Harper Estelle Wolfeld-Gosk has 6,282 Twitter followers. She's 2 weeks old. The daughter of Today show correspondent Jenna Wolfe (58,610 followers) and NBC News correspondent Stephanie Gosk (12,356 followers), Harper was registered for an account at birth by her moms to "give her a little voice in the loud world of social media," said Jenna. "Didn't know if anyone would follow her tweets, but I figured she'd have at least two loyal followers — her mother and me. Turns out, she's pretty funny. Guess it was all that amniotic fluid." The tweets are written in the infant's voice: "First doc appt tdy. Big success," reads the second one. "Pooped AND pee'd on Dr's changing table. Everyone laughed. Will have to try that again tmrw at home."
Harper is not alone. In the incestuous web of Media Twitter, kid accounts — set up, maintained, and authored by parents — are becoming de rigueur thanks in equal part to everyday parental pride and tech-savvy paranoia.
"About a month before my daughter was born I discussed with some people what I wanted to lock up," ESPN sports business reporter and ABC News correspondent Darren Rovell (386,866 followers) told Daily Intelligencer. His 18-month-old daughter, also named Harper, has 349 followers, and only three tweets.
"It was just a simple strategy," said Rovell. "Before I announced her name to the select people — before maybe it could get out — I locked down her name at Gmail, her dot-com, her Twitter handle. It was just an intellectual capital investment."
"I didn't plan to tweet as her. I just wanted to do one or two little tweets," to mark the territory, Rovell added. The idea, he said, came from Lance Armstrong (3,937,797 followers), who reserved accounts for his children Olivia, or @Cincoarmstrong (3,462 followers) and Max (10,574 followers), who had to settle for @maxarmstrong1. "It didn't take me much time, and it gives you a little peace of mind," said Rovell.
Other parents had practical intentions, but things got out of hand. "I guess it started because I wanted to make sure my son David's Twitter was secure," said Politico deputy editor Blake Hounshell (68,609 followers). "Then it kind of took on a life of its own when I started posting pictures of him (being a proud daddy, basically), and referencing his handle," which is now subscribed to by 109 people.
"Most people seem to like it, and enjoy the pictures (he's pretty damn cute). They say it brightens their day," said the elder Hounshell. "I'm sure some folks think it's weird, and I get that, and I'm sure some people are too polite to say they'd rather I stick to the news."
"At first we thought it would be nice for him to own the URL for his name and his Twitter handle," agreed ABC Nightline anchor Dan Abrams (51,867 followers). "Then we got carried away and started tweeting sometimes inane stuff including at other babies." Everett Abrams is just over a year old and has 648 followers, 52 tweets, and a bio that reads, "Baby and social media addict."
The account, written from the perspective of the child, covers current events ("I've been thinking about last night's #VpDebate and just don't feel either candidate adequately addressed concerns facing infants") and real-life happenings ("I met @Oprah today @GMA! My dad says I was sleeping but I really wasn't. I heard her talk about me. Thanks @Oprah!").
Everett's last tweet from babyland was sent June 1, but the account is there if he ever wants it. "If Twitter is still a 'thing' when he's older, we will transfer it to him," said Abrams. "But it's also possible that he could be unhappy at how we cheapened his good name so it could become a moot point. He may even decide to exact revenge by ragging on his dad from some new social medium I won't even know how to use."
CNBC reporter John Carney (34,264 followers) thinks of it like a digital scrapbook. "My main reason for doing that was actually to give people who wanted pictures of my kids, like my mother, a way to access them without cluttering up my main Twitter feed," he said of the accounts for his 4-year-old daughter (145 followers) and her little sister (12 followers).
"People complain all the time about Facebook: It's just pictures of kids and breakfast. My idea was I'll create a different one," said Carney. "When Rose was born, I also signed her up for Gmail because I thought it'd be nice. I sent her a couple e-mails. It becomes a version of a photo album and a sort of biography." If that sounds like a Google commercial, that's because it is:
Plus, it's all very amusing. "Instantly, when she was born, I was like, Well, this will be funny: I'll tweet about being born!" Carney added. "As a writer, it occurred to me that it'd be very funny to talk in her voice about things that are going on. When kids are really young, you spend a lot of time with them but they don't really do very much. Tweeting in their name was a way of adding a little bit more excitement to those early months."
And as with most parenting choices, especially in the 21st century, criticisms from outsiders barely register. "A lot of people make fun of it because I chose to kind of announce it," said Rovell. "I don't really care what people think. I think it was still a good move."
"These are the tools that I didn't have growing up. It's important to have your dot-com for your entire life. It's part of your brand," he said. "When do you become a brand? Some people say it's for people who achieved something. I would argue that in some sense you become a brand the second you're born."