The Washington Post published a great article the other day about infertility and Facebook. I’ve never talked about infertility and Faceboook on my blog, but it’s something I’ve talked about with several of my friends.
Don’t get me wrong. I do enjoy facebook. It helps me stay up to date on family and friends that are far away. However, there are major downfalls. The ultrasound photos and weekly status updates of your cousin’s pregnancy – which, ten years ago, you would never see or read – are now “top news” on your Facebook feed.
I know this is not intentional. No one is sitting at home thinking, “I can’t wait to post pictures of my big, pregnant belly and upset all of my friends who can’t have children.” (At least, I hope no one is thinking that.) However, the unexpectedness of it is still painful. We aren’t the only ones who suffer from Facebook frustrations. As the article pointed out, “Chronically single people may envy friends’ wedding pictures, for instance, and those who’ve lost a spouse can feel overwhelmed by friends’ wedding anniversary announcements.” Honestly, when I read about people that are complaining about morning sickness or not getting any sleep because they have a newborn, here is what I am thinking: “I would throw up every hour for 9 months if it meant I could have my own child” or “I wouldn’t care how much sleep I lost every night if it meant I could have my own child.” You see, my desire to have a child is intense. Something that I really believe has been placed in my heart by God. A desire that I have felt ever since I was a child. I remember doing an assignment in elementary school – it asked what we wanted to be when we grew up. My answer: I want to be a mom.
The virtual world presents a new challenge to how we handle – or don’t handle – sensitivity. It’s one thing to tell a friend that you feel uncomfortable over the constant baby talk when the two of you are together. It’s another thing to tell a friend that their Facebook posts make you uncomfortable. Unlike with in-person communication, the etiquette for virtual communication is fuzzy. When someone posts a status or a photo, he or she is posting it in his or her space. The only way in which they are bringing it into your space is through your virtual connection. If that person were not on your friends’ list, you wouldn’t have access to that information. This is where the handy “hide” function comes in….at least for me.
I get that there are painful aspects to social networking in regards to infertility. But we choose to log on and stay connected with that person. By choosing to interact with the pregnant woman or the new mom, we are choosing to open ourselves up to the possibility of a painful post or photo – one that will remind us of what we’ve yet to achieve or what we’ve lost.
Facebook and I go through stages. Lately, I haven’t been on it much – except for updating my (which I hope you “like”). There are moments when I don’t feel compelled to click the “hide” button, and then there are times when I’ve deactivated my account for a period of time – afraid that one more photo of a smiling baby will send me into some hormonally induced breakdown. And there have been instances, though rare, that I’ve deleted people. In these cases, the friendship had already fizzled.
This isn’t to say that the solution is to remove these people from our friends’ list, delete our profiles, or cut these individuals out of our lives all together (though you may feel some or all of these steps are necessary, and that’s okay). It’s just to say that we have to protect ourselves. As much as I would love Facebook to create a message warning me of new “baby” posts before I log in, I know that I am my only filter. Forget baby showers and holiday parties – Facebook is what self-preservation is all about. This virtual reminder is something we encounter every day, and we must find a way to cope. Whether this means doing something as small as limiting our time on social networking sites or doing something as drastic as ending a “friendship” (or lack thereof?), our sanity is at stake.