I'm following babies online. Is that weird?
It started when one of my best friends gave birth to the cutest baby girl and made her daughter a separate Instagram account to avoid "spamming everyone" with her latest photos.
Then I learned baby spam is my jam.
Sometimes, I like following the babies' accounts more than their parents'.
I don't understand those who complain about baby photos on social media. The internet is best at the extremes: it can show you incredibly cute images of baby animals and infants, or it can lift the rock on humanity's darkest impulses.
I'll take squishy cheeks, please.
I think it's natural to have a curiosity about babies. A baby in public is a source of communal joy (red-eye flights excluded). I learned this from my mother, who has never met a baby she didn't urgently need to peekaboo.
Or maybe I'm just a 32-year-old woman. I can trick my biological clock with my dog for only so long. Especially since Pip hates wearing the onesie I got him.
But I'm taking my time preparing for an actual kid; for now, I want pictures.
Social media offers premium #BabyContent. I see babies I truly have no business knowing exist. Often, I've lost touch with the infant's parents; sometimes I haven't seen them offline in a decade or more.
Which is fine, because my relationship to the parents has no bearing whatsoever on my interest in their baby.
I wish I could say my genuine care for my Facebook friends' lives extends to my affection for their children, but it's not true. This is pure, superficial, consumption of cute.
You can't be like this in person. Were I holding a tiny human in my arms, I would be moved by all kinds of emotions and hormones, and I'd do everything in my power to ensure that that baby knew he or she was the most precious darling in the whole wide world.
Online, I'm tough but fair. All babies are adorable to their parents, but my likes are unbiased. My class of favorite-babies has blind admissions, no benefits for legacy friendships. But an especially cute kid can give me good feelings toward his parents.
An old classmate of mine is highly political on Facebook with views I deeply oppose, and yet … her son is adorable, so she's always at the top of my algorithm.
I like a picture of her son twice for every time I resist commenting on her politics.
Peace is possible, and it wears Pampers.
I could be a Hollywood baby-agent, an infant-talent scout. Right now, my star babies belong to a former coworker from my first job, a high school classmate, and a couple I went to college with but barely knew.
And, yet, I like and comment on these babies' pictures so much you'd think I'm the child's aunt. We should start spending holidays together.
We practically do. I loved that Easter outfit last week, by the way, and not just "liked," loved.
The woman who worked the register next to me 16 years ago has been a source of enduring baby joy on Facebook. She has had five children, all beautiful angels plucked from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and delivered to my timeline.
I've gotten so much happiness from her babies I should really send her a shower gift.
I say these are my favorites "right now," because the rankings are subject to change.
Listen up, babies, don't rest on your laurels, at least not after you gain enough neck strength to lift your head.
Beauty fades. For some, after 16 months.
Keep working on those blocks, kiddo; you're gonna need an education.
On the other hand, some babies are dark-horse cuties, a late breaker who pulls ahead when you least expect it.
In the birth announcement photo, that infant was just a smush-faced newborn, Walter Matthau in a pink-and-blue hat, nothing to tap-twice at. Half a year later, she's America's Next Top Baby.
This college couple's baby, however, just gets cuter and cuter. He's walking now, and I'm still showering his photos with likes and heart-eyes emojis.
But then I ran into his parents at a theater, and I panicked. First because, although I knew everything about adorable baby Max, I was drawing a blank on the name of her husband, whom, unlike their son, I've actually met in person. And, second, I was sure I had weirded them out with my obsessive liking of their child's photos. I really don't know them very well; maybe I had overstepped or seemed invasive. Did they think I was a total creep?
To my relief, they gave me the warmest greeting, and we caught up like the old friends we never were. It was easy to talk with them, because we just gushed about the baby. In fact, they shared with me that they are expecting again.
I can't wait for the pictures.