When my son was born in March, I did what many new parents do: I established a set of rules to reinforce my new parenting responsibilities and then promptly broke them.
New parents will typically convert their social media accounts into online records of their child’s every accomplishment, however slight. For better or worse, baby’s first everything is preserved in a digital photo filtered to appear as though it was processed 40 years ago and then expeditiously time-stamped, geocoded, and uploaded to Facebook. I made a rule that I would not engage in such paternal cybersharing.
My son was barely on the planet 48 hours when I rescinded my Facebook rule.
Upon returning from the hospital, I posted his photo, complete with date and time of birth, his length and weight, the obligatory “baby and mom are doing well” statement, and revealed his full name—the cold, distant, 21st-century equivalent of a birth announcement. Not long after that, my Facebook account rebooted itself as an up-to-the minute slideshow of what my kid was wearing (adorable outfits soaked in breast-milk runoff) and doing (staring blankly into an absurd universe he will never fully comprehend).
It should be noted that my wife’s “new mom” code of conduct did not evaporate in the same way, mostly because her self-imposed rules involved sleep training, developing the child’s motor skills, emotional well-being, and the systematic distribution of nutrients to the baby boy via her mammary glands. We have different priorities, she and I.
Now a repository for fluffy baby stuffs, my Facebook account could not comfortably reclaim its former self. It had been a dumping ground for toxic blustering about obnoxious drivers on Central Expressway endangering my life during morning commutes to Plano, my hate-hate relationship with my stupid suburban lawn, or the fact that weekend visits to the Central Market on Lovers and Greenville instill in me an irrepressible urge to commit acts of white-on-white violence.
I continued to wrestle with these banal, routine conflicts, but they could not reside harmoniously among dispatches regarding the tiny baby thing that was now at the epicenter of my everyday, nor could they be bottled and discarded. Certainly, the galaxy would implode if I was unable to use a computer to broadcast my myriad trivial displeasures. Enter Twitter.
What sets Twitter apart from Facebook isn’t the oft-unrequited nature of the relationship with those you follow and those who follow you, and it isn’t the 140-character restriction. The way one uses Facebook and Twitter is fundamentally different, based on the readership demographic of each platform.
Facebook, with its audience of close friends, old schoolmates, and beloved family members, was a natural fit for the proud father I had become and an acceptable public scrapbook for the evidence of this transformation. It was no longer a suitable conduit, however, for shrill, caustic transmissions from the depths of my broken brain parts. Conversely, the bulk of my Twitter followers are a collection of local writers, entertainers, like-minded peers, and publishing professionals. In other words, people who couldn’t care less about my kid’s reaction to his first taste of rice cereal but might get a chuckle out of a picture of a grown man at the Kroger on Centennial Boulevard wearing Batman pajama pants while perusing organic produce. (Follow @thegeoff #batmanpants.)
Using both platforms as a means of personal expression allows me to relay an event in tandem through ostensibly contrary points of view. On Facebook: “We had a great night celebrating Jessica’s birthday at Bolsa!” On Twitter: “Got home from Bolsa at 1 am and the baby was still up. Need tips on disposing of babysitter-size corpse.”
Active parenting is the purest distillation of human nature’s innate duality. It is the attempt to teach your biological byproduct how to respect and enjoy a world that you can barely tolerate. A world scrubbed clean for Facebook and celebrated in snark on Twitter.