“You should post the link to the petition on Facebook,” I tell Mark one morning.
“Okay, I will,” he replies.
“I think you should do it now,” I insist.
“Okay, fine. But how do I do it? What should I say?” he asks.
“Gawwwwwd. You should know these things. Since you’re Mr. Social Media now,” I answer, annoyed.
“It doesn’t matter,” Mark explains, “You made me delete most my friends. I only have like 60.”
It’s true. Shortly after Matthew died, I made Mark delete those with whom we don’t interact in real life.
“You have like 90,” I correct him, “And we should do it for Matthew.”
“Okay fine, I’ll do it,” he agrees.
We’re discussing a petition for the Obama administration to declare stillbirth a national health crisis and develop guidelines to advocate better screening. If you’ve been touched by Matthew’s story and reside in the US, please take two minutes to sign it.
The petition contains some typos – it was started by a newly bereaved parent, obviously motivated to act quickly. The errors bother me (my mom informs me of errors in my blog that creep past my proofreading process, and I thank her and correct them immediately), but it’s a worthy petition, nonetheless.
In the US, ~26,000 babies are stillborn each year – 1/160. And the figure is probably higher, since it doesn’t include cases like Matthew’s. Doctors often flippantly tell newly bereaved parents, “This just happens sometimes.” While stillbirth does indeed “happen sometimes,” this lackluster response to what’s believed to be, in many cases, a potentially preventable tragedy is, quite frankly, unacceptable fucked up. Perhaps the US can follow the UK’s lead on this issue…
The petition needs 100,000 signatures by December 10, 2015 (virtually impossible), but 10,000 signatures (still possible) should elicit a response from the Obama administration.
“Did you share it on Facebook?” I ask Mark later that afternoon.
“Yes,” he answers.
“Did anyone ‘like’ or comment or share?”
“I don’t know.”
“Can you check?”
“One like, one share.”
Mark names two bereaved parents from support group. I’m annoyed.
Mark doesn’t post often. These are the only things we CAN post about Matthew. For the rest of our lives. And one like, one share. That’s all we get. How many likes/comments would a picture of Matthew in some adorable outfit have received? Answer – MORE THAN ONE. That’s for effing sure.
Over the next few days, Mark’s post gets three more likes. That weekend, I do coffee with a fellow loss mom. She recently deactivated Facebook, but her husband shared Mark’s post earlier that week. His response? Crickets. I’m sad again.
I’m putting myself out there with this post. But, based on discussions with friends, I’m fairly certain interactions similar to the above take place all the time, yet no one talks about it. But it’s true. People make Facebook posts and wait for the “likes” and comments to roll in. They’re proud when it happens and frustrated when it doesn’t.
People who insist they don’t get caught up in all this are lying.
It’s fine – it’s our culture now, in the social media age. And I won’t deny the many benefits of social media, including Facebook.
But I, as a bereaved mother, deactivated Facebook, and I’ll likely never return, even if/when life gets a little brighter. So I’ve made a list…
I’m aware similar lists exist all over the internet – “All the reasons I hate Facebook, and yada, yada…” But my voice is a bit unique – a bereaved parent’s perspective. And, all the time, people ask me why I can’t do Facebook anymore.
In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention I deactivated Facebook before I knew I was pregnant. Though, I cheated, often looking at Mark’s newsfeed. Still, deactivating broke my addiction (Mark’s high school and college friends were a major snooze fest).
So it’s not like Matthew’s death converted me from Facebook lover to Facebook hater. Rather, it converted me from “taking a long break from Facebook, but I’ll likely return someday” to “Facebook is damaging to my well-being, and no way in hell will I ever return.”
Anyway, here’s 19 reasons I quit Facebook… forever.
#1 – I believe Facebook caused me to LOSE touch with friends who wrongly assumed we’d been interacting. After I deactivated, friends explained they missed me, which seemed odd, because I’d been a newsfeed peruser, occasional liker, and rare poster. So how could they miss me? Did they miss that tiny square with my face? Did they converse with said tiny square when it popped up on newsfeed? WTF?!
#2 – Facebook is great for displaying pictures of your perfect family with all its members, which I will NEVER have. Nuff said.
#3 – Facebook-using bereaved parents explain pictures of living children receive ~20x more “likes” than pictures of, or posts relating to, deceased children. That’s tough to stomach considering I’ll forever place equal importance on all family members, living or deceased.
#4 – Facebook-using bereaved parents say they’re sometimes unfriended for posting about deceased children. #suchbullshit #peoplesuck
#5 – I’d rather avoid random grief-trigger blindsides I’d never have seen in a Facebook-less world. Is that stupid girl from high school expecting her seventh child? Yep. Does she smoke and drink while pregnant and have healthy, living children despite it all? Yep. Will it work out great this time too? Of course. Could I just un-follow or unfriend her? Yep, but it’s easier to just not worry about it.
#6 – Facebook is too happy. People share filtered versions of their lives. And I don’t need to compare my insides to their outsides.
#7 – Facebook is too competitive. Like whose kids are wearing the best Halloween costumes? I’m going to lose every single fucking time. Because my child died. So I’d rather not play. Poor sport? Maybe.
#8 – I’ll risk pissing someone off and just say it – Facebook is, at its core, mostly “me-focused”. That’s not to say all Facebook users, or uses, are selfish. And sharing pictures with far-away friends and family isn’t selfish. But users with 2,000 friends, who constantly update on their “perfect” lives – they’re motivated by more than “keeping in touch”.
And is my friend constantly posting pictures of her baby who’s exactly Matthew’s age? Of course. Because her life continues despite my tragedy. And she has a RIGHT to share her beautiful pictures. And NOTHING will stop her. And all that’s true. But it’s not what’d I’d do if the situations were flipped. Posting was never super important to me, but since it is to her, I’ll just stay away rather than analyze why we’re different in this way. Again, I’d un-follow or unfriend, but why bother?
I’m aware blogging also seems “me-focused”. Though, because I aim to heal myself through writing, spread awareness, and support other bereaved parents, it feels a little less so.
#9 – Facebook encourages me to covet aspects of my neighbors’ lives. Yep, I wish my child would have lived too.
#10 – Facebook reminds me most babies live, which is a GREAT thing, but it doesn’t do much for me in the way of normalizing my grief.
#11 – Seldom did one’s Facebook behavior further endear him/her to me. Most often, it was a neutral or negative effect. And I doubt MY Facebook behavior, limited as it was, further endeared me to others.
#12 – Facebook is too risky. Did Molly update, yet again, to complain she can’t find a qualified nanny? I might write an inappropriate comment most would frown upon – like, “STFU, Molly – want to hear about real problems?!” Some problems seem small to me now… #sorrynotsorry
#13 – Ditching Facebook allows me to focus on who matters. How do I identify true friends among a group hitting “like” on posts? Without Facebook, I do more walks, coffee dates, lunches, and dinners with friends. I’m getting to know them more deeply, and, I find, I’m even interested in hearing about their children. I much prefer these real life relationships, uncluttered by Facebook interactions.
#14 – Facebook would disturb my impenetrable “circle of trust”. And I refuse to be penetrated by unsupportive people… Wait, I worded that awkwardly. But, seriously, interacting with those who’ve not walked with me since July 13, 2015 usually proves detrimental to my well-being.
#15 – Facebook is a time suck. And I need time for healing activities like yoga, reading, and blogging.
#16 – I’ve always had privacy concerns with Facebook. It was once my favorite tool for investigating others (like when AB challenged me to find pictures of our third-party consultants). It’s just too freaking easy. Who’s to say others wouldn’t investigate me?
#17 – Facebook is, most often, one huge wasteland of trivial thoughts. And most my thoughts are heavy now days.
#18 – I read a sweet article about how, once upon a time, villages consisted of ~150 people who helped each other through life, and Facebook has ruined that, because it is completely stupid and unrealistic to have 800 people in your village – you can’t possibly interact with that many people in a healthy way. That article made sense.
#19 – There are other forms of social media I prefer – like all other forms of social media, actually.
If you love Facebook, that’s great – different strokes for different folks. But, as a bereaved mother, I’m better off without it. And I won’t return. And I wanted to share my reasons, so if you’re also struggling with these issues, you too might develop the confidence to leave.
If you’re a bereaved parent (or not), what do you think of Facebook? Love it or hate it? Leave a comment.