Responding to a Concern (Please Help)

I just received an email from a friend who is urging me to step away from my blog because she believes it to be detrimental to my mental and emotional health. She expressed that it’s her opinion that “this blog is bad for [me].” She says that even though I maintain it’s a place for me to work through my demons, that spending so much time dwelling on this negativity will allow it to seep into my every day life. She asks the question, “Is it helpful to spend hours of time and energy sharing those emotions?”

She goes on to write about the “well-studied danger of the echo-chamber effect” in which she challenges that while it may feel good that friends with good intentions comfort me in my dark times, it is ultimately not good for me to have others “reinforcing [my] negative thoughts.”

I’m curious what your thoughts are on this. Do you believe our blogs are just echo-chambers, where we feed off the frenzi of each other’s unhappiness? Do you believe my blog is actually hindering my ability to handle TTC positively? Could I really handle this all much better, as she assures me I could, if I just stepped away? If I wrote earlier that I was going to stop writing negatively here, in an attempt to foster positivity in my life, was I conceding her point before she even made it? Does writing about the hard stuff in our lives only help us to dwell on it or to move past it?

I’d really like to hear what you all think about this before I post a response to it myself. What has your experience been on this? Has anyone challenged your participation on your blog or in this community? If so, how did you respond? If someone were to challenge it, what would you say?

21 responses

  1. I disagree with your friend. When I write a “negative” post it allows me to get the bad thoughts out of my head and I don’t dwell on them anymore once they’re out. I find it therapeutic, it’s just like writing a journal, except you have others out there telling you you’re not crazy and they’ve been there too. Helpful to release the emotions and feel less alone in whatever your grief may be.

  2. I went through TTC, infertility and loss totally alone, without a blog, without ever even going online. It was a nightmare, because no one “heard” me: it was the opposite of an echo chamber, in fact. Most of my friends didn’t understand what I was going through and some were openly critical, and so I withdrew from almost everyone and had to rely only on myself. It was a nightmare I wouldn’t wish on anyone. I was used to friends being “there” for me, but I had always been one of those lucky people who didn’t have very many problems, smiled a lot and was fun so why WOULDN’T they be there for me?

    And honestly, I GET that. I get WHY they wouldn’t want to be there for me. I wasn’t the happy, fun friend they remembered.

    I mean, I think it’s GOOD for my friends, most of whom I’m on good terms with now, that I HAVE my ALI friends. I can be smiley and happy with them, because I know I have friends and supporters at my back who understand me. So I don’t have to make others TRY anymore. Because I found that to be a losing battle.

    Although some people have read Faces of ALI and that has made them “get” ALI. Because it’s told in the third person? I’m not sure.

    • I agree 100%. That has been my experience too. Having ALI friends and an outlet for my emotions freed me up for my husband and my real life friends. And helped me heal.

  3. So far I have not chimed in, as I have been reading but not commented for such a long time now that I feel like a blog-stalker! I stopped blogging after I had a successful pregnancy and felt that I no longer belonged in the IF world. I still continued to read all the blogs though and they have helped me to realize that I AM NOT THE ONLY ONE! That parents with one child struggle for a second one. That all the mixed emotions of being thankful for your baby when so many don’t even have ONE, but yet wanting a second one is perfectly OK. That all the conflict I feel about my severe PPD is truly something that happens, infertile or not. I truly cherish the blogs that I read and while that is certainly not reason for anyone to keep blogging, I think that coming together as a community and feeling like there are others out there is so healing and so freeing. I also think you seem to have sound judgement and if “releasing your emotions” were to impact you negatively IRL, by seeping into your day-to-day actions, you would be willing and able to step away. I know I have rambled on here but it really irritates me when someone who hasn’t walked in another’s shoes chooses to judge how they would deal with something.

  4. Ok, here’s my take on this:
    I think that just as a result of being a part of this community, you know too many horror stories not to have a bit of extra anxiety tacked onto your TTC experience.
    On the other hand, that doesn’t mean it will go away if you stop blogging here. You can’t un-know what you know.
    I think people who aren’t a part of this community don’t understand this community.
    I’ve actually had my father preach to me about how i should step away from my blog, and not let anyone know about my next pregnancy. Since he doesn’t have a link, I chose to just not argue with him and pretend I’m not blogging, when in fact of course I will be.
    My mom backed him up for a second, but with her I stood up and asked her how she can even contemplate me doing that after the love and support i got after losing Nadav.
    She immediately retracted her request.
    Only you know whether this place is an echo chamber for you or not. If it is, by all means step away. But I have a feeling it isn’t that.
    Sending hugs as always.

  5. Interesting point. I have wondered similar.
    I am of the opinion of “better out than in”. Whether this takes the form of online blog available for all to see, or private and password protected (not necessarily a blog, just a ‘safe space’ to spew) depends on the individual.

    I think if there’s negativity there, its there bubbling under the surface in all the day-to-day things you do, and I think its far more destructive when it continues and goes unacknowledged. It has the potential to explode in all sorts of unnecessary ways. Yes, by giving it a voice you might be giving it power, but by getting it out, you’re also moving it one step away from the storm in your head. There’s pros and cons to everything, because that’s the nature of the world we live in.

    No, I don’t think we feed off each others negativity. I think blogs are an opportunity to record a slice of whats going on right now, without the need to be constantly explaining the where’s and whyfores of what we are doing. We are processing this stuff for ourselves, without interruption to explain what ICSI is, nor to listen how great Aunt Mabel’s budgie got twins after doing their first IVF cycle.(I realise this isn’t what your blog is about, but this is my perspective).
    And its really fucking comforting hearing from other people who are reading those words, hearing those words, and leaving a few words of their own, in acknowledgement that indeed I am not screaming into a void, well thats really important. Feeling heard is so necessary. I think by nature if someone is having a hard time, people feel more inclined to step in and comment, but I guess that depends on the blog and follower numbers. But what’s the alternative – don’t comment when you read a blogpost of someone in crisis, in case it “reinforces their negative thoughts”? Yeah that’s really fucking human.

    I think when we start thinking like that, how we ‘should’ be acting and what we ‘should’ be writing about, well aint that a sure fire way to introduce one’s censor and create blocks.

    No, no-one has challenged my blogging as yet. I’ve just talked to Mr Stinky about this post (the benefits about being ‘found out’!) and he’s pretty much in agreement with me. I’ve kept myself as anonymous as possible as I don’t want to have to explain to other people absolutely everything. I want and need to be able to work through my stuff in my own time, and I prefer written words for this, although verbal can be helpful at times – the ‘social’ interaction experience can sometimes take away from what I need to pull apart for myself.

    Mr Stinky’s words when I read your post to him was that “the negativity is already there in your life, why do you need to hide these emotions away – just because they’re perceived as negative? Life is not positive all the while so to embrace negativity is (in his opinion) a positive thing”

  6. Years ago, my hubby disliked my blogging for similar reasons but I found it therapeutic so I just tried to explain to him my reasons for continuing. However, I don’t always process everything I’m thinking online though. I also have a Buddhist practise and community that continues to uplift and support me. Perhaps this is something you can get guidance on with your therapist. I don’t think of this url world as an echo chamber however, at least I try not to just agree for the sake of agreeing.

  7. I think someone wrote about this before … maybe it was Mel but I can’t find the post. The post poked holes in an article published in some prominent media outlet like the NYTimes (only it wasn’t) about the “damage” that infertility bloggers do to themselves, dwelling on the negatives … the post showed how ridiculous that was, and why. But dammit, I can’t find it.

    Anyway, I think your friend is wrong. And I think, furthermore, that it’s none of her business. Even if it *were* reinforcing some negativity, it’s your choice to blog here. She doesn’t have to read it if it makes her feel uncomfortable, which, clearly, it does.

  8. Pingback: Is There An Echo (Echo, Echo) In Here? | Too Many Fish to Fry

  9. In the case of socially invisible or marginalized circumstances like IF … the ‘outsider’ experience creates secondary problems. If commenters err a bit on the side of sympathy, I tend to believe that isn’t nearly as detrimental as what you face in the wide open world. My experience is that people who have not walked the walk always underestimate the challenge and the despair that there is on the way through IF (or insert any other misunderstood experience). I’m not sure you can interpret “appropriate” levels of negativity if you haven’t BTDT. Also those closest to us may be excessively distressed by our ~distress~ and second-guess us based on that alone, yet they miss the big picture significance of the journey.

    I would like to hear more about … specific examples of where the negativity is being reinforced in an unproductive way. It’s too hard to say if this person has true insight or just doesn’t understand what they don’t understand. The charge is vague … vague enough to possibly hold water and yet so vague, it could appear to have more tooth than it deserves (IF is a ~negative~ experience by definition. No one loves it).

    I think it depends a lot on ~your perception~ of whether blogging is supportive, worthwhile.

    When I was going through treatment for secondary IF, one of my BFF’s called me “desperate.” If she thought that I was running away from other more worthy pursuits … then she should have said that instead of labeling me; the charge was so clearly full of her own baggage/prejudice. It is always hard to discern people’s true motives/hidden biases with assvice because many times they are usually not fully conscious of their motivations themselves. They may or may not be more clear than you. Always listen to your own instincts in these cases.

    For myself, just the very acting of blogging/writing is a sort of check on negativity …because it takes what’s in your head outside the frame and sets it outside for you to examine.

    My experience is that, for the most part, people who follow your blog do have a sweet spot for your message, your themes. And they also tend to be protective of your feelings. But I have observed plenty of examples, like the ones that jjiraffe offered in her post response, where people comment in less than complete agreement. It can be uncomfortable, but useful. When others challenge you (your friend included), you end up more clear about what YOU think.

    I think you have to be clear about why you are here. If you are looking for support & BTDT company then that is one thing. If you are looking for input and challenge, then ask for it (it may free your commenters up a bit). Reflect on what you need and ask for it. To make a blanket statement that … blogging is an echo chamber that reinforces negativity … is to throw the baby out with the bath water. Your friend seems to think you have lost objectivity ….

  10. I both agree and disagree with what your friend seems to be expressing.

    I do think that thinking, speaking, and writing about negativity can be a vicious cycle. Sometimes we find ourselves wrapped in a spiral in which negativity can become a habit.

    But do I agree that you’d “handle all this much better” without your blog? Hell no. Some people need a space to vent, they need catharsis, they need to acknowledge the worst case scenario in order to free themselves from it. I am one of those people; you, dear Esperanza, are one of those people.

    By all means, be mindful. Make a conscientious effort to ground yourself in reality from time to time; take a quick pause to put your worries in context. (Things I already see you do in your writing).

    Your friend surely knows you better than I do. But I believe the one thing that’s bound to be detrimental to your mental and emotion health is stopping writing. Stopping writing isn’t going to stop the fears, and once those fears have their claws in your mind the only thing that will silence them is to speak their name aloud. Speak!


  11. For me, it depends.
    There were many many dark heartbreaking times when we were trying to have children, such complicated emotions that it helped to work through it, but I didn’t have sex to get pregnant, when I was ttc the traditional way I didnt blog about it because I found that it didnt help me to have ttc as my such a big focus as I could find it to be all consuming. We tried that way for 2.5 years before going to a fertility doctor and quickly learned that it was never going to happen for me without a whole lot of help.

    Even later when we moved onto ivf, then third party reproduction and life got more complicated, I blogged more when we were in treatments, less when we were waiting around. I still read my friends blogs and supported them but, I didn’t keep picking at my own broken heart, as it wouldn’t have helped me or anyone else.

    So I think blogging can help, but only you can answer the question, do you feel better after writing? Or does it just make you feel even sadder?

  12. It’s weird that I have a post half-written on this very subject, prompted by your earlier thoughts about stepping away for a while. Over the last ten years of being on-line around infertility and loss (though blogging only recently) I have thought about this a number of times. I’ve seen women get stuck in th echo chamber effect, be unable to move on, almost addicted to the attention they get. But the great majority of women get far greater benefits from writing their thoughts, from the sense of community, from the wisdom of others, and from knowing that someone, somewhere understands.

    I wrote about this ( about the article Justine mentioned in her comment - ). I think that other people are, in general, are uncomfortable with our emotions. You friend certainly seems to be. And they seem to think that by telling us not to think or write about these things, we’ll miraculously feel better. If only it was that easy!! Doesn’t mean we won’t think those thoughts. But we’ll also feel more alone, less understood, and won’t have an outlet where we can work things through. But that’s ok (excuse the sarcasm) because our friends won’t know how isolated we feel because we’ll know they don’t want to hear it anymore. And so they’ll feel better because they don’t have to deal with our uncomfortable, but honest, emotions. And they might even think they helped.

    Now, some bloggers just write “woe is me” blogs, and they might be suffering from the echo chamber effect. But I can see from the way you write that it is an honest effort to figure things out. And I understand that process because it’s the way I’ve resolved my own thoughts and feelings about my infertility. Blogging and writing helped. And I say this as someone who is at peace with where I am, and have been for some years. But I don’t think I would be if I hadn’t had an outlet for writing, and if I hadn’t had others to learn from.

  13. You know that saying that guns don’t kill people, people kill people? I think it’s similar with blogs. Some people blog and it creates an echo chamber effect. And some people blog and it releases them. It’s not the blog that’s the problem; it’s the way the person is using blogging that is the problem. So it’s not as simple as saying, “don’t blog” and the problem will go away. If the problem is there, it will simply transfer to a different medium until the problem goes away.

    And the only person — not your friend, not your partner, not your parents — who knows whether blogging is helpful or hurtful is you. The only thing those people can do is help you be honest to yourself. But if you’re being honest with yourself, you don’t really need their opinion. You know whether or not blogging is good for you.

  14. I think your friend is wrong and I detect a whiff of her discomfort with negative emotions and not suffering in silence. For many of us, if we didn’t write our thoughts and feelings, we’d go crazy. For me, I know I feel better getting out what I’m thinking. It gets it out of my head and frees up space for me to start working on it.

  15. It seems to me that your friend doesn’t understand the extent to which these negative feelings would’ve been there anyway. Not writing about them won’t make them go away, but it might prevent you from addressing them.

    When I was in middle school, I kept a diary and I wrote in it all the time. One summer I went away to camp, and living so close to my friends (and not having the privacy to write in a diary) meant I started talking to them about my problems. I discovered that I resolved them much better talking to real people. I put away the diary, because I felt that it was encouraging me to dwell on things without resolving them.

    When I started blogging, I was worried it would start that same problem I’d had with the diary again, it would lead me to start dwelling on things. But I found that it’s totally different, because I have readers who comment. They give me advice, and occasionally when I’m off track they’ll tell me. I don’t think it’s the same thing at all.

    There certainly are some bloggers, I think, who don’t seem to want any negative comments. They tend to password-protect, and comment-moderate, or maybe they avoid certain topics completely. but a lot of people do seem to want honest feedback. So I don’t really think it’s an echo-chamber, just people who understand.

  16. Honestly, blogging has been most helpful when I deal with the negatives. It allows me to get them out, talk to people who truly understand, and find ways of dealing with it in everyday life.

  17. I think blogging has been helpful for me personally because it was like a private journal (that others happened to read) through our adoption journey. Lately, it’s getting a little weird and I have to step back from time to time due to my own insecurities. BUT, I don’t think that someone on the outside can really say whether it’s detrimental to your personal mental health. Obviously, I don’t know you personally and your friend does, but I find it hard to believe that trying to work through issues through writing is detrimental.

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