It has long been said that if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. But when you do have something nice to say, there are sometimes better and worse ways to say it.
Say, for example, you have one of the nicest things of all to tell – that you’re pregnant. How, exactly, do you say it? Well, we used to simply tell folks face to face or perhaps with a letter, or with a phone call.
Now, of course, we say it on social media. But we don’t just say it with words. We say it with pictures too. Thanks to Facebook and Instagram, expecting couples are almost expected to say it by showing it.
If you’re a supermodel like Doutzen Kroes or Marissa Miller, you might say it with a naked photo highlighting your baby bump. Or maybe you say it in your underwear like model Candice Swanepoel or actress Olivia Wilde.
If you’re Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, you say it standing by a swimming pool holding a teensy pair of monogrammed swim trunks. If you’re another Olympic swimmer, Ryan Lochte, you say it underwater in a swimming pool kissing your bikini-clad fiancee’s stomach.
If you’re just an average Joe or Jane, you might say it standing somewhere scenic with a painted sign, in some staged shot with kisses and balloons and props, or maybe with a bathroom shot of her puking over the toilet.
Whoever you are, you say it in some cute, clever, creative way because, well . . . social media culture demands it.
It’s a largely fun and innocent trend, but it’s one in which young expecting couples increasingly seem pressured to participate. Who would dare spill the beans with just a status update when everyone else is out demonstrating their superlative excitement with some imaginative, dramatic photo shoot?
Never mind if you’re not feeling your finest, have other things on your mind, or just value your privacy, you’re supposed to conjure up something cute and original, find a photographer, get all dolled up, and smile through a hundred flashes until you get the perfect, Facebook-worthy photo.
Of course, by the time that photo goes live, everyone who really matters will already know the news, because despite the fact that everyone seems to be announcing their important life events on Instagram, there still remains a certain etiquette that those closest get told first, frequently face to face.
That means couples go to the trouble of a photo shoot for the sake of those who weren’t really important enough to be told beforehand. Learning the news from a picture online already feels impersonal, and for some, perhaps insulting.
Maybe some couples do this because they really want to have a digital memento (albeit one owned by Facebook, of course). Maybe some do it in the true spirit of celebration, hoping their excitement and joy can be captured and remembered.
Those are beautiful and worthwhile motivations, and they reflect a pro-life and precious attitude about pregnancy. It’s certainly a sigh of a healthier culture when people are staging and sharing bump pictures rather than going around saying, as Lena Dunham recently did, “I wish I’d had an abortion.”
Nonetheless, there are probably other, less healthy motivations behind the push to turn pregnancy into a social media show-off session. At best, there’s an unfortunate sense of peer pressure, and at worst, a bit of vanity, competitiveness, and attention-seeking which, if unchecked, can start to border on absurdity – do we really need to break the news to each other with extravagant, custom announcements designed to look like movie posters?
It’s good to celebrate new life and adding to one’s family. But it’s also good to pause and consider why we do and say things the way we do. Maybe a pregnancy picture really is worth a thousand words. Or maybe some things are better left said simply, humbly, and in the down-to-earth way that our grandparents used to say it. In person, not on Instagram.