a very public pregnancy

Is sharing your pregnancy in social media weird or wonderful?

By Molly Flatt 29 October 2015
Summary

What the hell is my social media strategy when it comes to being up the duff?

I’d never heard of Chrissy Teigen – American supermodel and Sports Illustrated star – until two weeks ago, when her ‘hilarious’ pregnancy tweets started doing the clickbait rounds.

After announcing the happy news on Instagram beneath a photo showing her husband, singer John Legend, tenderly cradling her abdomen (850k likes and counting), Teigen embarked on a candid series of social updates charting everything from her barf-inducing excitement to her morning pizza cravings.

Then, inevitably, the TMI tide turned.

Somebody is early to the party ???

A photo posted by chrissy teigen (@chrissyteigen) on

 

Having shared a bump selfie that prompted thousands of commenters to insist that she was carrying twins – despite her repeated insistence that the scan showed only one foetus – Teigen told followers to “get out of my uterus!” and finally declared “no more preg tweeting for me, lesson learned!” (which sober news was duly reported by dozens of news sites, including The Independent).

It would be easy to sneer at Teigen for her naivety, but then she was only following an impulse that thousands of newly expectant women apparently feel each day.

At thirty-three years old, barely a day goes by when I don’t see another grainy Starship Enterprise sonogram, accompanied by suitably celebratory emojis, pop up on my Facebook feed, or a week-by-week bump-shot appear on my Instagram. And I’ll admit it, it makes me feel weird – a bit like when I speak to a friend on the phone and develop the subtle but unshakeable suspicion that they’re on the loo.

What makes me feel even weirder is the fact that I’m pregnant (ta-daaa!). And although I’ve been an avid social media user since the agonised Live Journal blogs and pixellated Second Life jaunts of my early teens, I never once considered breaking the news that I’d got knocked up to my family and friends via text or What’s App, let alone charting the minutiae of my baby-growing experience in public social networks.

Perhaps it’s because I’m simply afraid of how damn emotionally laden the whole social-pregnancy thing can be, as Teign so bluntly discovered. Once you’ve read about the woman who was outed by her friend for creating an entirely made-up baby on social, or the people who consider keeping your pregnancy off Facebook to be ‘social suicide’, it’s tempting to keep your distance from the whole messy scene.

Daily Mail reports on "friend faking a pregnancy" on social media. Pic: Daily Mail.

Perhaps it’s because I’ve always put pregnancy in the same mental ‘content sharing’ category as holiday photos: fascinating to whoever’s there, boring, bewildering or irritating to everyone else. Perhaps I’m too old to be a true digital native. Perhaps I allow too much bleed between my personal and professional social networks. Perhaps I’m in denial, unwilling quite yet to relinquish the digital ‘me’ who remains as-yet undefined by whether she has an operational womb.

Or perhaps it’s because I’m wary of saddling my child with a digital shadow before she’s even born, of turning her into data on some marketer’s server while still in-utero.

The only thing I know for sure is that no woman should feel judged whether they choose to make their pregnancy social or not. My aversion is entirely my own, not a moral imperative.

Oh, I am well aware that it might seem hypocritical and inauthentic for me to tweet my date night dinners, Instagram my exercise routines and discuss my political beliefs on Facebook – not to mention leach off the wisdom and advice in all the prenatal blogs and forums out there – while remaining squeamish about sharing a development that will have a huge impact on both my off and online identities.

But then I am sometimes hypocritical and inauthentic, and that doesn’t sit well in the carefully filtered world of our social media selves. If I change my mind tomorrow and start to let my social networks in on my stretchmarks, hopes and fears, I would very much hope that I reserve the right not to be trolled, but I suspect my hope is in vain.

#baby #scan #suckingthumb #boy #girl #allwillberevealed #cute #mybaby #babyjordan #teampinkorteamblue??

A photo posted by Marissa-Jayde McCallan (@missmarissajayde) on

 

Of course, there are more than fifty shades of grey between my reticence and Teigen’s total disclosure – for those who prefer to strike a more moderate balance there’s plenty of advice out there about how and when to share your pregnancy online – and that’s exactly what’s fascinating about the whole issue.

It isn’t until you face a situation like this that you realise how many cultural potholes remain in our shiny yellow brick digital road. Instagramming our date night dinners and tweeting our resting heart rates may now seem as natural (probably more so) than a walk in the park, but although social media use continues its march to ubiquity, our societal norms are still scrambling to catch up. Facebook was only created eleven years ago, after all.

So: is it okay to dump someone over What’s App? Is it weird to chat with your mum on Twitter? Should you be connected with your boss on Facebook? What the hell is my social media strategy when it comes to being up the duff?

Social may be a lanky teenager by now, but it’s still got some serious growing pains.