Now here's a social media update that has already begun to change the way fertility practices and their patients interact with each other. We have been waiting for this new function for some time. On February 24, Facebook introduced a change to how its users can react to content on the platform. In the past, you posted a status update and people either liked it or they commented on it (if they reacted at all). And that was it. So if I posted a picture of my breakfast, an announcement about starting my new job, or the passing of my Grandmother, you as my Facebook "friend" would have to comment on the photo in order to distinguish your reaction from a general like. The like function would feel very inappropriate if the post mentioned bad news, or very underwhelming if it dealt with something outstanding.
For some, this change won't be especially pronounced. Few life chapters are as emotionally diverse as what we see. For the infertility space on the other hand, there is no emotion that doesn't appear across the range of news that we receive and deliver. From the ecstatic triumph of a beautiful baby after a long journey, to the torment of the loss of a pregnancy, to the needed levity of inside jokes, every possible emotional expression can be seen among the online #ttc (trying to conceive) community. Now, Facebook is offering more ways of being able to react to the content we see. Last fall, Facebook tested its new reactions in Ireland and Spain. This week, the new options were made available to the rest of the world, and the infertility community is already using them.
It's distinctly possible that it will take some time for social norms to establish themselves with regard to how people dealing with infertility choose to use their new reactions. In the same way that e-mail open rates were astoundingly high in the 1990's, or that you followed back everyone who followed you in the early days of Twitter, we may see the love reaction take over for the like function for a while. Nonetheless, we are already starting to see distinct responses to infertility content. For example, of the 100 people that reacted to an e-card that posted by Buffalo IVF, we can see that nine people "loved it", six people "laughed" at it, and the rest liked it. .Let's break down the new Facebook reactions, and how we see them developing into new social norms in the infertility family.
- "Like": Traditionally, we've seen the like button used for everything, because it was our only option. Now that the like function's monopoly is over; the only certain prediction is that it will be used less frequently. I think we will continue to see the like button used for different kinds of practice news, such as soliciting feedback about a baby reunion, and in other demonstrations of community support. For example, a post about your team at your local RESOLVE Walk of Hope is content that will probably continue to be "liked".
- "Yay": I imagine this will be a common response to pregnancy announcements and other accomplishments like weight loss and embryo status. Yay can be used in place of like and love in most cases.
- "Love": We can expect to see a lot of love in the fertility space. We're seeing a lot if it already. New baby pictures are already getting lots of love, and it's only just begun. A like simply doesn't cut it when it comes to responding to a beautiful baby picture or an emotional pregnancy announcement. For those fertility clinics whose doctors and nurses are absolute sweethearts, I predict we will see a lot of hearts under their photos as well.
- "Haha": There is an exceptional sense of humor to the infertility community and a growing body of research indicates that laughter has therapeutic value. This would explain why we see so many e-cards, memes, and inside jokes in the #ttc community. The @infertility_hopeandhumor account has more than 2,800 followers on Instagram. From my experience, I've noticed that the funny content often grabs the most interaction. I think humorous posts will be even more appropriate for practices to share now that there is a reaction that fits its purpose.
- "Wow" is definitely the most ambiguous of the new reactions. I see this function being used in parallel with all of the other reactions except for sad. It will be interesting to see what meaning the infertility family decides to give to wow.
- "Angry" Other extremely popular posts are those that capture the feelings of the social pressure faced by couples and individuals struggling with infertility. The most shared link posted by Fertility Institute of Hawaii, for instance, discussed the social protocol of asking someone when they are going to have a child. At risk of generalization, the infertility community hates this. They hate being told they can just adopt. They hate being offered their friends' children in jest. They hate being told to "just relax and it will happen." These topics are almost always the most popular among the Huffington Post's beat of articles on infertility. I wonder if we will see a lot of angry emojis under these links.
- "Sad" The word doesn't even begin to describe the heartbreak and loss that so many people coping with infertility feel every day. The #infertility and #ttc tags are heavily populated with status updates about loneliness, depression, and loss. In our community, early pregnancy loss is far too common, and frequently, this is a subject where people turn to blogging to express their feelings of hurt. Often, the infertility-related posts on Instagram with the most comments, are those of outpouring support for someone mourning the child that they were unable to carry to term. This is a frequent, delicate, and compelling issue for our community. The sad reaction will be one we use more than we would like, as it offers a gentle, quiet way of expressing our sympathy.
The new Facebook reactions represent an interesting baby step; one toward a more fluid blending of human and technological communication . There have been times where I have chosen not to respond to a particular comment, because it wasn't appropriate to offer words, and the gesture of a like would not have been suitable. I would have appreciated some of the options that are now at our disposal. The ability to react with more emojis doesn't meet the emotional diversity of the infertility journey, but it does allow us to virtually "put our hand on a shoulder" or beam a smile when words aren't pertinent. We can express ourselves more acutely, as fertility practices and patients further develop the language of the infertility community.