Infertility and Social Media: The Good, the bad and the ugly
There is a major celebration coming up, you log in to your Facebook account and…
A feed filled, with happy families, pregnancy announcements and welcome to the world little one posts. You want to be happy but all of them have what you want most in the world…
You say out loud to your partner
“If I see one more pregnancy announcement, I’m going to lose my shit”
Don’t worry you’re not alone every couple going through infertility of any kind has thought exactly this.
Is social media good or bad for those going through infertility?
This is a question that I have had from a number of our readers and whenever I see it; I think it’s a loaded question. So, I tend to probe before I give my answer. I like to find out what is frustrating them, what do they find helpful, what made them ask; because then I can give an answer which is right for them.
Let me preface all of this information with the following:
Social Media use is a personal thing, what one person finds distressing others may not so take this information and decide which is right for you.
Personally, I don’t think that social media is either inherently good or bad; but it certainly has elements of both. What you can also be sure of is, there is certainly an ugly side of Social Media in terms of internet trolls and keyboard warriors.
What kinds of social media are people using through their infertility journey?
There is NO social media platform which is best for those going through infertility, but some are better than others.
Facebook – Is ingrained in modern life, many people update it whilst at the shops, share their big news and keep in touch with friends and family. But it does have some fabulous and less fabulous support groups.
Twitter – is used in a variety of ways from business through to tracking a journey. You can fill your own personal feed with people that inspire and support you in the way you need it.
Instagram – A very visual and creative platform; however, it is a hotbed of family and children pictures and you are very likely to come across pregnancy and birthing announcements.
Pinterest – Is a part visual social media part search engine: It has some big infertility blogs and is a creative platform so if you just need a quick affirmation this can be the place to go.
Reddit – Has some closed groups within it; these groups, especially for infertility are often hyper-focused – for instance, there is a fact-based group where minimal ‘baby dust’ is allowed it’s very real. Then there are the hyper-positive groups which you will be more familiar with.
What you will find is that certain groups of people congregate in certain places and it’s likely that:
You will likely change which social media platforms you are using as you progress through your fertility journey
What do we mean by that; as you’ll see in the image over time you will get more and more specific about the types of social media that work for you. You will become less concerned with leaving groups and un-following or blocking content from people and businesses which are causing you distress.
As you progress you will surround yourself with likeminded people who make you feel less alone and stigmatised.
My experience with social media and infertility
I wanted to write this article because my social media usage through our fertility journey had positives and some big negatives and I think me sharing my own experiences might help you understand some of the risks and benefits of using social media through your own journey more effectively than a list of tips.
“When Nathan and I started trying to conceive I was a massive user of Facebook and social media in general. It was a way for me to keep in touch with people that were geographically separated.
In the beginning, it was great I saw loads of people who were getting pregnant, having fun with their children and I found this inspiring as this is what I wanted more than anything in the world. This positive side of social media lasted for about 8 months of us TTC.
It was at this point that we thought that there could be some fertility issues, so we took active steps to improve our chances of pregnancy. By this I brought some products to track my cycle, I joined loads of TTC conceive groups and I started to expand what I was looking at on my social media. After about 4 months Nathan decided it was time to have a chat with me. I was worrying about might be causing this, trying every ‘non-evidence’ based practice under the sun, I started to worry that even if we did get pregnant, we would miscarry. Everything and anything I could worry about I would. I kept moving the goalposts for our relationship whilst we were trying to conceive, and my worrying was impacting my mental health and our relationship. Nathan sat me down and he talked to me about why I was feeling this way. I explained that I was reading all these fertility horror stories, seeing constant negative results, reading about medical treatments. He explained in a way that I could understand that I was surrounding myself with negative, non-relatable information and stories. That this was causing a bias in my thinking and that EVERYONE suffers horrendously if they are infertile.
At the time I didn’t really like it; I took some time to think it over and he was right. I had joined groups like ‘Never going to get pregnant’ ‘TTC – The long wait’ in these groups all success stories were filtered or moved to another group like ‘baby dust’, ‘rainbow babies’ and ‘BFP- Yey’, which I was on the fringes of but wasn’t part of. This is because people want to be sensitive to people who are still in the ‘trying’ phase of the fertility journey.
The downside of this is that you mainly ONLY see the negative side of infertility and it can warp your view, make you think that no one is ever successful at getting pregnant and you spend more time supporting others than you do thinking about your own mental health and relationships. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be part of these groups to support others, but there will be times in your journey where they’re not right for you. This was at this point for me.
I left many of the groups, or blocked notifications, joined groups which were more specific and started to look for more evidence-based approaches to improve our fertility; the change was almost instantaneous. I felt better, more positive and I was focusing my energy on things that could help rather than ‘wishing’ they would help.
Now that we are at the back end of our fertility journey; I am part of these groups again as I’m able to support these people without impacting my own mental health and it’s partly what inspired Nathan and I to start this website. We have the emotional energy now to help people through infertility and we want to invest time and effort to do that because it’s important.”
I hope my experience gives you an idea of how social media can play a positive and negative role whilst you’re trying to conceive. What I learnt is that you will have different needs at different times, and you shouldn’t be ashamed of moving on when you need to. Take action.
The ugly side of social media
Unfortunately, infertility is still major taboo even at a time when many stigmas are being eroded…
It shouldn’t be I mean we’re in 2020 for crying out loud.
But infertility is at a clear intersection of many social taboos in themselves: Sex, relationships, religion, finance, medical decisions and mental health. Whilst social media does allow you to connect with people who can empathise and understand what you are going through. It also opens you up to internet trolls and hate talk when you’re already in a vulnerable position.
I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve seen people post something about their own personal journey, or their opinion about it only to be berated and some people even resorting to sending death threats to people. We all know that it’s not acceptable. However, that doesn’t stop people doing it.
So, you need to protect yourself from this; if you find something you post is getting a lot of negative comments, you can either choose to take the high ground and stand up for what you believe in, although, for many, they don’t have the emotional energy to fight their corner with people they don’t know who have no barrier to personal attacks. Or you can choose to delete it and protect yourself. Whilst Nathan is the sort of person that would choose to fight this and provide sensible counter-arguments, I’m the kind of person that would cry over these attacks, so for me, it would be to delete them and for him, it would be to make a stand. Everyone is different; make the choice which is right for you.
Are there any other options for support through infertility?
There is absolutely a place for social media in infertility, it is a place you can meet like-minded people and share your own journey to help and inspire others. But as you have read there can be a darker side to it both from others and in terms of your own requirements at that time.
Are there any other options that you can use to get the support you need?
Blogs and Websites – You are obviously already on a website focused upon infertility and IVF and most website owners are happy for you to reach out with questions and provide support where possible; the only caveat is most of these are set up by individuals and couples and they can get a lot of requests so it can take a while to reply. We are always happy to chat with our readers about their own infertility journey and you can get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are even happy to give you a platform to share your journey and inspire others in similar situations.
A one-to-one mentor – This is a fairly new phenomenon which uses a website such as fruitful fertility which matches a mentor with a mentee who have similar experiences and beliefs in the interest of helping people through their infertility journey. Plus it’s completely free.
Tick-Tock – Whilst I guess this is still social media it has been pigeonholed as a tool for teenagers to connect; but a massively growing number of people are now using it to share their infertility stories and is fast becoming a popular outlet for infertility warriors.
Books – One of the great things about a book is that you can get lost in it, there will be no one commenting negative things and sapping your energy, yet you often get the same sense of belonging and reducing loneliness that you can from social media. So, if you are a book worm or just fancy a read then check out the 7 fertility books you MUST read in 2020.
Obviously, this little musing is ours and a few other peoples experience of social media through infertility and we would LOVE to hear about your experiences of using social media so leave us a comment and let’s chat.