I have to admit, I wasn't sure how specific of a title I wanted on this blog. At first it was, “Taking a Break from Social Media”. Because that it what I did when we lost our babies. But then the more I thought about it, some may find social media to be helpful in their grieving. So I just left it at “Social Media” and you can take what you want from it.
In January 2013, less than a month before we found out that Emily had no heartbeat, I posted our Christmas card on Facebook. It was a picture of Matthew and Ryan on a bench in a local park that we hiked and visited often. On there, we made the official announcement, “Peace, Love & Joy, Merry Christmas! Love, Chris, Anne, Matthew, Ryan and Baby.” My next post a few weeks later was that our baby had died; I was not a regular user of Facebook and the social media world, and I would post here and there. But I was just filled with such confusion and sadness in that one moment I am “announcing” to the world about our wonderful news, and the next moment, complete devastation. I kept going on Facebook in the days following our baby Emily's death. Mostly to spread the word about how significant and life altering a pregnancy loss is and was, and also to spread the word about a nonprofit, emily's gift of hope, I felt called to start up. And our walk that summer that went with that. But after July 27th, I did not enjoy one bit going onto social media. I was 33 years old at that point. Most people my age were posting about having babies. And bringing them home. Something I could not relate to in those raw moments. Yes, I brought home Matthew. And Ryan. But it was as if suddenly, I had changed forever. I would never be the same. Pregnancy would never look the same again. How innocent and naive I seemed before Emily's death.
So, I decided to “take a break” from the social media world. At that point in 2013, I was only on Facebook. Nothing for my age group was popular at that point, and perhaps hadn't even been created. And it felt good to say, “this isn't working for me.” At the same time, I felt a little bit (okay, a lot) left out. I was (and still am) a stay-at-home mom, so it was fun to take a break here and there and go on Facebook for adult interaction. But I knew that seeing pictures of newborns and baby announcements was not going to help me heal, it would just drive that dagger into my heart even more. So, I stayed off of it. For quite some time.
I eventually did go back onto Facebook. I think it was around the time when Matthew, who is now 10 years old, was entering into Kindergarten. Maybe even Preschool, I did here and there. Mostly to see pictures of our son at school activities. They would post frequently. So I did not want to miss out on seeing him in action, and what his days were like when I wasn't with him. But that was it. Oh and to keep in touch with family and relatives across the miles.
But even now going onto social media platforms, now I am on Instagram as well, what are we getting from it? Is it helping us to get to an even better place? Or is it inhibiting, or even suffocating us at moments? I know of some group members in our monthly baby loss group that say Instagram has been a very helpful outlet for them. With all of the #hashtags you can do now, topics are more searchable. Such as #pregnancyloss, #babyloss, #pregancylosssupport, #pregnancylossawareness. And includes pictures of our heavenly babies, supportive quotes, actual pictures of bereaved mothers bearing their souls. (And for losing a baby, this is a plus with finding support in an area that nobody wants to talk about.) But being a reflective and introspective being, I always step back and say, “Is this helping?” “Is this getting me to a place where I want to be?” If yes, then that is great and keep on going with what works. But if it's a positive no, then maybe it's time to take a break. It will be there when you decide (if you do) to go back. There's no rule saying how long your break has to be, or if you even have to take one. Only you will know the answer to those questions. Or if you do enjoy social media, but do not care for some posts, then unfollow them. You will remain friends, but you do not see their updates on life. Or even unfriend them, if needed. (I do not think you can unfollow someone on Instagram at least to my knowledge, so all of this depends on the social platform that you are on.)
Even now I take breaks from social media depending on where I am at with things. Last year, I stayed off during Lent. And it felt great! But then I missed seeing my dad's posts on Facebook, he lives out-of-state, and some of my friends from my old town. So I went back on for a little bit. And then took a break again over the summer. And again, it felt liberating on some level not to update others with our summer travels at every moment. Did it really matter? Did I lose friends from not posting where we went? Or if I missed their posts? No, I caught up with those in text messages, calls and visits. I still took pictures on our trips, but I was able to take each experience all in, and not have “likes” coming in at all hours of the day taking my attention away from – life – and experiencing it fully.
Social media will always be here whether we like it or not. Some days I hate it so much, that I want to unplug forever. But it will never go away. So, how can I use it to my benefit? How can it help me grow into the person I want to become and am becoming? I set time limits as well. If I go on it in the morning, then I say, “That's it for the day.” You will be able to figure out what works, and what doesn't with trial and error. Take your time, be patient in the process, and keep moving forward. As I always say with baby loss and losing Emily and Michael, I will never move on, but I will move forward one day at a time. And the same approach can be said for figuring our social media and its role with grieving. Move forward, and take it a moment or a day at a time.