Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements

Last week, having met someone she liked, a friend of mine decided to change her “single” status on Facebook. The reason I know this is because I received an automated email from Facebook telling me so.

This clarion call, potentially heralding a burgeoning romance, was blasted out to her friends far louder than she ever expected; soon she was saddled with the administrative burden of dozens of messages of congratulation, many of which felt out of proportion to the significance of the event. Thanks to Facebook, this is how the important moments of our lives now tend to be marked; pixels on a computer screen, events on a timeline, acknowledged by comments from friends, whether it’s a change of job, an engagement or the all-clear from a health scare. Who “likes” this? Thumbs up?

It didn’t used to be that way, of course. Newspaper announcements of births, marriages and deaths were, at one time, the only way to find out precisely who was doing what and to whom, unless you had been notified directly. Our lives and our relationships now seem too complex for the limited constraints of newspaper announcements, and placed alongside the fast-moving world of social media, they seem like quaint relics of a simpler time. The very idea that we would learn about someone’s wedding from the classified section of a newspaper – rather than a tsunami of Facebook photos of people dressed up smartly and getting leathered in a marquee – seems faintly absurd. Indeed, the main function of such announcements placed in national newspapers seems to be to provide Private Eye with fodder for its occasionally over-harsh Pseud’s Corner column (eg, “To Gilly and Rupert, a daughter, Elektra Esmeralda, a little sister for Dorothy, Wulfstan and Cleopatra”).

The Times even hints at the exclusivity of the service on its website (“the repository of many luminaries’ beginnings, betrothals and bereavements”) but some people still want the biggest events of their lives to appear in a journal of public record, imbued with the importance associated with print, even if that importance is declining.

“Things have changed over the past four years, definitely,” says Lezley Hooton, of The Daily Telegraph. “A decline. But there’s still a need for it – we fill a page every day. Deaths form the largest proportion, as it’s something that older people ask for in their wills, but engagements are popular, too. Particularly in the new year. And particularly among the well-off.”

Many local newspaper announcements, once handled in-house, have now been centralised; that data is often collated and blasted back out on to the internet via companies such as iAnnounce (“Over 4,105,000 obituaries, death notices, wedding announcements and all other family announcements, from 410 newspapers, updated daily). This forms an extraordinary database of information that will have genealogists of the future frothing at the mouth with excitement. It seems that however our information is announced, its eventual destiny is ultimately the same: the bottomless pit of the internet.

A survey this week, conducted (for some mysterious reason) by Start-rite shoes, revealed that 20 per cent of mothers go online within 30 minutes of giving birth to provide friends and followers with news of their progeny. Last week, my friend Kellie gave birth to a daughter, Ramona; her pictures took nearly nine hours to appear on the Facebook page of her partner, Nick, but I was delighted when they did.

I asked her if she’d be putting the news in her local paper, the Leighton Buzzard Observer. “Hadn’t thought of that at all,” she said. “Birth announcements surely go: people you call [parents], text [close friends] then Facebook [everyone else].”

Not a bad plan. While there are many reasons to vent one’s spleen about social media, it’s hard to deny that, when it comes to being born, the Facebook announcement of your arrival is going to be more timely, more personal – more efficient, shall we say – than your parents placing a classified ad.

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Corleone, played by Al Pacino, goes back to his family's Sicilian roots in the first 'Godfather' film
film
News
Kim Kardashian speaks on the Today show about her step-father's transition
PEOPLE
Arts and Entertainment
Kermit and his doppleganger Hyalinobatrachium dianae
film
Sport
Wenger and Mourinho square-up to each other earlier this season
All the action from today's Premier League, including Everton vs Man Utd and Chelsea vs Arsenal
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Ashdown Group: Head of IT - Hertfordshire - £90,000

    £70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - SQL Server, T-SQL

    £28000 - £32000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

    Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Data Analyst (SQL Server, T-SQL, data)

    £28000 - £32000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst...

    Ashdown Group: European Recruitment Manager - Cheshire - up to £48,000

    £40000 - £48000 per annum + bonus and benefits: Ashdown Group: European Recrui...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions