching out to your social network can help you feel connected to other adults, which can be a saving grace," says Erin Bried, author of "How to Rock Your Baby" (and mother of one of the most adorable children of all time). "That said, there is such a thing as over sharing. Social media is a conversation, and no one likes a person who monopolizes the conversation or brags."
Honestly, there's a lot that can go wrong when you put a proud mama or daddy in front of a keyboard. In our excitement and eagerness to share our offspring with the world, Rafiki-holding-up-Simba-style, we can lose sight of the fact that our children's entire natural lives will be documented online.
That embarrassing footage of your eighth-grade operetta, safely relegated to a decaying VHS in your basement? Nowadays, that kind of thing goes straight from Flip cam to YouTube.
Overly detailed updates your mom used to give your grandma about your action hero du jour? Today, that's a 140-character tweet (with an Instagram photo to boot).
A 2010 study found that 92% of U.S. children have an online presence by the time they're 2. That means modern parents have a responsibility to broadcast their kids' lives in a way that won't make the children hate them a decade later (at least, no more than normal adolescent angst dictates).
With that in mind, here are some tips for garnering more Awww's than Ack's on your social media channels.
Start a mommy (or daddy) blog.
Here's the wonderful thing about blogs: They're empty canvases on which you can go on as long as you want, and only people who type in the URL have to see it. That means they're lovely ways to tell the full story of your Saturday trip to the zoo, during which your 3-year-old decided that he's a penguin and now eats his food by flopping forward onto the table, arms glued to his sides, and nibbling at it with his "beak."
Daily updates of that nature are a bit much on a social media page ("Enough already!") but totally acceptable in blog posts, punctuated with an adorable photo or two. (But not 12.)
Flash the sonogram prudently.
The same 2010 study noted that a third of American children have an online presence when they are still very much unborn. Yes, we get it, there's a little child in that speckled image, and that's worth celebrating. If you're going to put it on Facebook, you're under no obligation to post every. Single. Grainy photo procured.
And we do not condone setting it as your profile photo. It's creepy to glance at your wall and see that a fetus appears to have wished you a happy birthday.
Find a shtick.
Bried gave her Facebook friends a monthly dose of adorable with The Bunny Project, an album that she updated with photos of her growing munchkin posing with the same stuffed animal. The brief instructional video on the topic might actually make your heart swell, Grinch-style.
Point is, giving your baby updates a rubric makes them more fun for your friends to view. "The Bunny Project also gives structure to new parents," she adds, "who may otherwise be tempted to post photos of their adorable baby every hour."
Don't post photos of your adorable baby every hour.
Don't lose your own social media identity in the meantime.
For all our whining, we really do love adorable babies. Everybody does. Whittle it down to the cutest photos and we'll ooh and ahh with abandon. Crop-dust us with weekly albums bursting with almost identical photos of the rug rat on a quilt and we'll start to click away.
Keep us posted on the other things happening in your life: other articles you're reading, things you're doing. Take advantage of the fact that Facebook gives you two profile photos and make the profile shot of you and the cover photo of your brood (or vice versa). Your loved ones might love your kiddie a whole lot, but they've had more time to build a vested interest in your well-being than his or hers.
Don't share anything disgusting.
Nobody wants to know the details of your labor.
Nobody wants to read, see or imagine anything related to your child's bowel movements.
Vomit, urine and solid waste are never, ever acceptable topics of conversation in the public sphere of social media.
Contact your friends and family personally if you need their advice or approval. We. Don't. Want. To. Hear. It.