Unborn Babies, Please Don't Friend Me on Facebook

If you’re one of the more than 750 million users on Facebook, you’ve likely grown accustomed to any of the following: Catching a glimpse of someone’s wild night in your news feed, receiving a friend request from a distant family member’s beloved pet, or being bombarded with a constant stream of status updates that range from head-scratcher to TMI.

But a friend request from an unborn child? How tacky, how gauche, I said to myself when I received one a couple of weeks ago — sonogram in place of profile photo — before I quickly hit the ignore button.

Enter Facebook’s developers, who constantly keep an eye on how users are gaming their system with everything from tagging photos to spammers to commerce on FarmVille. They quietly rolled out a new family member status option last week for mommies and daddies to-be, who can use the distinction ‘Expected: Child’ to blast their happy news via their walls and news feeds (clearly, a necessary move for parents in the era of Facebook oversharing). The developers promptly released what we have to assume is a well-planned solution to this terms-of-service-violating, socially awkward generation of Facebook profiles for babies that may or may not have names.

But it’s an interesting release from Facebook for a couple of reasons:

The bring-your-unborn-child-to-Facebook approach is the first official programming response from Facebook that seemingly validates an online presence for the way under-13 age demo, a U-turn from the age restrictions for marketing pages (anyone 13+, 17+, 18+, 19+, 21+, and alcohol-related), and, more importantly, the age requirements for creating a new user account (no one younger than 13 allowed).

And after the baby arrives, what will happen to his or her Facebook presence? Because of the quiet nature of the release, it’s largely unclear. Right now, the family statuses function like the more-popular relationship statuses by linking two existing user pages, but that’s not possible with a newborn due to Facebook’s terms. Rather than disappearing at birth, it’s more likely that junior will remain unclickable for 13 years, creating a new rite of passage for 12-year-olds at the brink of their teenage years (your very own Facebook profile!), and, not to mention, a new stream of Facebook users for years to come. If that’s the case: well played, Facebook. Well played.

Guess we’ll have to wait nine months minus one week to know for sure.