Navigating Social Media on the Parenthood Pathway
Whether you are considering your future parenthood, or are in the midst of trying to conceive, it may seem as though everyone you know is effortlessly falling pregnant… except you.
The following article has been written by an awesome psychology student I have had on placement with me. Thank you Mackenzie Petie for the awesome work you have done pulling this together.
The endless posts on social media of pregnancy announcements, gender reveals and first baby photos can feel like daggers to the heart, leaving you in fits of jealous rage at the cutesy snapshots. It is this love-hate relationship with what we see online that can create a distorted image in our head about how we expect our lives to go, how we want our bodies to function, and how we imagine our relationships to progress to include a growing family. This potentially distorted perspective can lead us to ask: what role does social media play in the pathway to parenthood?
Social Media Impact
Social media has a distinct impact upon how we view ourselves, and others, and the consumption of social media might present both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, social media can present opportunities to connect with others with similar experiences and provide a unique place of comfort with support networks with a deeper understanding of your struggles. On the other hand, excessive consumption of seemingly perfect online images can induce feelings of envy, stress, and loneliness and leave you questioning: “what is wrong with me?”
What role can social media play during the pathway to parenthood?
Connection: It is increasing common to find online communities where shared experiences create connections between members. The online environment can provide comfort, care, and anonymity, where intimate details can be openly shared, and the frustrations of infertility are understood. Connecting and sharing experiences with others can help you recognise that you are not alone and that any emotions you may be feeling are valid and reasonable.
Education: Social media can be a tool to educate yourself and others about the intricate details of fertility tracking, infertility, IVF, and pregnancy. The world of fertility treatments and the experience of trying to conceive can be overwhelming. The ability to share experiences and make recommendations of fertility clinics, specialists and other supports can be beneficial.
Awareness :The era of social media and large-scale digital platforms has enabled mass audiences to develop awareness about common health issues such as infertility through public health campaigns. Everyday people can raise awareness and promote connectivity and solidarity around a particular issue. Recognition of the prevalence of infertility can help you feel as though you are not alone and recognise that other people are facing similar struggles.
Too much social media? When you are going through an emotional experience, it not unusual to spend a lot of time thinking (or maybe even obsessing) over what is happening to you. We use social media and the internet in search of knowledge and advice, however there is a fine line between using it as a tool for learning and an unhealthy obsession. The likes of Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Google have provided a plethora of platforms to seek information from. When you’re trying to conceive, you want everything to be as “perfect” as possible, meaning its easy to find yourself lost down a rabbit hole of fertility trackers, the best diets, vitamins and supplements and so on, in an effort to maximise the chance of conception.
Comparison: We are all guilty of experiencing social media envy at some point, from someone projecting their career success, monetary goals or relationship happiness on Facebook and Instagram: it can be enough to make your teeth grind! However, endless pregnancy announcements and cute baby pictures when you’re trying to conceive can hit differently and dangerously, with the potential to cause a lot of emotional pain.
What we consume on social media can significantly impact our health and wellbeing with strong links between heavy social media consumption and feelings of depression, anxiety, stress, and loneliness. Negative associations can be induced by upward social comparisons, which occur when we compare ourselves to others who we believe to be superior to ourselves. It is easy to make these comparisons when you regularly view other women getting pregnant (and you’re not). It is a particular issue on social media where you have no idea of their backstory or what their pathway to pregnancy really was. As such, our perceptions of reality are shaped by what we are seeing others post online: usually the perfect “cookie cutter” version of their life, as no one really likes to publicise their struggles and downfalls.
Jealousy: Pregnancy announcement posts can leave us feeling conflicting emotions. You want to be happy for the friend who posted their celebratory pregnancy announcement. You might feel like it is important to congratulate them…and genuinely mean it. But, when you’re struggling to conceive, it’s hard to feel happy for others when you feel jealous. And actually, that’s okay. This does not mean you are a bad person; it just makes you human and dealing with a tough situation.
With these positives and negatives in mind, it is important to consider how you are using social media and how it may impact the way you feel. Some would suggest completely deleting social media when you are trying to conceive, but disconnecting yourself completely from the digital world, might further isolate you from family and friends, and there may be some parts of social media that are beneficial to you during this time. So, what can you do to help yourself navigate the way through social media when trying to conceive?
Tips to manage social media.
Give yourself permission to feel. Your pathway to parenthood is your own and it is important to remember that your feelings are valid and that is okay to feel a range of emotions during this time.
It’s okay to feel jealous. It does not make you a bad person or a bad friend if you feel jealous, angry or upset over someone else falling pregnant. There’s nothing wrong with letting your friend know that you are happy for them, but you need some time to process your feelings.
Know you are not alone. Infertility can be a lonely thing to go through, as many people don’t talk openly about their fertility experiences. So, connecting with people online though Facebook Groups or Forums, where you have the opportunity to talk to others who have an understanding of what you are going through and can offer you support might be really worthwhile.
Take control of your social media. If you are feeling particularly upset by something that you are viewing, it is okay to hit the hide, unfollow, unfriend, or unsubscribe buttons. It is important to take care of yourself and you can always go back and change your settings later when you’re feeling better. Additionally, if social media is intensifying your emotions, it is okay to take a break and disconnect, even if it is just for the day.
Set Boundaries. Try not to look at social media first thing in the morning, or right before you go to sleep as these are generally bad times to engage with social media. It is important to start your day with a good routine and positive mindset and end the day with a calm body and mind.
Seek counselling and psychological services. If you are feeling overwhelmed and these emotions are interfering with day-to-day functioning, then maybe it is a good time to talk to a psychologist who can help you shift some of the less helpful thoughts you might have developed about yourself and your experience.
Ultimately, it is important to remember to honour your emotional needs and know your limits during this time. You may not be able to control your body or your fertility, but you can control what role social media plays in your life. Not ready to talk yet? That’s okay! Here are some resources to check out.
- The Fertility Warriors
- Big Fat Negative
- Modern Babies
- Finding Fertility
- The Underwear in My Shoe by Brett Russo
- Empty Womb, Aching Heart: Hope and Help for Those Struggling With Infertility by Marlo Schalesky
- Not Pregnant: A Companion for the Emotional Journey of Infertility by Cathie Quillet and Dr Shannon Sutherland