April Fools' Day is once more upon us. In other words, here come the online pranks.
Among them will likely be the fake pregnancy announcement. The "I'm pregnant, no I'm not, April Fools!" thing. A picture of a positive pee test, or a sonogram usually accompanies this gag.
This is my plea to folks to think twice before sharing this joke.
I want to explain why this joke is not always funny. For you lovely people out there who have pulled the fake pregnancy prank, please know I am not judging you. Some of my favorite people — people who are just bursting with empathy and kindness towards others — have pulled this prank. This does nothing to detract from their wonderfulness.
I know that people need to be shown this point of view.
The gag does seem innocent enough.
However, for people coping with fertility issues or miscarriage, this joke may be a little more painful than you realize.
This is why.
The world of social media is such a strange one. Still in relative infancy, rules about what is appropriate to share on personal news feeds are ever-evolving. Social media in general promotes a bizarre open intimacy. The line between sharing and over-sharing can be difficult to discern. What is appropriate to share is highly subjective.
Pregnancy announcements and reveals online are quite common. I think this is a delightful use of social media.
I am talking about the hidden flipside. The things we don't share. These include fertility struggles and miscarriages. It is no joke that 1 in 4 pregnancies will end in miscarriage, that women carry a secret guilt around these losses. Remember too the millions of couples facing fertility challenges on their way to parenthood.
For those who have been trying to conceive and have not yet been successful, fake pregnancy announcements aren't funny.
For families coping with miscarriage, a fake pregnancy where an announcement is made and then unmade in a spirit of fun can be crushing.
The open and exciting path to parenthood cinches up into relative darkness as it gets harder. Closed and secret Facebook groups exist for people to share stories of disappointment and loss. They tend not to spill over into the personal news feeds of those experiencing infertility and loss.
The unwritten rules of social media invite sharing about exciting and happy events (real pregnancies, live births.) They create wonderful and abundant communities wherein people can gather around expectant or new parents and heap congratulations.
People remain, however, uncertain of how to post melancholy or devastating news. I often post downbeat stuff on my own news feed and it rarely gains traction. I am fine with that (well, mostly) but when I feel just a tad invisible, I raise it with friends. Many remind that these downbeat stories are not really what Facebook is for. I get it.
Few people post status updates along the lines of "Got my @@^% period again." And I have never seen an announcement of a miscarriage on a personal news feed.
I can remember the struggle to conceive/gestate a baby. My pregnancies were mostly offline, and just a little online towards the end. Today, Facebook is a minefield when you are trying to get pregnant. Women struggle with remote baby envy and rise above it. They comment. They heap love upon a friend. This can mean having to face down dark demons of envy.
This is hard work. This makes people feel badly.
I know that the prankster did not intend to cause this.
I recognize there will be some temptation to accuse me of having no sense of humor. I do. I swear I do have a sense of humor. (Full disclosure though: it almost never manifests on April Fools' Day, a day I have always found sort of annoying).
Some may consider this joke to be very last year. Good! Leave it there.
As internet pioneers, we know that internet sensibilities change. There are dark corners into which the glare of our collective screens has not yet cast a harsh blue glare. Some still house painful secrets and unrealized aspirations. Let's do what we can to honor these things.
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