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My Pregnancy and the Algorithm Anxiety

I never thought I’d become a mom. Sure, I wanted to someday. But when I closed my eyes and thought of how my future would unfold I could never envision how I would become a mother. I felt unworthy of becoming a mother because of my past, and some of the horrible, reckless decisions I’d made

In my early 20’s I’d convinced myself I didn’t even want kids. That had more to do with the lack of a decent man in my life, and a $30,000 salary at my first news job out of college. Partying, traveling, and having as much fun as possible were my priorities and having children then, or at any time in my life, we’re not my priorities. And I don’t regret that either.

When I was 25 I met the man that would become my fiancé. After years of building a relationship and bond with him unlike anything I’d ever experienced, we found out we were expecting. Of course I was nervous, but I was also excited and I felt ready for this part of my life. At 28 I was expecting my first child, and I couldn’t have been happier.

In my opinion, 2022 is one of the best times in history to be pregnant. You may think I’m crazy for saying that, but it’s true. The amenities are great: Netflix and streaming services, Uber eats and grocery delivery, and even work from home opportunities. Pregnancy is made less inconvenient when you can have what you need come to you. Knowing that I wasn’t cut off from the world, and having a strong support system kept me from becoming completely overwhelmed.

I've dealt with anxiety my entire life. However, nothing prepared me for pregnancy anxiety. At times, in all three trimesters, I was crippled by anxiety that something was going to happen to my baby. I’m sure that most women who have been pregnant can relate to that. However, the added element of dealing with social media algorithms while pregnant made some days debilitating.

When I found out that I was pregnant I chose to consume a lot of content about pregnancy and parenting, and I learned a lot about others experiences as well as advice and lifestyle tips. Social media was a great resource for discovering what kind of pregnancy I wanted to experience, and what kind of mom I wanted to be. But the longer I’d browse the darker that content being pushed by the algorithm got.

Tik Tok was the worst. It seemed like every 10 videos was about a miscarriage, stillbirth, infant or child loss, and so on. There were even videos that showed deceased babies, which were jarring and without warning most of the time.

While I know these can be the reality of pregnancy for a lot of women, constantly seeing worse case scenarios amplified my anxiety to a level that was debilitating at times, and put a damper on my pregnancy. At times, I felt like I didn’t even deserve to have a healthy pregnancy and mine was destined to end in a tragic way.

The problem is platforms like TikTok and Instagram are designed to be addictive and glutinous. They’re also associated with anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses.

According to the Pew Research Center, 69% of adults and 81% of teens in the U.S. use social media, and are at an increased risk of feeling anxious, depressed, or ill over their social media use.

The algorithm on social media feeds off of whatever content you (and others) interact with more, and you receive more of that content to keep you engaged. That becomes a problem when the content you are consuming feeds your greatest fears and anxieties.

At 6 months pregnant I decided to do a social media detox, limiting my time on social media, and putting my TikTok on restricted mode. While it didn’t completely solve the problem, It seemed as if the onslaught of triggering content seemed to slow down.

My pregnancy helped me prioritize my mental health over my social media consumption. As a result, I plan to use social media in a more intentional way while navigating motherhood. If i can give any advice to women who are pregnant and may also be feeling the anxiety caused by the algorithm it would be to get offline and connect with your real life support system. Your only job while pregnant is to make this the healthiest and happiest few months that you possibly can. After it’s over, your life will never be the same, in a good way.

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