Back-clicking through Facebook is an emotional rollercoaster. One second the person you’re looking at is beautiful, fashionable, saturated and calculated. The next they’re a bunny rabbit soaked in hair gel and innocence, leering into your screen with a facial expression that’s both questionable and geometrically confusing.
Some of us forget the internet is forever. Those ice-bucket challenges, that blog-entry you wrote about an unrequited love despite being only sixteen, all those fucking selfies. Yet, while they exist, I suppose we can take comfort in the fact our personal miscarriages don’t extend any further than the date we all decided to give-in, sign-up, and upload our life into Mark Zuckerberg’s empire with his infantry of drink adverts, nauseating status updates, and TimeHop grievances.
Our generation’s parents weren’t born with the internet. They’ve come round to it now - the odd parent reading the Sunday Times on the iPad or emailing you a video that went viral two years ago - but when Daddy sent you racing toward Mummy’s finish line all those years ago, it didn’t exist. Baby photos, for instance, were shared through the medium of lukewarm milky tea and an absent minded-thumb through a photo-album.
These days, some babies have a Facebook page before they’re born. This is okay, I guess, do what you want. Force your offspring on us. It’s a little upsetting, but fine. I’ll look at your balding potato and say it’s cute if it’ll make you happy. What’s not okay, though, is some news I stumbled across regarding a very specific baby.
This is Niall Horan. He is part of the popular boy-band One Direction. They’ve got a song called “What Makes You Beautiful” – which is the only one everyone can remember alongside their terrible mash-up of Blondie and The Undertones - and somehow, they are undeniably huge.
Niall has a nephew. He’s called Theo and he’s one year old. Greg Horan is Theo’s dad. Recently Greg has been feeling pretty bummed out because Niall hasn’t been to visit.
This is a fair observation. A baby is born – family should visit. It makes sense. But after digging a little deeper it starts to become apparent that the reason Niall hasn’t been to visit his nephew is because something very weird is going on.
Niall’s baby nephew Theo has incredible Klout for someone yet to form sentient thoughts. His Twitter page has over 400,000 followers and he’s got his own website. Mostly, it’s weird tweets like: “Just got new new slippers” and “Look I got a new friend x”, with embedded photos of a baby lying around. The website also features a baby-photo gallery and a section where you can buy a commemorative coin (for £19.50), celebrating the fact that Niall from One Direction’s nephew has been alive for one entire year. Congratulations to him. The parent’s also promise to hand deliver the coins to “lucky fans.” Cool!
Greg Horan says he decided to document his son’s life – on Twitter and with a website – after Niall tweeted a photo of the pair together last year. “Since that day in July 2013 when Niall put the first picture of himself and Theo on twitter, we’ve been overwhelmed with kindness,” he wrote on Theo’s fan site.
The couple have been overwhelmed with so much ~benevolence~ from strangers that, alongside hand-delivering the first ever coin commemorating the one-year birthday of a teen-pop star’s nephew, they’ve also decided to start up a magazine. On sale from next year, The Lid will cost £4.95 and promises to feature exclusive pictures from Niall Horan’s 21st birthday party as well as gumpf on his nephew. If the debut issue below resembles something put together by A-Level Media Studies students - that’s probably because it has been. The Lid’s content is crowdsourced by the group’s fans, as are their promotional materials - meaning the parent’s are potentially making money from the fans’ desire to be involved with One Direction, with not too many outgoing costs.
This is all very confusing, I said to myself. Greg Horan is upset that Niall hasn’t been to visit his nephew – but he shouldn’t be. Not when he’s managing to take an income from his brother’s astronomical fame by marketing his baby’s face on commemorative coins.
Greg has tweeted several things since he complained about Niall’s absence. The first: that he was hacked and has nothing but a good word to say about Niall. Classic story. The second and third: an unintentional admission that he’s taking Directioners for a ride.
I suppose it says as much about the lunacy of One Direction’s fan-base as it does poor parenting skills that something like this is capable of happening. The list of weird One Direction merch includes clothespins, branded ice-pops, toothpaste and stick-on nails. The commodities feature pictures of the group and are useful; whether for sugar sustenance, fashion, or hygiene. This though – a baby with 400,000 Twitter followers, a dedicated fan site, magazine, and commemorative coin – is something else. It points at (A) the fan bases deep-rooted unhealthy obsession with anything and everything to do with the group and (B) the lengths relatives will go to in order to make money from a successful sibling.
We all dream about being famous. I frequently remember spending every waking moment pondering the potential benefits regarding having a personal army of walking-talking humans. I also thought a lot about how many free Dr Peppers I would be able to consume in my future life as a famous person. But then I remember the downsides and it seems like not so much of a great idea and, actually, it’s nice enough being a normal human being with the same three friends.
Theo, on the other hand, will grow up to be adult baby Theo, with his entire life not just uploaded to a private Facebook page (like other newborns), but into the public domain, funded by the fans of a pop-group that are loosely connected to him. This is quite upsetting.
We may be back clickable on Facebook; but we can at least be glad none of our parents printed our plumping baby faces on a coin and personally handed them out to strangers who bought them online.
Follow Ryan on Twitter: @RyanBassil