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.