If you’re expecting, Facebook wants to know about it.
The social network has just added a new profile option that lets users share about upcoming arrivals to their families. The “expected child” form can be found in the Family Members section of your profile; it will let you specify the baby-to-be’s name and due date. Specifying the gender, however, is not an option.
A Facebook rep said to VentureBeat, “We’re always testing new features. Earlier this year, Facebook started providing the option to add an ‘Expected: Child’ as a way for users to more accurately express their identity.”
Call us cynics, but this is a great move for Facebook on a financial basis alone.
Parents and parents-to-be are perfect targets for brands and advertisers, who can prey on these individuals’ deepest insecurities: that they may not be prepared for parenthood, after all, or that there’s something they can buy to secure a better future for their children. With this new change, parenting is, along with dating and weddings, one of the bigger billion-dollar industries in modern society that will also revolve around publicly accessible Facebook updates.
As Parenting, Inc. author Pamela Paul said in a 2008 Salon.com interview, “We have professionalized parenting, and in a consumer society that becomes translated into buying a lot of things. Parents aren’t as worried about spending too much as they are about not spending enough. It’s what I call the anxiety of under-spending: ‘Wait a minute. Why didn’t I get that for my child? All these other kids are getting it, and if I don’t have it what does that mean for my kid?'”
In other words, Facebook has tapped into a highly specific, highly vulnerable marketing segment and is now poised to sell new parents and parents-to-be to a wider range of brands — brands that desperately want more and better access to confirmed parents-to-be.
However, when you take the marketing free-for-all out of the equation, the new profile option has all of the sweetness and creepiness of any other Facebook profile change. For those users who carefully edit their profiles and share highly personal information with a small group of family and friends, this is a wonderful way to inform your loved ones about a new arrival.
But for users who have a more cavalier attitude toward who sees their updates, the profile option opens a window into one of the most precious aspects of private family life. And what happens when a pregnancy doesn’t end at full term with a happy, healthy mother and child? These are considerations for parents-to-be to consider carefully before excitedly adding expected children to their Facebook profiles.
That, and do they really want to get bombarded with ads for Similac and $800 strollers?