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Facebook Fertility Fallout

There is a space on the Internet where you will not ever find baby pictures or ultrasound pictures. That space is this blog. However, I will forewarn readers that today I am going to talk about such pictures. My intent is not to bring up what is a very sore subject for many for no reason… but to increase awareness about this phenomenon I call “Facebook Fertility Fallout”.

If you are struggling with infertility, you may (like so many people I know) find it difficult to be online sometimes due to the ubiquity of baby pictures and ultrasound pictures. The mother (pun intended) of all sites for such pictures seems to be Facebook.

Several times a week, friends contact me because they have just accidentally encountered baby or ultrasound pictures online… usually on Facebook. They send me messages explaining that they are in tears after just accidentally coming across pictures that triggered a reaction for them. While such pictures are found various places online (such as on blogs that have converted from infertility blogs to “mommy blogs”), most of these tearful discoveries seem to occur on Facebook. (To be very clear, it is definitely not my place to even dream of suggesting what a formerly infertile person should do with her blog once she is able to conceive. I only bring this up for context).

Sometimes I feel like my infertile friends need a fallout shelter to protect their minds and hearts from encountering these pictures that leave them in tears.

Now, for those of you reading this who are formerly infertile mothers getting ready to send me hate mail lecturing me that you have experienced infertility yourself and you are posting baby pictures on your Facebook avatar to give “hope” to other infertility patients (i.e. if, hypothetically you have Stage IV endometriosis), please save your energy because I already heard that speech. (By the way, such a picture won’t give hope for getting pregnant to a person who has had a hysterectomy, as one of my infertile friends commented when we were discussing the above “hope” comment that was made to me a few days ago). OK. It’s time for full disclosure. That scenario above was not a hypothetical. I actually had a Stage IV endometriosis patient give me this speech about hope the other day. She apparently felt (mistakenly) that I was judging her. All I know is my infertile friends would be upset by this and I have a right not to have baby pictures on my wall. This woman didn’t seem to understand that just as it’s her right to choose to post such pictures, which she views as a sign of hope for other infertile patients, I have the right to decide what to post on my Facebook wall.

Point of clarification:

Obviously, everyone has the right to post any pictures they want (that are allowable in the terms of service) on Facebook. I would never, ever be so arrogant as to think it is my place to dictate what pictures someone should or shouldn’t post on their walls or Facebook avatars. (The same individual referenced above seemed to mistakenly think that I was suggesting such a thing; I was not).

Again, I have a right to decide what pictures to have posted on my Facebook wall. In other words, I cannot prevent someone from randomly posting a comment on my wall that happens to contain a baby picture in the Facebook avatar. Sure, I can delete the comment from my wall after the fact if I am concerned that it might be a trigger for one of my infertile friends. However, I can’t be sure someone won’t post a comment on my wall with such a picture. Since I can’t monitor my Facebook page 24/7, there is always the chance that someone will unexpectedly leave a well-meaning message on my wall that includes a baby picture avatar.

So, if you have a baby picture avatar and I should happen to choose to exchange direct Facebook messages with you rather than exchange Facebook wall messages… it’s nothing personal. That’s just the way I handle it. If you are not comfortable with my method of attempting to prevent my infertile Facebook friends (of which there are many) from getting upset or even crying, then perhaps it’s best for us not to remain Facebook friends. Feel free to unfriend me if you are uncomfortable with communicating via direct messages.

This “Facebook Fertility Fallout” issue keeps cropping up again and again. In an average week, three women will contact me about being upset over baby and/or ultrasound pictures on Facebook. Essentially, the best I can do is listen to their feelings. Depending on the person, I will often suggest the person take a “vacation from Facebook” if that is an option. For some, their Facebook accounts are used for work purposes as well as personal purposes. They may not have the luxury of avoiding Facebook altogether. For those who can though, a “vacation from Facebook” can be helpful. Many of my friends do this occasionally.

The point I am trying to make is this: if you were not aware that these pictures are so upsetting to so many infertility patients before you read this post (and it’s not just my friends who find them upsetting), I just wanted to talk about this issue and try to make people aware and sensitive to it. That does not mean that I am suggesting you should change the way you use Facebook. How you decide to use Facebook is your business.

At the same time, how I use Facebook is my business. So, once this post is complete I will post it on my wall and anytime I encounter the issue (anytime one of my Facebook friends posts pictures on my wall with babies in the avatar), I will direct message them a link to this post. This post is my way of saying, “please don’t take it personally but I am not comfortable posting baby/ultrasound pictures on my wall”.

Again, I am not asking anyone to change their pictures. Do I hope that this post might discourage people from posting such pictures on my wall that I will delete as soon as I come across them? Yes. Should anyone be offended that I am deleting such pictures if they do get posted on my wall? No. If that offends you and we are connected on Facebook, feel free to unfriend me. It’s not that I don’t want to be friends on Facebook. It’s just that I don’t have time to police my wall 24/7. That is why I am writing this post. It is with the hope that it might discourage people from posting such pictures on my wall.

In addition to baby/ultrasound pictures, there are other triggers for my infertile friends that I would like to mention before wrapping up this post. One of my Facebook friends has Stage IV endometriosis that resulted in removal of her fallopian tubes. A couple of days ago, her own sister posted what my friend dubbed a “mom meme” as her Facebook status:

If one’s own sister thinks nothing of posting memes like this, I’m not sure what to even say to comfort the person. As you may imagine, my friend was devastated to see this Facebook status on her own sister’s wall. I was at a loss for how to even comfort her in this situation. I did the best I could but I really didn’t even know what to say.

In closing, my purpose with this post is to take a moment to bring this subject up. Perhaps someone reading this has never stopped to think how upsetting it can be to be an infertility patient who feels, at times, bombarded with baby/ultrasound pictures. Maybe someone who would have posted a “mom meme” will have a greater awareness of the impact it might be having on a friend or loved one.

I thought National Infertility Awareness Week might be a good time to bring this subject up.

I cannot emphasize enough that I am not trying to tell others how to handle their own Facebook profiles or walls. I am not the “Facebook Fertility Fallout” police. As I touched on earlier in the post, someone got angry with me a few days ago for how I choose to manage the messages (images) on my own Facebook wall. I can manage the messages any way I see fit. If anyone cannot understand my perspective, it’s best for us not to be connected on Facebook.

It just makes me so sad that so many of my friends are afraid to even login to Facebook (where they have support people, loved ones, and friends) for fear they will encounter pictures that leave them in tears.

If this post prevents even one of my friends from breaking down into tears over baby/ultrasound pictures, then it will be worthwhile.


This post was written by Jeanne at http://chronichealing.com. Copyright © Jeanne — chronichealing.com. All rights reserved.


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40 comments

1 Jannie FunsterNo Gravatar { 04.27.10 at 5:22 pm }

Very well, and sensitively said, Jeanne.

Those who have not gone through the heartbreak of infertility with all its sadness triggers may have never even considered the possibility of baby pictures and mom memes feeling like slaps in the face to those who are already hurting.

Very good that you posted this! Thank you.

xo
.-= Jannie Funster´s last blog ..Just A Quick Picture. (Yeah, Right.) :) =-.

2 JeanneNo Gravatar { 04.27.10 at 5:30 pm }

Jannie,

Thank you, Jannie. You’re right that many people don’t realize baby pictures and mom memes can be very hurtful for some people. Thank you! :)

Jeanne
xo

3 RoseNo Gravatar { 04.27.10 at 6:04 pm }

Jeanne,

You certainly do have a right to post or not post whatever you wish on your blog or Facebook page. It’s difficult for me to see baby photos all the time, but also realize that it’s inevitable, just as I might see babies when I go out in public, or even walking down the sidewalk by my home. This is a personal problem and something I am working on. I can’t blame others for my own reactions, nor I can’t ask people to leave their babies at home because I can’t handle seeing them. But it’s also nice to know that others out there sympathize with us facing infertility. Some days are harder than others for me. Maybe for you, too. And some days I really enjoy seeing my friends family pictures and how happy they are, and their adorable kids doing adorable things. I can be both happy for others and still saddened by my own losses.
If I had a baby, and I probably will have fost-adopt baby(s) in the near future, I will probably post photos of happy family times, too. Facebook is one of my methods of staying in touch with my friends and family, and I want to share all aspects of my life with them… ya know?
It’s a touchy subject, but I think all of us infertile ladies need to keep in mind that FB is a public space, and if baby pictures really bother you THAT much, to the point of severe depression or a mental break down, please take a break, delete stuff/people that trigger you, and work on your own psychological health to be better able to deal with baby encounters, because hiding from the world is not going to do any of us any good. :-) You ARE going to see babies out there, and people have a right to live their lives as publicly as they wish (or do not wish). That’s just my opinion. I think it’s an interesting topic and something we definitely need to address if it’s making people feel so bad.

Blessings to you all!

4 Jenny H.No Gravatar { 04.27.10 at 6:21 pm }

very well said Jeanne. It is true that logging on can be hard…for instance right now I have one fb friend who is having a hysterectomy today and I want to be able to see when she get online and how she’s feeling…but at the same time, three people I know gave birth (or are overdue and waiting to give birth)….and I don’t want to see it…but the worst part is some small part of me can’t help but look….
.-= Jenny H.´s last blog ..silly thought… =-.

5 Jenny H.No Gravatar { 04.27.10 at 6:25 pm }

oh and don’t even get me started on the fact that there are so many internet predators out there just searching for pictures of babies and children…If you want to share the photos with family and friends you could just send them an email…but that’s a separate issue…
.-= Jenny H.´s last blog ..silly thought… =-.

6 JennNo Gravatar { 04.27.10 at 6:28 pm }

Thank you Jeanne for raising & discussing this important topic. It’s a sensitive subject & I think there is benefit for all in honestly discussing it.

I can truly understand both sides of this. I’m sure proud moms on facebook often do not consider that their pictures may cause other women sadness. And I can see how these pictures & statuses, instead of offering hope, end up upsetting women living with infertility.

You seem to have come up with a thoughtful way to show respect to your facebook friends, those with & without children.

I’m sure your friends take great comfort in the fact that they will not encounter such pictures on your blog & appreciate your kindness & sensitivity.

Thank you for bringing this subject to my attention Jeanne.

7 JeanneNo Gravatar { 04.27.10 at 6:51 pm }

Rose,

I’m sorry that it’s difficult for you to see baby photos all the time and I agree that seeing babies is inevitable. I think the thing with Facebook is that there seems to be a particularly high concentration of these images.

In my opinion no one should be blaming anyone for anything. My intent with this post is to raise the topic for awareness and discussion. You obviously are aware of the issue from firsthand experience but many people, as Jannie noted, aren’t necessarily tuned in to it.

I appreciate your feedback. My hope is that by having a discussion about this issue more people can be made aware of how sensitive a subject this is for so many. With 1 in 8 couples affected by infertility and our society still grappling with stigma associated with it, I think it can only help to talk openly about it.

Yes, there are people who sympathize with those struggling with infertility. I know because I am one of those who sympathizes. To be clear, this issue I have raised isn’t about me. This is not an issue I wrote about from a firsthand perspective. What I mean to say is that baby pictures do not bother me personally at all.

However, I can empathize deeply with those who are bothered by them and I try my best to be sensitive to this issue because I interact with so many people who are infertile. I understand that there is a spectrum…. that some people are bothered by baby pictures and others are not, that some people (like you) are bothered some of the time (and not others), and that some people have never given the topic any thought at all. My goal is to raise the topic for awareness and help my infertile friends.

As I tried to really emphasize in the post, what each person decides to post is entirely up to him/her. So, needless to say if you were to share the pictures you described… that’s absolutely your business. I know that many people use Facebook as a tool for such sharing.

Yes, it is a sensitive subject. While it is true that Facebook is a public space, the main incident that actually inspired this post was the conversation I had with a woman who could not see my point of view. I could see hers but she, apparently, could not see mine. (Hers being one’s clear right to post what they want – which I totally agree with – and mine being my right to delete images from my own wall that I feel would upset my friends – which she just couldn’t seem to comprehend). She got angry with me for what she apparently perceived to be me dictating what she should do with her wall/profile. I never suggested that she should alter her profile but that is what she seemed to think I was suggesting.

All I was trying to do was keep my own Facebook wall from becoming filled with baby pictures.

As I said, I have been known to encourage my friends to take a break from Facebook (if that is an option for them). I don’t advocate hiding from the world; I am sensitive to my infertile friends’ situations. Since my infertile friends turn to me for support, I simply don’t feel comfortable with them getting bombarded with baby pictures on my wall. That’s just a personal choice I make. The Facebook account I use to interact with my infertile friends is set up specifically for readers of my blog, fellow patients, etc. It was initially set up to connect with endometriosis patients in particular. (Thus the account name).

I agree that people have the right to live their lives as publicly as they wish (or do not wish). That is precisely what I was trying to convey to the woman I mentioned… that I was simply exercising my right to display what I wish on my Facebook wall.

Yes, I think it is a topic worth discussing. Thank you for your feedback, Rose.

Blessings to you too! :)

Jeanne

8 DianeNo Gravatar { 04.27.10 at 7:27 pm }

Jeanne, thanks for this important post.

Before I moved recently, I was seeing a therapist who specialized in infertility issues. Her office was in my RE’s office, and the RE’s office was in the ob/gyn area of the hospital (including the maternity ward). My therapist said more than once that she regretted her office’s location, because constant exposure to babies and happy moms is traumatic for so many of her clients.

The ob/gyn area was difficult for me, but as an infertile endo patient, Facebook can particularly feel like a slap in the face, especially when it seems like everyone you know is having babies and/or posting all the cute things they say and so on. And, unlike the ob/gyn ward, you don’t know when to expect it on Facebook… you could log in and immediately see your friend’s kid’s first birthday photos right in front of you.

Regardless of my own infertility-focused feelings, I worry for the kids’ safety and privacy as well. As soon as that elated mom posts her first ultrasound photo, her child has a digital footprint even before he or she is a fully-developed human! How scary is that??

9 AmandaNo Gravatar { 04.27.10 at 7:48 pm }

Hi Jeanne,

First of all, I do hope you are well? And thanks for popping by the new site and leaving a comment – you rock!!

Now on to this post – I don’t feel qualified in any way to really comment on it because having not reached that point where we try for children I have no idea whether my endo will affect our chances and I don’t have children, so I don’t really know either side of this personally. That being said, I have come to know you incredibly well over the past few months and know that whatever you post about comes from the deepest part of your heart and compassion for those around you and so I wanted to leave my support for your own choices on how you use Facebook.

I have no other comment, just that I wish there were more Jeannes in the world and that I love and respect you lots xx

10 LindsayNo Gravatar { 04.27.10 at 7:59 pm }

I guess you can say I am on both sides of this issue. I have stage IV endometriosis and will be having a hysterectomy in exactly 10 days. I struggled with infertility. I was told at the ripe age of 19 I could not conceive naturally, and if I were to try to get pregnant through IVF it was unlikely I could carry a pregnancy to term. Meanwhile I watched my two sister-in-laws both get pregnant with ease and the jealousy/rage/and downright sadness I felt CONSUMED ME! Thinking about it now that feeling still washes over me. There were too many times to count that I detested even going out because it seemed like everyone was pregnant or had a baby…but me.

Thankfully, several years later, I was able to have two beautiful children. I completely understand where you are coming from, Jeanne and to be honest I did not even THINK before I posted my message to you on your wall. I am truly sorry if my picture made anyone sad because that was NOT my intention. Nor are the pictures on my page “inspirational” for other women. My page is mostly private except for my friends and family and I keep it that way. I truly hope women will continue to seek you for support. You are a wonderful person and thank you for the words of encouragement you have given to me.

Lindsay

11 JeanneNo Gravatar { 04.27.10 at 11:09 pm }

Jenny:

I just logged onto Facebook to check the status of the woman I believe you are referring to (a mutual Facebook friend). I just emailed you with an update from her wall… so you won’t worry. I know you aren’t logging in to Facebook today because of the three people you mentioned (that are likely to have baby stuff posted). I understand your reluctance to login. I figured this way you don’t have to wrestle with whether to login today or not. I have a test at the hospital tomorrow and don’t know when I’ll be online again. However, if you want me to pop over and check her status for you again… just let me know. When I get back online, I’ll be looking for it. (Tomorrow is my tilt table test where they will strap me to a table and try to make me pass out. So, I may take a blogging break. We’ll see).

I hear your concerns about predators and I agree that there are people searching for children like that. Early on in my blogging, there was a man who posed as a doctor and joined what seemed like every endometriosis group on Facebook. He befriended the mothers (the endometriosis patients) first. Then, over time, he transitioned to talking to the young daughters of those mothers. (As things unfolded, it became evident from piecing together many women’s reports that he had a fascination with pre-pubescent girls). He also attempted to arrange in-person meetings with endometriosis patients at awareness walks. Several bloggers and I got wind of all this after a few women expressed concern in various places on Facebook.

WARNING To The Endometriosis Community Regarding: “Dr. Gregory Smith” {UPDATED}

We cross-posted blog posts (see above) warning people about this individual and within 24 hours, “Dr. Greg’s” Facebook account was deleted. Apparently, our warnings that we posted all over endo groups on Facebook (and on our blogs) spooked him and he elected to delete his Facebook account somehow. All I know is no one could see his profile anymore. So, yes, there are predators out there targeting children all sorts of creative ways. My personal opinion is that it’s safer to share pictures of children somewhere other than a public site. So, I understand what you’re saying. To be clear, I am not judging anyone else for making different choices than mine. I share your concern, though. The “Dr. Greg” incident was just one of many eye-opening experiences I have had online (since starting a blog in June 2008) that have made me much more cautious and aware than I would have been otherwise.

Thank you for your feedback. ;)

Jenn:

Thank you so much for your feedback. I agree this is an important topic. As you mentioned, it is also a sensitive one. I too believe that an honest discussion about it stands to benefit everyone.

I do understand that many people use Facebook for the purpose of sharing such pictures and I agree that many people don’t consider that their pictures may be sad for others. I also know many people who have found such pictures to be sad – rather than a source of hope. That doesn’t mean that everyone who is infertile feels the same way, of course. Obviously, it isn’t useful to generalize. I have no doubt there is quite a spectrum of feelings on this amongst people (whether they are fertile or not).

Thank you for your kind words. I think my friends and regular blog readers have learned that I make an effort to give them a safe place to go for support and information when they are not necessarily feeling up to logging into Facebook.

I appreciate your feedback. :)

Diane:

It is not unusual for therapists who specialize in infertility issues to be part of a specialized gynecology practice or hospital setting like this. I am so sorry that you had to access your therapist’s office by going through the OB/GYN and maternity areas of the hospital. While I can see where a reproductive endocrinologist’s office or hospital might find this set-up more convenient for them, it clearly in not in the best interests of infertile patients to have to traipse through the OB/GYN area to see the therapist treating them for infertility! :(

It’s interesting to note how many people tell me what you are saying here… that Facebook is a particularly tough place to deal with regarding these issues. For some people, Facebook seems to be the single toughest place to go… based on what people tell me. As you pointed out, you knew it was coming when you headed off to a therapy appointment. You might not have liked it but you had an opportunity to mentally prepare for it.

With Facebook, you may try to mentally prepare before logging in and everything may be going smoothly… until you find pictures in an unexpected place. There is something about that factor of not really being able to prepare for it until it’s right in your face that many people have mentioned to me. That’s one of the reasons I wrote this post… because so many people have described it in a very similar fashion to what you said. That’s why I wanted to open the topic for discussion. It affects so many people and yet so many other people are truly unaware that it’s even an issue at all.

Like you and Jenny, I have privacy and safety concerns regarding picture sharing. The digital footprint part concerns me too because even if you decide to delete pictures, blogs, or other data from the Internet… cached files remain. I have seen people share information online and then wish not to share that information at a later date. Whereas they deleted the data as best they could, it was not possible to delete every file. This data can then stay out there for years and years after it has been deleted. With hiring companies Googling people and performing various background checks, sometimes information that people willingly posted online at one point becomes an issue later on… that they hadn’t anticipated.

Having had my identity stolen on Twitter (see my left sidebar “Why I Left Twitter”) even though I consider myself more cautious than many people regarding online privacy and safety, I got a long, hard, ugly look at some of the twisted things some people do using social media. I used to absolutely love Twitter. I used it to spread awareness, network with fellow patients, share my blog links, etc. It was only once my account had been “cloned” that I really got a good look at the dark underbelly of Twitter. It was not pretty. Does that mean Twitter is “bad”? No. For me, I decided to stop using Twitter because I could see the risks associated with that site in particular were ones with which I was not comfortable. There are privacy risks I don’t care for on Facebook as well. For me, it was worth staying on Facebook and it was not worth staying on Twitter.

My point in bringing up Twitter is really that I got to see some depraved individuals at work right before I cleaned out the data as best I could and closed my account. That experience happened last fall but has certainly stuck with me and helps me to keep my guard up and make the privacy choices with which I’m comfortable.

Amanda:

It is nice to hear from you! I appreciate you taking the time to pop over here while in the midst of both moving and starting up your own business! I am very excited for you with your new site and business venture and I hope it goes wonderfully. :)

I appreciate your kind words, as always! I have a deep respect for you after having gotten to know you incredibly well over the past few months. ;) Your hard work, compassion for others, and creativity are inspiring… and your candid posts about endometriosis are a gift to anyone who reads them. I know you’ve had some challenges to contend with and that it has been tough on you but you always strive to keep a focus on the positive.

I wish there were more Amandas in the world and I’m sending you some hugs to England! I love you too, Amanda! xo

Lindsay:

Welcome to my blog! I deeply appreciate you taking the time and effort to leave a blog comment. I know you have been in crisis mode recently and I have been popping in to check your wall occasionally to stay posted on where you’re at. I know that you have an enormous amount going on right now and I’m amazed that you found time to leave a blog comment. So, thank you.

I was not aware that you are having a hysterectomy in 10 days. I have been trying to follow the other events that have been going on in your life and somehow wasn’t aware of that piece. Thank you for mentioning it. That way I can be thinking of you. I’m so sorry for the emotional pain of everything you’ve been through.

Please don’t apologize for posting on my wall. As I mentioned in the direct message I sent back then (a couple of weeks ago from what I remember), I didn’t want you to be hurt by popping over to my wall and seeing your comment was gone. I sent you that message so that you wouldn’t be left wondering why I had done so. Sometimes I tend to over-explain things but I’d rather explain why I have done something like that than have someone take it personally and/or have no idea why I did it.

I know we have been linked on Facebook for a relatively short time. If I’m not mistaken, we may have gotten linked due to the “mutual friends” function on Facebook. I believe we got connected last month when I added quite a few Facebook friends in the course of Endometriosis Awareness Month. In any event, I didn’t want to hurt or offend you by discarding your message without explanation. That was when I direct messaged you. So, I think that is how I came to be one of the few people you’re connected to on Facebook other than your friends and family. Thank you so much for your kind words. I have been thinking about you after reading your Facebook updates regarding recent dramatic events you’ve experienced and have been sending positive energy your way. I’ll keep you in my thoughts! ;)

~~~

Jeanne

12 JennNo Gravatar { 04.27.10 at 11:24 pm }

Jeanne,

I just wanted to let you know that you will be in my thoughts tomorrow. I hope everything goes well.
.-= Jenn´s last blog ..NATIONAL INFERTILITY AWARENESS WEEK =-.

13 JeanneNo Gravatar { 04.27.10 at 11:35 pm }

Jenn,

Thank you so much. I am a little nervous. I wrote a 5-part series last summer on dysautonomia. It explains why I’m having the tilt table test. My biggest concern though is how I am going to get out of here by 6:30 am. (The hospital is an hour away). I am NOT a morning person. I really appreciate your support.

On a separate note, I’m not sure I have ever seen a new blogger get so much accomplished right out of the gate the way you have! I admire your effort and passion regarding the endometriosis cause. As you would put it, I’m happy to have you as a new “endo friendo”. ;)

I encourage readers to check out Jenn’s new blog.

Take care,

Jeanne

P.S. I can’t remember the last time a post got this much traffic. The response is overwhelming. I truly believe this is a hot-button issue for many and only hope that this post can help in small way.

14 Lori Eakin-RichardsNo Gravatar { 04.28.10 at 6:32 pm }

Very interesting post; I too see both sides of the issue of whether or not to post pictures of one’s children — but I totally agree that if you have a criteria for what to allow on your wall, this is well within your rights. The one thing I wanted to add was regarding the whole “child predator” thing, though. Social networking researcher danah boyd has written on this topic and from one of her earlier discussions she says:

“Unfortunately, predators lurk wherever youth hang out. Since youth are on MySpace, there are bound to be predators on MySpace. Yet, predators do not use online information to abduct children; children face a much higher risk of abduction or molestation from people they already know – members of their own family or friends of the family. Statistically speaking, kids are more at risk at a church picnic or a boy scout outing than they are when they go on MySpace. Less than .01% of all youth abductions nationwide are stranger abductions and as far as we know, no stranger abduction has occurred because of social network services. The goal of a predator is to get a child to consent to sexual activities. Predators contact teens (online and offline) to start a conversation. Just as most teens know to say no to strange men who approach them on the street, most know to ignore strange men who approach them online. When teenagers receive solicitations from adults on MySpace, most report deleting them without question. Those who report responding often talk about looking for attention or seeking a risk. Of those who begin conversations, few report meeting these strangers.

“The media often reference a Crimes Against Children report that states one in five children receive a sexual solicitation online. A careful reading of this report shows that 76% of the unwanted solicitations came from fellow children. This includes unwanted date requests and sexual taunts from fellow teens. Of the adult solicitations, 96% are from people 18-25; wanted and unwanted solicitations are both included. In other words, if an 18 year old asks out a 17 year old and both consent, this would still be seen as a sexual solicitation. Only 10% of the solicitations included a request for a physical encounter; most sexual solicitations are for cybersex. While the report shows that a large percentage of youth are faced with uncomfortable or offensive experiences online, there is no discussion of how many are faced with uncomfortable or offensive experiences at school, in the local shopping mall or through other mediated channels like telephone.

“Although the media has covered the potential risk extensively, few actual cases have emerged. While youth are at minimal risk, predators are regularly being lured out by law enforcement patrolling the site. Most notably, a deputy in the Department of Homeland Security was arrested for seeking sex with a minor.

“The fear of predators has regularly been touted as a reason to restrict youth from both physical and digital publics. Yet, as Barry Glassner notes in The Culture of Fear, predators help distract us from more statistically significant molesters. Youth are at far greater risk of abuse in their homes and in the homes of their friends than they ever are in digital or physical publics.”
(Discussion: MySpace and Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA) )

I suspect this is true. I was (and am) constantly surprised by the level of online sophistication my children showed/show, even at an early age. Kind of sad in some ways, reassuring in others.

15 JennNo Gravatar { 04.28.10 at 9:59 pm }

Thank you Jeanne! I will check out your series, I am not familiar with dysautonomia.

Thank you! That is a HUGE compliment coming from you!!! (I am grinning from ear to ear). I admire you too & appreciate all the help & support you have given me. You have really inspired me as my new endo friendo.

I’m glad to hear you’re okay. Oh, and we have something else in common, I am also NOT a morning person.

I think this post already has helped & will continue to.
.-= Jenn´s last blog ..NATIONAL INFERTILITY AWARENESS WEEK =-.

16 JeanneNo Gravatar { 04.28.10 at 11:37 pm }

Lorraine,

Welcome to my blog! I appreciate your feedback. While I generally try to do a point by point type of reply to blog comments, I am going to make an effort not to stray too far off of the initial topic (the impact of baby/ultrasound pictures and parenthood memes on many of my Facebook friends and how I handle it). So, I’m not going to do a detailed point by point reply to everything you mentioned simply because the whole idea of the post was to sensitize people to the impact such pictures and mom memes have on so many people who have infertility.

That said, since Internet privacy issues have been raised in previous comments I will reply as best I can to your comment (i.e. I will reply without focusing too much on the child-centered issues because the comment thread could easily continue into more and more talk about children)… Since so many people reading this post are experiencing infertility and since so many previous commentators may be subscribed to follow-up comments for this post, I just don’t want to veer too far into discussing issues involving children.

That said I do have a few things to add to the “child predator” portion of the discussion. (If anyone receiving an email notification with blog comment follow-ups would rather not discuss these particular issues further, I’ll try to keep my comments as brief as I can and obviously you can disregard this comment of mine if you wish).

With regard to the quote about Danah Boyd’s research, I think it is common sense that predators hang out where they are most likely to find people to prey upon (regardless of the age of the potential victim and regardless of what the predator’s goal is). While safety/privacy issues related to picture posting were raised on previous comments, no one specifically talked about abduction (at least not that I recall). I have certainly heard the stats that people are more likely to be abused (to use a general term and not get caught up in a loaded discussion on abduction or molestation) by people they know than by strangers without getting into a detailed discussion on statistical odds of x, y, or z occurring. To be honest, any amount of increase in the odds of such abuse that can be easily avoided should be. That is just my opinion. I know many people think that is overly cautious. My personal perspective is that posting pictures online rather than sharing them in some non-public way (i.e. sending pictures to friends and relatives via email such as Jenny mentioned in a previous comment) is taking a risk that isn’t needed. Whether or not the odds are higher for a predator to target someone in some way other than social media or not isn’t really the point. I do understand that one could argue that the non-social media places you mentioned could pose more risk than a given social media site. I do not believe that means people should live in hiding or live in a bubble. I hear what you’re saying that emailing pictures to friends or family could be riskier than posting them online. I am not a statistician and that may very well be true.

Without getting into a potential motive by potential motive discussion and without reliving the “Dr. Greg” incident I mentioned in a previous blog comment (because I know far more details about that situation than I posted on my blog and they were truly disturbing), I will say that “Dr. Greg” did use Facebook to chat with young girls, did attempt to set up in-person meetings with people under the pretense that he was walking in support of endometriosis patients, and did make some very disturbing comments that made dozens of my Facebook friends who belong to endometriosis groups on Facebook feel he certainly had the potential to commit crimes. I’ll leave it at that. Honestly, that unfolded in January 2009 and it is still very upsetting to think about. I referenced it in a previous blog comment here as an example of a time when I personally had witnessed what I (and many others) perceived to be predatory behavior by an individual who used social media to target women and girls. The girls involved (unlike the people Danah Boyd referenced) did NOT know to “ignore” this man because he wasn’t considered a “stranger” by them since their own mothers had been instant messaging with the same man first. It doesn’t really matter to me how rare an occurrence this might be statistically or how many more people get preyed upon by friends and relatives than by strangers. I just don’t see the need to add any more odds to the pile. All I know is I was a new blogger when I witnessed this and I have seen many others troubling things online in the time since (not limited to child predator issues… I’m speaking of all sorts of troubling things – including crimes).

To be frank, the breakdown of statistics demographically doesn’t change the fact that I personally am not comfortable with this type of data sharing. Also, whether a predator is seeking to cause harm in person or online, neither is a good thing. Psychological harm done online is a safety issue. I can’t speak for previous commentators but when I was talking about Internet privacy/safety issues, I was speaking in a broad sense. I wasn’t referring to odds of abductions or molestation when comparing people the victim knows versus strangers they meet online. I was speaking about Internet safety/privacy in general. My intent was never to compare the risks for social media to expose one to predators vs. the risks inherent in “real life”.

As far as the media is concerned, that is another topic that may threaten to throw this comment thread off course. I’ll just say that I’m well aware that what the media chooses to cover is certainly rarely proportionate to what happens in real life on any topic.

Lorraine, I confess that I only took a very brief peek at the Danah Boyd link you included because it delves into off topic issues for this post. My time and energy is limited with my many chronic illnesses and I want to try to stay on course with this thread of comments.

Readers, while I want to try to avoid straying further off of the initial topic of the post, I realize that given Lorraine’s comments and mine there may be some people who do wish to check out more information on “Keeping Kids Safer on the Internet: Tips for Parents and Guardians” (including a section on the benefits vs. risks of children using social media):

Info from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

Again, I realize that this link is really veering into the off-topic zone but I figured I’d include one more link for anyone who wishes to see more information on these issues.

As important as Internet security is (and I personally believe it’s very important), I don’t want to lose sight of the main purpose for this post. My purpose was to make people aware/more aware of the impact that baby/ultrasound pictures have on many people who are struggling to build their families. In the course of the discussion, several of us (myself included) talked about Internet privacy/safety issues because it is another reason why some people choose not to display such images on public sites like Facebook.

I want to be sure, though, that we don’t lose site of the post content itself for all of the child predator discussion that has followed. I want to be sure we are providing support to infertile readers reading this.

Lorraine, thank you very much for the time and energy you took to share your feedback to this post. I appreciate it. :)

Jeanne

17 JeanneNo Gravatar { 04.28.10 at 11:57 pm }

Jenn,

Thanks. Not to go off-topic but very quickly… I learned a great deal about dysautonomia last summer. The 5-part series of posts on it get into the details. That is why I had a tilt table test today (which went well). Basically, I faint every summer. But that’s a topic for the dysautonomia posts.

The compliment Jenn referenced was one I left on her blog:

“Jenn, It’s hard to believe you are a brand new blogger… because you blog like a pro! Look at you go! Thank you so very much for posting about National Infertility Awareness Week! Jeanne :)

Jenn has gone above and beyond. As a brand new blogger, she is already writing about infertility awareness week and many endometriosis issues. She is advocate for infertility & endo right out of the gate, so to speak. I highly recommend checking out her blog. ;)

Jenn, it has been fun getting to know you recently.

Yes, I’m OK. The tilt table test this morning was better than I thought. I was shocked to leave the house by 6:30 am but I made it to the hospital in time.

Thank you, Jenn!

P.S. Readers who are wondering what Jenn and I are talking about, I had a tilt table test today. See my 5-part series of posts on dysautonomia for more info. Thanks!

18 JennNo Gravatar { 04.29.10 at 12:16 am }

Jeanne,

The info about “Dr. Greg” shows just how devious predators can be & it is terribly frightening. But that is a huge topic of its own, and I don’t want to veer off course from your original post.

I want to focus on the importance of bringing this topic to people’s attention. We cannot be sensitive to others if we are unaware. Endo & infertility are unfortunately taboo subjects, and bringing to light the emotions & issues they involve can help build understanding.

Thanks again for starting this discussion.
.-= Jenn´s last blog ..NATIONAL INFERTILITY AWARENESS WEEK =-.

19 JeanneNo Gravatar { 04.29.10 at 12:28 am }

Jenn,

I agree the “Dr. Greg” case is an example of the lengths to which such a predator will go. Yes, it’s a huge topic of it’s own.

It’s true that it’s difficult to be sensitive to an issue if one is not aware of it on a meaningful level. Yes, endometriosis and infertility are (both) taboo subjects… sadly. I totally agree that bringing to light the emotions and other issues tied to these conditions is absolutely crucial to increasing understanding in the general public.

Thank you.

Jeanne

20 Kelly DNo Gravatar { 04.29.10 at 1:21 am }

A great post about such a sensitive topic. Good timing with NIAW! Good luck with your Table Tilt test.
.-= Kelly D´s last blog ..National Infertility Awareness Week =-.

21 JeanneNo Gravatar { 04.29.10 at 1:24 am }

Kelly,

Thank you. Yes, I thought National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW) would be a good time to bring this subject up. My TTT went well this morning. Thanks for asking.

Hope you are well! ;)

Jeanne

22 Pamela JeanneNo Gravatar { 04.29.10 at 10:26 am }

Great post — and one that fits perfectly for National Infertility Awareness Week. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, women who once had problems conceiving then found themselves on the other side side and promptly proceeded to do nothing but gloat about their pregnancy and motherhood are the worst sort of hypocrites. To then become a smug baby/mommy FB photo junkie — well that goes beyond insensitive to just plain cruel. What is it they say, converts make the worst zealots?

23 JeanneNo Gravatar { 04.29.10 at 10:53 am }

Pamela Jeanne,

Thanks. I too have encountered women who once had trouble conceiving and then became mothers only to inundate their Facebook friends with baby pictures. (To be clear, not all formerly infertile moms do this but it is pretty common from what I have seen and heard). The women I have known who fit this category are linked on Facebook to a large number of women who are infertile (from their days of being infertile and networking with other infertile women).

Once they become mothers and post large amounts of baby pictures, knowing that they are linked to a large number of infertile friends via Facebook, I guess I just don’t understand how they can seem unaware of how hurtful this can be to their friends when they themselves were devastated seeing such images not too long ago.

Again, I want to re-emphasize that what someone posts on his/her own Facebook profile/wall is a personal decision that is certainly up to him/her.

I don’t know what the “answer” is in cases where a formerly infertile mother decides to go the Facebook baby picture route. In a case like that, maybe it’s in the best interests of both parties (the fertile posting pictures and the infertile who is potentially upset by them) to disconnect the Facebook relationship at that point? The infertile people I have seen this happen to get nothing but hurt and sadness when this transition occurs for their friend who has transitioned from being infertile to being a parent (in cases where that formerly infertile parent posts these images and the infertile individual feels bombarded with them).

Pamela, thank you for your feedback. :)

Jeanne

24 Jannie FunsterNo Gravatar { 04.29.10 at 2:46 pm }

Jeanne!

I agree with Amanda’s words about you and this post exactly…

“whatever you post about comes from the deepest part of your heart and compassion for those around you”

You are very very special. And caring!!

Amen on that!!

xo

25 JeanneNo Gravatar { 04.29.10 at 2:54 pm }

Jannie,

Awwwwwwww! Thank you. You ought to know since you are brimming with compassion and you care so much about others. That goes ditto for you, Amanda dear! ;)

Thank you very much. You have a wonderful day, Jannie Funster!

Jeanne

26 EndochickNo Gravatar { 04.29.10 at 7:09 pm }

Jeanne,

Your post, and our conversations together, inspired me to post on this topic, as well. Fertile people can’t walk in the shoes of people who struggle to have a child. While my endo related infertility was short lived, others struggle for years. Thanks for your post.
.-= Endochick´s last blog ..Facebook, where a picture is worth a thousand words =-.

27 JeanneNo Gravatar { 04.29.10 at 7:42 pm }

Endochick,

Yes, we’ve had some interesting conversations about this topic, haven’t we?

I just read your post about this same topic and wanted to give the link here so other people can see it:

Facebook, where a picture is worth a thousand words

I really appreciate you taking the time and energy to post something about this issue. I know you have a great deal going on in your personal life now (!) and that blog posts are few and far between. So I know that taking the time to write the post you did was difficult.

Thank you! :)

Jeanne

28 Jenny H.No Gravatar { 04.29.10 at 8:26 pm }

Hi Jeanne,
I agree that it’s important to stay on topic…as I said it was a separate issue…I didn’t mean to deflect the conversation…

I’m so glad this post is getting lots of attention because as much as I am an open book about everything endo and IF related in my life, this is something I just can’t bring myself to admit to my pregnant/parent friends. I feel like it’s not fair for me to bring up how hard it is for me to see their u/s pics and worse their glowing baby bumps…
.-= Jenny H.´s last blog ..seriously?? =-.

29 JeanneNo Gravatar { 04.29.10 at 10:17 pm }

Jenny,

I’m glad this topic is getting lots of attention too because it affects so many people I know. Your situation of being an open book about endometriosis and infertility in general but still being hesitant to share your discomfort over ultrasound/baby pictures or pictures of growing bellies is not unusual.

Many infertility patients I know keep these feelings to themselves (even those who are open about infertility in other ways). The women I know who keep quiet about it are afraid of hurting their friends’ or loved ones’ feelings.

While it is great that they want to protect their friends/loved ones’ feelings, I think perhaps by staying silent they tend to feel even more hurt by things (i.e. frustrated at needing to bottle up their feelings, sad) than they would if they felt they could just be honest with their friends/loved ones and talk openly about it. This silence is draining emotionally to them and can lead to feelings of isolation. So, in the course of staying silent about how they really feel, their feelings end up getting hurt. I am guessing that you follow what I mean.

It’s a tough situation because staying silent leaves many infertility patients feeling hurt and, on the other hand, sharing their feelings with friends and loved ones runs the risk of hurtful comments being made back to them (which could hurt even more). I don’t really know what the best way to approach things is… I just know that you are definitely not alone in your feelings. (I cannot tell you how much more traffic this post is getting than a typical post. Clearly this topic is a widespread issue if the post’s traffic is any indication)!

Jeanne

30 JeanneNo Gravatar { 04.30.10 at 1:11 am }

Everyone,

Good news! It looks like Endochick may well have discovered a way that one can hide Facebook photos from specified people! ;) We just need to verify the settings (we may need to tweak the current directions slightly for those who are interested in how to set it up). I will post more details as soon as I know more… I’m just trying to make sure we have the settings correct. Thank you, Endochick, for coming up with a possible solution!

Thanks!

Jeanne

31 Bree E.No Gravatar { 07.14.10 at 7:03 pm }

I just deleted my FB account. I promised myself that if one more U/S profile pic gets posted, I’m out. I did it. I don’t feel disconnected from everyone. I feel free. After all, isn’t it facebook that’s telling us always stay connected? Bah.

32 JeanneNo Gravatar { 07.14.10 at 7:07 pm }

Welcome Bree!

I’m glad you did what works for you. There are other ways to stay connected with people besides Facebook. ;) I know many people struggle with these pictures. Sending positive thoughts and energy your way!

Jeanne

33 Kim HoppersNo Gravatar { 07.24.11 at 2:29 am }

I am so very sorry for the pain these women are going through. I have been there and I know how hard it is. Thank you for your insightful blog.

34 JeanneNo Gravatar { 07.24.11 at 11:54 pm }

Welcome Kim!

I am amazed at how many visitors this post is still getting in light of the fact that I wrote it in April 2010. I guess maybe that is an indicator of just how prevalent these issues are and how many people are struggling with them. I’m sorry for what you went through. Thank you for your thoughtful feedback.

Jeanne

35 AmandaNo Gravatar { 07.25.11 at 4:18 am }

Wow, it is strange reading this and realising how different my position is now to when I first read it and commented on it!

As you know (I’m sure we discussed this?!) I thought long and hard about how to broach my own pregnancy on my blog because I was both incredibly aware of how lucky we were to fall pregnant so easily and also how hard it would be for some readers to see the odd post about how terribly ill I had been through pregnancy because I was in my own hell early on but I still knew I was experiencing a hell that many women would give anything to go through.

I have tried my hardest to maintain a balance between my pregnancy and non-pregnancy posts, which felt right *for me* because my blog was always about every aspect of my life and not just about Endometriosis and was never an infertility blog. I knew that by avoiding writing about the pregnancy and the horrendous effects it has had on my body I would be doing just as much injustice to the Hyperemesis community as writing about pregnancy might to the infertile community. Does that make sense?

I do try to limit my use of photos and have purposefully never used a pregnancy photo as my avatar on Facebook. But I have posted a couple of scan and pregnancy photos on there for friends and family to see. For me it is about trying to find a balance, which is so very difficult. I am still unsure how this balance will work once the baby is here as I am sure I will have a lot I want to write about, and as my work online is all about sharing the ups and downs of life and every aspect of it that I experience, I cannot avoid writing about our family.

And I think that is the point that people often miss when they read a post like yours… you’re not saying people shouldn’t ever write about these things, but that a little bit of forethought might help to lessen the pain of another. By simply thinking, “could this hurt someone? Can I write/show it a different way to lessen that hurt? Or can I maybe “block” that particular person from seeing this one particular update so that the trigger isn’t there for them?” we can limit the hurt whilst still enjoying the freedom to share as many pregnancy and baby related pictures and updates as possible. And the same goes for other aspects of life as well.

Just wanted to comment a second time on this post now I’m coming from a different position to where I was last time I posted xx

36 JeanneNo Gravatar { 07.27.11 at 6:07 pm }

Amanda,

I know your situation has changed since when you had first commented here… and that it can be difficult to know precisely how to go about sharing your own situation with your readers.

I also know how extremely ill you have been and how very difficult things have been for you trying to stay out of the hospital.

You are all about being candid with what’s happening in your life and it would be impossible for you not to make any mention of your [trigger alert] hyperemesis gravidarum when it caused you to be so incredibly ill.

Only you can decide what is right for your site. You are the only one who can find the balance that feels right to you. It does make sense that you wanted to share information about your own situation. Who knows? By sharing it, you might help someone else going through something similar. (I know one of my readers has had a similar experience to yours and I passed the link you provided on to her to potentially help her deal with her symptoms).

As you said, your blog isn’t an infertility blog. So, it’s not like you have converted an infertility blog into a parenthood blog and left some of your readers feeling confused. My situation is different in that I have written quite a bit about infertility and I feel the right thing for me to do with my blog is not to delve into pregnancy/parenthood issues at all. You need to do what works for you, though. I believe this is as it should be.

This post was focused on Facebook because so many women have contacted me about this “photo phenomenon” on Facebook. (I think the fact that this – old – post received almost 200 visitors in just one day last week simply because someone I don’t even know posted the link to it on an infertility forum somewhere speaks to the number of people who are affected by this issue of “triggering photos” on Facebook).

I do think that when people exercise some forethought into things, it really can minimize the odds of hurting someone’s feelings. This applies to “real life” as well as online.

A friend recently told me the story of a co-worker who said and did numerous things that were hurtful to my friend – only to later realize that my friend’s situation is what it is (long story). Since they are professional colleagues (as opposed to friends or family), there was never an appropriate time or way for my friend to inform this person of her own infertility situation. It was only recently that an opportunity presented itself for my friend to explain to the other woman – upon some questioning by that woman – what her medical situation is). Too often, people simply assume that anyone and everyone is fertile. Our society seems to leave many people clouded in this misinformation.

Obviously, you are well aware that fertility is definitely not a given and that millions of people struggle with infertility. You’ve given much thought to how to handle the topics discussed here.

Thanks for sharing your additional feedback. xo

Jeanne

37 MartinaNo Gravatar { 08.08.11 at 1:00 am }

Facebook is the only way I can keep up with my cousins, aunts, and uncles. They all live 400 miles away and phone calls can’t always be made because of peoples busy schedules. I also keep up with friends from high school and college. Everyone has full and active lives that include children. Seeing ultrasound/baby/toddler pics hurts a lot, but in no way am I trying to blame anyone for my infertility struggles. It is what it is.

I really have no support for my infertility from anyone in my life. I even have an older sister who tells me that infertility isn’t so bad and in that same sentence she’ll say how grateful she is for her 3 kids and how she wouldn’t trade them for the world. Crazy! Also my brother attacked me verbally for posting pictures of positive ovulation tests when I was on Clomid. Way to treat a woman who’s already super emotional from fertility treatments. Geez.

My only consolation about Facebook and infertility is that even people with children still have personal problems. Are they able to afford their rent? Do they have food in their cabinets? Were they just laid off? Is their partner cheating? Is their car broken down and they have no money to fix it?

Another thing I keep in mind is that pictures are just memories. Last year I got married. I have an entire photo album on FB filled with my wedding pictures. I have friends on Facebook who are dying to get married. Does that mean I should take my memories of my special day down because of their sadness? No, not at all.

38 JeanneNo Gravatar { 08.10.11 at 12:14 am }

Welcome Martina!

I’m sorry that you don’t have support from anyone in your life regarding infertility. There are some great sites for meeting fellow patients and exchanging mutual support. Possibly this might be helpful for you. I’m sorry your sister seems to have dismissed your emotional pain while subsequently rubbing your nose in things (however unintentional it may have been on her part, I’m sure her comments must have hurt). I’m also sorry to hear about your brother verbally attacking you. I would imagine that was hurtful too.

Everyone has personal problems. I don’t think anyone is immune to them.

I’m glad that sharing pictures of your special (wedding) day gave you pleasure… and you make a good point that people are at all different phases of their life and their situations vary widely. So it’s just about impossible to guarantee that no one will be offended no matter what one does.

Thanks for stopping by.

Jeanne

39 HeatherNo Gravatar { 12.05.13 at 1:02 pm }

I know this is an old post, but I came across it in searching for how to deal with my own situation. I have spent the last year dealing with secondary infertility (I have three children). Last night my sister sent me a Facebook message telling me that she is accidentally pregnant with her third child. She did not know about my miscarriages, but with that announcement I felt that I needed to tell her because I knew that it was going to cause trouble for me on Facebook. She told me that she feels horrible and that she’s so sorry and then within 20 minutes of getting this information from me, posted a status update about it. And in the past 12 hours has posted several more. I cannot believe that my own sister would be so thoughtless of my feelings to not even give me enough time to hide her from my newsfeed before going baby crazy. I’m just so hurt by her lack of consideration…I feel like I need her to just disappear…and then I feel really guilty about that because she’s my only sister. But the paragraph that you included about your friend’s sister gave me perspective. She really is being that thoughtless…and I’m not as crazy as I thought for feeling this way. Thank you for that.

40 JeanneNo Gravatar { 01.24.14 at 7:46 pm }

Welcome Heather!

I am really sorry it took me so long to post your comment and reply to it. I haven’t been online in a long time. I am sorry for the losses you have experienced (with the miscarriages that your sister didn’t previously know about). I’m also very sorry that you are in the situation you described with your sister’s Facebook statuses upsetting you. I’m sorry for the emotional pain it’s causing you to experience. I’m glad that the story posted gave you some small comfort in the aspect that it isn’t just you going through this type of experience. While that may be a small consolation, sometimes it’s helpful to have feelings be validated by someone who has gone through a similar experience. Give yourself permission to do what you need to do to cope with this. Whether it’s blocking feeds or whatever works for you. Thank you for your remarks and I hope that things have calmed down on your end.

Jeanne

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