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.

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

    Recruitment Genius: IT Infrastructure Engineer

    £30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is looking to find a...

    Recruitment Genius: IT Engineer

    £21000 - £23600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

    Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst - Liverpool - up to £28,000

    £22000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: This is a large multi-site operation...

    Recruitment Genius: Salesforce Developer

    £50000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to continued business growt...

    Day In a Page

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss