During my many years of struggling with infertility, one of the things that has often triggered my negative thoughts and emotions is social media. Love it or hate it, it is part of life. I would like to share some of the things that I have learned in the hope that it helps you to navigate your social media experience without it having a detrimental impact on your health and wellbeing.
I knew about our infertility issues before I started to use social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest. These are the sites that I use regularly, although other sites are available I’ve never really got to grips with them. I do not know a life on social media without the struggle of infertility. I don’t know what its like not to be affected by the latest announcement or scan photo. All I know is that even now, those posts can cut right through me, even if I know they are coming. It feels like a fine balance to tread and at times it’s difficult to get it right.
After a number of years being upset and struggling with Facebook, as those around me were starting their families, one post about how fabulous it was to be a mother sent me into a spiral. I wanted to type something along the lines of “I don’t give a damn if you are a mother, I aren’t, I’m infertile and that sucks so just get out of my personal space” but I didn’t. I just watched the comments build on the post and I knew I couldn’t cope seeing it anymore. That day I temporarily deactivated my account and stayed away from it for 10 months. As a regular user I thought that I would miss it, but I didn’t. The post coincided with me being in the depths of a depression that had taken hold of me, but a state which I had not yet acknowledged or sought help for. It was a relief not to see posts and pictures in my personal space. That is how we should view our social media accounts, they are a space personal to us. OK, we are exposing ourselves to a much wider audience but that doesn’t meant that we can’t protect ourselves and our feelings. Here is my simple guide on how to try to do just that.
If a site is causing distress then come off it. Do not be afraid to hit the delete or deactivate account button. I did it as I have described above and it was the best thing for me at the time. I didn’t miss out on anything important. Family & friends that were part of my life still kept in touch by other means. What it did mean was that I didn’t have things that I couldn’t control or have an influence on thrust into my personal space. I didn’t have to worry about what was going to pop up next and what would send me into the next downward spiral. This may sound a little extreme but if its what you need to do, then don’t hesitate. Accounts can often be temporarily suspended which means that if and when you are ready you can go back onto them. That is what I did when I felt ready.
When I did go back on, I reduced the ‘friends’ list drastically. I unfriended all of those people that I didn’t really have contact with and that I wasn’t generally connected to in the real world. And that’s my next piece of advice, reduce your friends list to those you are happy to see updates from. Why expose yourself to potential posts from people who aren’t important in your life? You need to look after yourself and put yourself first. Ask the question, will they even notice if you ‘unfriended’ them? Probably not. This is a more permanent deletion so if you still want to be ‘friends’ with them you can use the ‘unfollow’ button. Do not be afraid to take control of your own space, don’t worry about what others may think, do what you have to do to stay comfortable.
If someone tags you in a post and it triggers you to feel low then un-tag yourself. Don’t think that you have to keep yourself exposed to something that causes you upset. Others want you to share in their joy but it can be a painful reminder of what you have been through or are currently going through (even though they may have no clue). You come first, it is your space, protect yourself.
Closed Facebook groups can be a great source of support and allow you to connect with others that are going through the same things as you. These, along with on-line forums have been of huge help to me over the past few years. I will write a future post about how they can be helpful on your journey.
I have recently been having conversations about Facebook and how lots of us struggling with infertility don’t share our journeys openly on Facebook. I was one of those, I might have posted the odd cryptic quote that someone who really knew me understood but I wasn’t shouting from the rooftop, look at me, I can’t have a baby. For me that changed recently, but that’s from a place of 10 years of infertility and a renewed confidence in myself. I also have the full support of Chris to share our journey, after all we share many of the same friends. We have had nothing but supportive and loving comments but there was no way of us knowing that before I ‘outed’ us. Don’t put pressure on yourself to use Facebook as a platform to share your story. Its a very personal thing, you will know when the time comes and when you are ready to share your journey with others. And when you do, I’m sure those that really care about you will be there to support you.
Twitter has become my outlet for my fertility ‘stuff’. I only had about 5 followers who knew me in the real world so it seemed like the right platform to engage with others on their journeys. At the time I wasn’t open about our infertility on Facebook. Twitter can be a great place to share this journey in a more anonymous environment. Lots of people on Twitter have great names for their profiles and they bare no resemblance to their real life names. I have found it to be a very supportive community with lots of information sharing, but it doesn’t quite feel as personal and perhaps exposed as Facebook or some of the other on-line forums. Limited to a relatively small number of characters and fast moving it can be a great place to pick up information but things move on quickly. I will give a word of warning though, you may still see announcements if you choose to connect with others who are going through IVF treatment. I know I can cope with these and actually like to see others achieve success. I’m not sure if I would have felt the same at a different point in our journey. Again, if you need to click the unfollow button to protect yourself then that’s what you have to do. Infertility is hard and at the most unexpected moments you can be smacked in the face with a reminder of how low it can make you feel. I have learned to step away when this happens, after all I need to look after number one.
Pinterest is my personal favourite. I have one follower (no idea who or why) and I can pin quotes to my hearts content. I have no desire to increase my followers and I love the fact that it feels like its just me. I have a ‘quotes’ board, lets face it, if you are struggling with infertility you need somewhere to post all of those quotes that at the time of reading them resonate with you. Its also interesting to see how my pins have changed over time. My very first post on my quotes board was about hope. This was between FET cycles…
My most recent pin is more about moving forward. I like quotes that are to the point!
I once created a board on Pinterest called Our Future…Maybe. This board became the space where I went into my dream world. It was full of things relating to our future family. Cute things, practical things, things that we would need or have once I got pregnant. It was the only place I could use as an outlet for those things. After all, I wasn’t pregnant so I couldn’t do it on more open forums. It became my safe place to live out our future. As time passed, I still wasn’t pregnant and everything we tried seemed to fail, this board became a place of sadness for me. I couldn’t post on it any more, couldn’t bare to find nice things to pin to it and I couldn’t look at it. I deleted it. It no longer exists and hasn’t done for a while. So the lesson I learned was that its ok to dream but if it doesn’t become a reality it may eventually become a place of sadness and when that happens its time to wave goodbye and hit delete. If we do ever have a family, I’m sure I will be happy to spend time pinning nice things to a virtual board. In the meantime I will stick to quotes, gardens, paint colours and holiday destinations!
It has taken me a number of years to be fully in control of my social media space. It helps greatly that I am now in a relatively good place with my own depression and fertility journey. That’s not to say that occasionally something doesn’t hit me unexpectedly. When that happens, I hide the offending post or take a short break from that particular platform. And that’s ok, its ok to move away and come back to it when you are ready. You are the most important person on your fertility journey and it is only right that you look after yourself and protect yourself from getting upset.
I hope that this post has given you some insight in how to navigate social media through the tricky journey that is infertility. I wish I had the confidence much earlier in my journey to put myself first instead of thinking I had to be visible to my virtual world ‘friends’ and that I had to do the right thing for them.
Remember that you are not alone, but also remember to take care of yourself first and foremost. Find people that can and will support you and step away from those that don’t.