Every month we will share a hashtag with you.
This is about shining a light on interesting and important topics and the communities that come together around them.
It’s Baby and Infant Loss Awareness month and we’ve been looking into the experience of going back to work after a miscarriage for an event we’re supporting in November.
As part of this, we came across #1in4. This is being used across Instagram and Twitter in recognition of the 1 in 4 women who experience miscarriage and is a hub for posts expressing feelings and sharing experiences about this sensitive issue.
This isn’t to be confused with the #1in4 mental health campaign that aims to raise awareness, challenge stigma and normalise mental and emotional challenges. However, the two uses and goals of the same # are very aligned – to open up the conversation on traditionally silenced issues, give space to emotional expression, validate painful experience and offer support.
How it works, looks and feels
This is a # rich in emotion, raw honesty of feeling and self-expression, together with community spirit and supportiveness. It’s about sharing deeply personal, painful experiences, hopes and fears. It’s about supporting others with shared experience and providing a space to talk about the often unsaid.
Here are some of the main themes being expressed and the stories the come from:
1. Sharing experience and offering hope to others….
“A few months ago I started talking about us experiencing two miscarriages in 2018 and those losses really broke my heart and negatively shifted my spirit. I often thought I would never want to try again or that I would be healthy physically or emotionally enough to do so. But look what time, a whole lot of therapy and love do.
More brutal honesty… pregnancy after a loss hasn’t been this magical cure-all and is actually riddled with fear, doubt, anxiety, guilt & helplessness. However, pregnancy after loss is also choosing daily to pick yourself, your joy, excitement, and hope first…. It’s also loving on and recognizing a whole community of families and people who sometimes get their rainbow(s)…and those who don’t.”
2. Sharing experiences of accidental insensitivities, voicing what may not be said aloud…
“Oh god yes. This. One of the most hurtful things a coworker said to me after my daughter died from labour complications was “try again.” I was literally speechless.”
3. Raising issues (silencing, the need to raise awareness, to talk); discussion between contributors…
“True! I think from the side of the parents we might not even have told people we are pregnant yet, so telling them we lost the baby seems unnecessary, scary or not worth troubling other people… From the doctor’s perspective, I wonder if they don’t want to scare us and frankly there isn’t much of anything that can be done in those first few months to save the baby…
I don’t think any of these reasons make it right to stay so silent or not educate, but perhaps the more we speak up and share our own stories it will help others who might feel blindsided in their time of loss..”
4. Campaigning for change….
“9th-15th October is a special opportunity to mark the lives of babies lost in pregnancy, born too sick, or lost too soon…”
What makes it interesting?
From a social media research point of view, this conversation stands out for its highly emotional, honest, raw expressions about the worst things in life. It goes very deep, it can go dark, and it’s about real life, loss and pain, fear.
This is a bit unexpected from Instagram, which is usually the place for showcasing our best lives, skating across a glittering surface of life and without going too deep.
It’s also unusual (for Instagram) in being highly discursive. There are conversations. There are meaningful replies to posts, offers of support, shared feelings and recognition of shared experience. Threads are text-heavy and long. It’s operating more like a community forum and less of a curated cluster of visually appealing posts or hooks to promotional accounts we have come to expect around #’s in Instagram.
What does it show us?
Raw human emotion. A side of life often hidden and the need we all have to find a way to express our feelings, our pain, our fear and our need to be heard.
It shows the need to be understood, by those who understand. It tells us we’re not alone in our darkest times.
It offers a safe place to express – in words and images – what we can’t say in real life. Either because we literally can’t find the words and use images, or because we don’t feel able to talk to those close to us ‘in the real world’. It offers a community.
It shows the value of user-generated #’s or spaces (not those from organisations or campaigns) in providing an effective platform and points to the efficacy of short, snappy #’s (#1in4 being ‘easier’ perhaps than ‘#babylossawareness’).
This is a prime example of how taking the time to explore social media usage with human sensitivity and looking beneath the metrics reveals so much more about life, people, humanity, unmet needs and gaps in the real world being met in social.