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Thank you for all of your support over the years! xo

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

virtual reality

The Washington Post published an interesting article the other day about infertility and Facebook. I don't think I've ever talked about Facebook on my blog, but it's something I've talked about with members of this community privately and it's an oft-discussed topic in our Resolve support group meetings.

I love living in the year 2010 - the technology age. I think, most of the time, the fact that our world is a smaller place is a good thing. It helps us to know that we are not the only ones struggling. It helps us to feel less vulnerable. It helps others to understand that infertility is real, and it is an important issue. And, of course, no one can ignore the medical opportunities available thanks to technology. There are more family-building options at our disposal now than ever before. I think I can say with certainty that for many of you who've been blessed with children, your blessing may not exist if you didn't live in an age where (almost) anything is possible.

But there are downfalls to constantly being connected. The line that once existed between work and personal hours is now blurry. Web site headlines around the globe feature a small news story of little importance. And 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.

Of course, we know that this action isn't 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, we hope no one is thinking that.) But the unexpectedness of it is still painful. We aren't the only ones who suffer from Facebook frustrations. As The Post 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." Much like the woman who has lost her husband reading a status update about a friend's wedding anniversary, imagine what it would feel like to log on to Facebook and see someone complaining about their weight gain during pregnancy or the sleepless nights with their newborn baby - just days after losing your own child. Unfortunately, some of you don't have to imagine what that agony feels like. You've experienced it first hand.

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.

So, while I get that there are painful aspects to social networking in regards to infertility, I don't think we can place the blame on the information provider. 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. 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, our sanity is at stake.

At least someone is finally recognizing it.

23 comments:

Sarah Q said...

Facebook can definitely be the devil! When I start to feel overwhelmed by it all, I just step back for a few days and don't log on... It makes my life a little simpler and me not so close to a breakdown...

Do I Have to Be a D.I.N.K.? said...

Well said...I have a love hate relationship with FB!

Hayley said...

I love this post. We've already discussed our relationships with FB, and you know I love the hide button!

Lindsay said...

wonderfully written and to the point. my sanity comes first!

suchagoodegg said...

Great post, Katie.

I rarely, rarely, RARELY go on FB for this exact reason. So I know it's lame, but I'm basically choosing to not participate in this super-popular mode of communication. Whatevs, I am healthier in mind and spirit b/c of it.

Kim said...

I have to agree Katie, it's most certainly a double edged sword. I love the etchnology that connects us with people who we might otherwise not be connected with and we most certainly can't ask people to abstain from posting pics or comments because of our fragile hearts, but that doesnt' mean it doesn't sting any less when it does happen.

Laurie said...

I have PCOS but was lucky enough to get pregnant quickly. But because I know the struggles of so many people dealing with infertility I chose not to say anything about my pregnancy or post any pics on Facebook. I have quite a few "Facebook friends" of mine who are pregnant and they *constantly* post pics or updates. They have a right to be happy about their news of course but I can't help help but think of who might hurt by what the put on their pages.

Dawn said...

I'm a big fan of the hide button!

Bobbi said...

Wow, this post speaks so much to me. I have recently reactivated my Facebook account, but I deactivated it back in April because of the reasons you said. Having so much personal information available at our fingertips, uncensored to what we are going through, is hard. Of course, friends would not INTENTIONALLY post pregnancy pictures or complain about not getting enough sleep with a newborn, if they knew what we're going through. If we had a conversation with them in person, none of that would leave their lips. But, you're right, people don't know what we're going through, so they just live their lives, posting what they wish, and that is fine. Heck, I'm married and have one daughter, and people probably see that as difficult! Okay, I'm rambling now. Just know I thoroughly enjoyed this post. :)

A said...

wow, what a great article!! (and post on your part!!)

Kakunaa said...

FB can be hard. But my struggles are on there as well as my joys, and everyone has the right to post their pictures. My u/s pics are there. And my IF friends on there support me because I have been open the whole time. So when I can't deal, I don't go on for a while. It's a choice to be on there. Thank you for posting this.

Glass Case of Emotion said...

Great post, as usual Katie!

And in response to your comment on my blog- I wish we lived closer too. We would definitely be friends! Well, if I ever visit FL, we will definitely need to plan a hangout. Spring training someday maybe?

Kelly said...

Thank you for posting this. I absoultely love this article.

lowfatlady said...

Wow, a well written article! Thanks for sharing this.

someday-soon said...

I have to admit that through my IF struggles I hit the "hide" button on many a friend with LO's. You're right, you have to save your sanity in whatever way possible!

Elizabeth said...

As you know my best friend from college(nicknamed Lion on my blog) is no longer a facebook friend because of this issue. Her decision, not mine - though I think it was best. She said she felt uncomfortable posting happy pregnancy thoughts & feelings knowing I was going to read them. Once that happened I stepped back and realized how much I was letting FB posts get to me, and instead of keeping many people on there that I really wouldn't keep in contact anyway I let them all go. It was liberating. I feel so much better having real friends on my FB now that I can be happy for their pregnancies and children (whether my IF friends or non ALI).
Thanks for writing this because I think we all feel this way from time to time (if not all the time)!

Stephanie said...

I'm so glad you posted this article and wrote about it! Luckily, I haven't had too many Fb moments, but I know who NOT to look at if need be. It does sting to see yet another friend getting pregnant, but its a bittersweet sting. I'm sad for us, but still so thrilled for them.

conceptionallychallenged said...

Great post. I'm struggling with FB for the same reasons, and generally I think I'm quite lucky as most of my friends aren't starting their families yet (though it's getting more every month. Sigh.)

Crossed Fingers said...

What an awesome post Katie - I never stopped to think that my wedding pictures, anniversary statuses may cause heartache for others. But when I thought about uploading my bump picture - it took a while to hit the "upload" button. It's an interesting thought!

Stefanie Blakely said...

How ironic that you wrote this post on the same day that I wrote a blog post whining about the challenges of motherhood.

Your ability to still support me means so much to me. Love you always, girl. XOXO.

Alex said...

Great post. I very rarely log on to Facebook, never write updates, just don't really pay attention to it. It's too hard...

Kandid Kelli said...

great post, as always Katie.

xo
-K

erika said...

I have my fair share of 'bad' days on FB, myself.

Great topic, great writing!