The poem I recently shared got me thinking: what if someone is offended by it? What if they don’t take it in the way I intended for it to be received. It’s something I often wonder about, how far can one go to be sensitive, and are we often perceived as insensitive without even knowing?
During my Pregnancy I avoided sharing the news online, I didn’t post photos on Facebook. I didn’t even “like” photos of other babies, or pregnant Women for fear of it ending up in someone else’s Newsfeed and hurting their feelings. This was because I knew someone whom a year earlier had miscarried, and had since been trying for a baby. I wanted to show sensitivity to their situation. I felt incredibly conscious of the fact we had conceived accidentally, and they were really struggling. I could see that it may seem incredibly unfair to them. We even asked our GP how she thought we should manage the situation to be as respectful as possible to their grief.
I thought I was “doing the right thing” and being as sensitive as possible to their situation.
Then I had another friend, one I knew had struggled for years with fertility treatments to try and conceived. When I told her I was Pregnant, she couldn’t have been more thrilled. She wanted to hear all the details, she wanted bump updates and to see our scan. I was immensely touched that she could put her pain aside and share in my joy, and she even came to my Baby shower to Celebrate along side me.
I have been on the other side of this. I certainly felt a jab of sadness and even jealousy every time someone shared a photo holding their newborn, or a caption “heading home’ with their infant 48 hours old. Whilst we ticked off the weeks in Special Care. Of course the more important emotion was that I was happy for them, I wouldn’t wish it on someone else, but that jealousy was real too. And sleeping babies, oh my goodness. I have cried over Facebook posts of relative strangers, the reaction was probably a result of a lethal combinations of hormones and extreme sleep deprivation. How dare they rub it in when I was up every 40 minutes and losing my mind with exhaustion? When I received a photo message of a friend’s sleeping baby saying “twelve hours and counting” I may or may not have considered throwing my phone across the room (& slapping her).
And the thing is, my Daughter still doesn’t sleep, I am still tired, but if you tell me about your narcoleptic toddler now or terrific napping baby, it doesn’t phase me. And possibly the Women who once wept over Pregnant friends, can hopefully enjoy others Pregnancies now she’s in a different place mentally.
We aren’t mind-readers and it is impossible to know how information you share will be received. Yes it’s our responsibility to be sensitive to others, but where does that end? Is it inevitable someone along the line will be offended anyway? But at the same time, we have all felt pain, and having someone behave sensitively really can help.
This scenario applies to all sorts of situations, many of which I have been on one side or other of at some point. And probably many more times which I am not aware of. From sharing your engagement when a friends going through a break up, sharing joy of your new job when someone has just been made redundant, sharing a photo of yourself and your family when someone else is desperately homesick for theres. Putting up a post for Mothers day, but someone out there feels the bereavement of their Mother even more strongly on this day.
I think we all know turning up on their doorstep to announce the news probably counts as on the insensitive side, but what about Social Media, it’s a weird one. Posting on Facebook is not the same as sending a direct message, but it feels very personal when it’s unavoidably on that little screen in you palm, right in front of you.
But the reality is, your sleeping baby is not taking away my babies ability to sleep. And the fact I am Pregnant, does not mean I have taken the experience from you. Deep down I know we all want the best for others. We want to share in their joy, and don’t want them to share our suffering. We all want to feel heard and understood, but how much can we expect others to understand if they’ve never walked in our shoes. Is it realistic to expect them to read our minds for what will or won’t upset and offend us on any given day?
We do all certainly have a responsibility in relation to what we share and it’s impact on others. But in the same vein, surely it is completely impossible not to offend anyone ever! Even by never sharing a thing about your private life, will even that not lead to somebody feeling excluded and therefore offended? Sometime people are on a mission to be offended, or are feeling so incredibly vulnerable and sensitive it’s impossible not to. And sometimes that person is you, and maybe it is your responsibility to manage your reactions, filter what you expose yourself to. And maybe even share with those close to you how much you feel you can handle at any given time.
I know I hate the idea of something I post hurting someones feelings, or adding to their pain. I am not just saying that. It feels terrible to think I am contributing to the suffering in anyway. I know there is never any malice meant when I share something. But I have to accept that it possibly still will, despite my best intentions. That everything I write may not be received in the spirit it is intended. And I cannot control that.
I would love to hear your thoughts, and how you manage what you share.