When you’re struggling with fertility, it can feel like everyone around you is suddenly pregnant. No matter where you look, all you see are pregnancy announcements, baby showers, and brand-new parents. While, of course, you’re happy for loved ones and acquaintances, seeing others move a step closer to the life you’re struggling to create can be painful, to say the least.
Social media apps can often amplify this experience. “Social media poses many different [mental health] challenges, but it can be specifically trying when your fertility journey becomes more and more difficult, and longer and longer,” says Caitlin Opland, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with Thriveworks in Loveland, CO, who specializes in stress, anxiety, and relationships. “As you begin to compare your journey to others’, you tap into your harsh inner critic—a bully of sorts.” This inner bully exacerbates feelings of guilt, inadequacy, and even depression, which are common for those struggling with fertility, adds Opland.
As you find ways to navigate your emotions and explore how to take care of yourself during this time, you may need to establish a new relationship with your social media feed. Below, Opland offers her best advice for setting boundaries with your virtual friends and followers, avoiding the comparison trap, and knowing when it’s time to sign off for a while.
“In today’s world, it is nearly impossible to place blinders on social media to protect yourself from any feelings of guilt, anxiety, or sorrow,” says Opland. “Women, families, and advertisements constantly post thoughts and images of their ideas of ‘perfection,’ perpetuating the idea of how the ‘failure’ of yours continues.” Still, you do have control of what you’re viewing online.
Social media can separate you from loved ones who are truly showing up for you at this moment. “Ultimately, social media can rob us of being present with the happiness around us, the support team we have attempted to make for ourselves through our fertility journey,” Opland says. Setting a few hard and fast boundaries with social media ensures that the vast majority of messages you hear every day are coming from people who understand your specific struggle and love and support you. Everyone deserves that.
If you’re ready to deactivate your social media accounts and focus on your real-life relationships, more power to you. That said, not everyone will want to ghost the internet—and that’s totally okay. If you want to stay connected, Opland has some advice to help you set boundaries with your feed so you can avoid fertility comparison.
So you decide to limit your social media intake, and then just like that, you get an Instagram notification. In the attention economy, it takes some work to truly ditch the shadow of social media. You’ll likely need to dedicate some time to turning off notifications and asking Instagram/Facebook not to present you with ads related to children and motherhood.
If you don’t feel up for this process, ask a loved one if they would be willing to do it for you. Remember: The people in your corner want to help you. So ask.
Once you have your social media hiatus or schedule all set up, it’s time to call in your people. “Create your army of support teams. Who would you go to when you’re feeling down? What would you ask them? What would you do with them? Could you call them at 3 a.m. when you feel the itch to get on a baby site? Make this list and let them know they’re on it,” she says.
“Set time limits on how much you spend scrolling on Instagram, parental/baby fertility websites, blogs, and advice sites,” says Opland. “Especially if you find yourself mindlessly scrolling for hours every day.” Most phones nowadays allow you to set time limits on social media apps via settings. Decide what guidelines make sense for you. Perhaps you allow yourself one hour of scrolling per day, three days a week, or 15 minutes per day every day.
If you have more free time now that your social media guardrails are in place, the good news is: You can use those extra minutes to inject more joy into your life. “Use that support system. Call them and do something. Make memories to fill the present time,” says Opland. Stay busy by creating a new, positive habit. Bake. Garden, Journal. Exercise. Create art. Build something. What would you want to teach your new little one? What is something you’ve always wanted to try?
Throughout this process, triggers and challenges can easily arise. Continue to talk to your doctor and a therapist (if you have access to one) to navigate your emotions along the way.
Calm Health is a mental health wellness product. Calm Health is not intended to diagnose or treat depression, anxiety, or any other disease or condition. Calm Health is not a substitute for care by a physician or other health care provider. Any questions that you may have regarding the diagnosis, care, or treatment of a medical condition should be directed to your physician or health care provider.