Zuckerberg ‘miscarriage’ story prompts outpouring of emotions

1 Aug 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Facebook’s Zuckerberg and Wife Are Expecting a Daughter.

When Mark Zuckerberg posted a Facebook status on Friday announcing that he and his wife, Priscilla Chan, were expecting a baby, it went viral, as expected. In describing their loss, the 31-year-old Zuckerberg emphasized his hope to turn social networks into spaces where people publically express grief, breaking an unwritten rule of keeping sad stories offline. “Most people don’t discuss miscarriages because you worry your problems will distance you or reflect upon you — as if you’re defective or did something to cause this. So you struggle on your own,” Zuckerberg wrote. “We hope that sharing our experience will give more people the same hope we felt and will help more people feel comfortable sharing their stories as well,” he wrote.

His Facebook post garnered more than 433,000 “likes” within several hours, including a thumbs-up from Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer. Messages of congratulations and support from both men and women immediately poured in, with many sharing their own miscarriage stories and expressing their feelings of not being able to talk about the experience.

Sandberg, author of the bestselling book “Lean In,” made her own grief public last month following the unexpected death of her husband, 47-year-old Dave Goldberg. Miscarriage is the most common type of pregnancy loss, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and is often both emotionally and physically difficult. In the weeks after his death, she posted half a dozen soul-bearing Facebook posts, such as: “I have learned how ephemeral everything can feel — and maybe everything is.” Discussing sensitive stories such as miscarriages on social media is generally taboo, said Betsy Page Sigman, a professor specializing in technology and social media at Georgetown University. “People tend to not post things that are downers,” she said.

But that tendency could be putting pressure on social networks to better reflect reality, in all its ups and downs, especially for the millennial generation that came of age with Facebook, she said. Whether Facebook can truly embrace that philosophy remains to be seen, and Sigman cautioned that the lack of human interaction online may leave users with a sense of emptiness, as they wonder: “How do you interpret a ‘like’?” Physician Renee Dua, cofounder of Heal, a start-up that connects users with doctor visits, said she considered Zuckerberg and Chan brave for exposing Chan’s pregnancy struggles. “I would have had a hard time doing what they’ve done,” she said. In a survey published earlier this year, researchers at Montefiore Medical Center in New York found that 55 percent of American adults think miscarriage happens in “fewer than 6 percent of all pregnancies.” Survey respondents were asked to choose possible causes of miscarriage; 76 percent thought a miscarriage could be caused by lifting a heavy object (research disagrees), and 64 percent said previous use of oral contraceptives could play a role (it doesn’t — Pill users actually have lower rates of miscarriage). Zuckerberg didn’t make any promises, but he wrote: “We’re looking forward to welcoming her into the world and sharing more soon when she’s ready to come out and meet everyone!” But the high-profile Zuckerberg could now open the door to many people who have struggled with miscarriages — including herself, she said — to a broader discussion.

There’s the chance that Zuckerberg and Chan’s disclosure could help change this: 28 percent of the women who miscarried said, in the same survey, that “public disclosures of miscarriages by celebrities and public figures helped with feelings of isolation.” Zuckerberg and Chan’s decision to open up about miscarriage could actually help kick off a new conversation.

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