“It’s a lonely experience,” Mark Zuckerberg says, writing about his wife Priscilla Chan’s three miscarriages.
Zuckerberg’s announcement that Chan is now pregnant with a baby girl prompted thousands of congratulatory Facebook messages on Friday, and some of them were extraordinarily personal, with women’s stories of other miscarriages and the silence that often accompanies heartbreaking loss.
“My husband and I are going through the same thing,” a user named Bethany wrote. “We just had a miscarriage in May…so it’s nice to know I’m not alone.”
A user named Jennifer wrote of her miscarriages, “The pain is so intense and the sense of grief is real. Thank you for letting other couples know that they are not alone.”
The Facebook founder and CEO posted a picture and short essay to his personal Facebook page on Friday afternoon. He has 25 million followers, so the news spread very quickly.
The post, which featured a picture of Zuckerberg, his wife Priscilla Chan and their dreadlocked dog ‘Beast’, quickly went viral. In around 12 hours, it had garnered almost 1.2 million Likes, been shared 35,000 times and elicited 83,000 comments.
While excited “we’re having a baby” posts always trigger an avalanche of enthusiasm on social media, this touched a chord for a different reason. Zuckerberg used the opportunity to start a conversation about a subject most couples avoid: miscarriages. “We want to share one experience to start,” he said, adding “We’ve been trying to have a child for a couple of years and have had three miscarriages along the way.”
His post resonated with many couples all over the world, judging by how many comments it triggered, mostly from people who had dealt with the same challenges. In May, Sheryl Sandberg, the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, shared her grief on a public post over the loss of her husband Dave Goldberg. The post, written a month after he died, also dealt with how she’s coping, and was shared almost 400,000 times.
Both posts demonstrate how much social media has evolved. Facebook, for instance, has often been criticised for triggering depression in users by advertising ‘perfect lives’ filled with beaming Instagrammed couples, enviable holidays and picture-perfect babies. By revealing the painful parts of their lives as publicly as their triumphs, Zuckerberg and Sandberg posts encouraged users to see the network as a community rather than just a place to view and post holiday albums.
Zuckerberg’s post dealt with the loneliness that people feel when they’re dealing with miscarriage, a loneliness that’s inevitable, despite how many people are on your friend list.
“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.” Then he added, “In today’s open and connected world, discussing these issues doesn’t distance us; it brings us together. It creates understanding and tolerance, and it gives us hope.”
Reiterating this idea, replies came from many women who spoke about how cathartic sharing can be.
Facebook user Margaret Gould Stewart said: “I believe the burden of painful, difficult experiences like that are made just a little bit lighter when we know we are not alone. Thank you for modeling that and welcoming other people to share both the happy moments and hard ones, too.”