Facebook Baby Madness Not True and Just a Perceptual Illusion
Aside from images of cats, dogs and food, the most ?annoying? photographs that are supposed to be prevalent in Facebook timelines, are those of newborn babies.
Many facebook users have threatened to stop using facebook altogether because of the supposed ?over-sharing? of baby pictures.
Last year, a browser extension called UnBaby.Me (now renamed ?Rather), was created to battle against this ?annoyance? and help facebook users by replacing baby photos (scanned through automatic detection ) with images they prefer to see like…..cats, as their website suggests.
A lot of hoopla was generated then, and a writer in Forbes magazine even called the browser extension ? A brilliant and sanity-preserving idea.?
There is only one problem. There actually is no such thing as “too many” baby pictures on facebook timelines.
A recent study conducted by a Microsoft Research computer scientist, Meredith Ringel Morris, revealed that there is no such thing as an ?over posting? of baby pictures on Facebook.
In the study, Morris asked permission from 200 new mothers, for her to go through their facebook accounts and gather posting data, regarding baby images.
What she found was quite the opposite of what UnBaby.Me claims.
After giving birth, the study found, that mothers post less items in facebook, images included, than their usual practice. Morris also discovered that less than 30 % of the new moms even mention their newborn baby by name, and the stats even go lower (less than 10%) as the baby gets to a year old.
It is a given, the study explains, that photographs grow in number for every facebook user, but since the new moms are less active on facebook than usual (for obvious reasons), the number of images they post are lower than other users.
Conclusion: New mothers are not over-sharers. Morris even goes as far as saying that they may be under-sharers. She emphasizes this with the finding that ?The total quantity of Facebook posting is lower?.
So why is there an impression that baby images are even more over-shared than cats or food?
Once again, the internet specter of algorithms can be the cause of the problem, Morris opines.
Together with this system of data calculation, the number of ?Likes? these baby images get, tend to push the facebook rankings of the baby photos in a more prominent position in our facebook timelines.
This theory, based on the research study, would explain the illusion that new moms are obsessed with posting their baby photos.
Another theory that Morris offers is what she calls a ?frequency illusion?. This illusion, Morris explains, is a ?perceptual quirk? that influences us to increasingly notice things that annoy, please or surprise us.
This quirk is characterized as a self-supporting cycle that is perpetuated by supposed news and analytical reports. Just because someone mentioned that baby photos are indeed ruling the facebook timelines, make people believe it everytime they see one.
In short, if you want to start a trend or want something to go viral, have a ?journalist? or a ?pundit? claim that it is a trend or going viral, and sooner than you can say ?Goo goo Ga ga?, everyone will think it is and it just might become one eventually.
Of course, we all know of at least one Mom (or Dad) in our facebook world that posts a picture of her (his) baby every ten minutes, but this is not the case for the facebook universe in general.
Morris reiterates that the way we observe our world, both online and off, is not based on statistics. Which is why she explains that we need scientific studies to help us know what is actually happening around us (and not just on facebook) instead of being a victim of perpetual illusions.