My baby died, so why is Facebook bombarding me with pregnancy ads?

Carrie-Ann

Carrie-Ann

Carrie-Ann loves vintage fashion (original, repro - as long as it's '40s or '50s inspired, anything goes) and her husband, and has an unhealthy attachment to Doctor Who, confectionery, and the Oxford comma.
Carrie-Ann

Trigger warning: child death, baby loss, grief.

Baby loss and children dying is a hard topic to talk about. As readers may know, in May 2018 my daughter, Dorothy, died. She was born 13 weeks early and was very poorly – so poorly that she passed away soon after she was born.

Technology is great in a way. We’ve found support and I hope my posts will help others who see them online. But in other ways, it makes things much harder.

Using social media before Dorothy was born

I hadn’t spoken about my pregnancy on social media for a couple of different reasons. We have friends who were/are struggling to conceive and I didn’t want to upset them, and I was afraid of jinxing the pregnancy by talking about it. We’d told a few people I was pregnant with our first child back in May 2017 and I lost the baby, so I was a bit nervous second-time around.

I did join a couple of groups on Facebook – one for those who are pregnant after suffering a loss, and one for women whose babies were due in August 2018 – I found both helpful, but when Dorothy died, I left, for obvious reasons.

baby loss

Using social media after Dorothy died

My husband and I were trying to decide how to communicate about Dorothy on social media when the decision was taken out of our hands. An acquaintance of my family took it upon herself to reference Dorothy in a Facebook post (because she’s a…well. A very rude word that I won’t type here). So, earlier than we had anticipated, we wrote a post about Dorothy and the incredible NHS team who took care of the three of us. I posted an edited version of it on both the Facebook groups I’d joined, wished everyone well and left.

Outside of social media, I’d been signing up to pregnancy and baby-related things left, right and centre. I had an app that told me the animal Dorothy was the size of each week and had multiple newsletters landing in my inbox. Unsubscribing to all of them was incredibly painful – made worse by Emma’s Diary, a helpful website for mums-to-be. I’d had a problem with my login before Dorothy was born, and after she arrived, I sent multiple unsubscribe notifications, but the emails kept coming. It was only after I emailed the PR team (an email that went unanswered), that they stopped coming – I don’t know if the two are connected.

On social media, it was even worse.

Every time I logged onto Facebook, I also had to contend with a flood of pregnancy and baby-related ads. Again, I tried multiple times to get rid of them, clicking ‘this isn’t relevant to me’ and even writing notes under my preferences explaining that my baby had died. The ads kept coming.

Other bereaved mothers have experienced the same thing

This is something that’s been in the news a lot this week as people share their stories. It’s not just social media, of course – targeted ads for prams and nappies follow me across the internet – but on social media, it seems much more prominent. For me, Facebook was the worst offender. I’m on a Facebook break at the moment (which is doing wonders for my mental health), and the targeted ads are a fairly big part in that decision.

In the BBC article linked above, Gillian Brockell points out that if the companies’ algorithms were smart enough to realise she was pregnant, they should have realised her baby died. I agree. My only posts about Dorothy on social media have been since she died. They contain some variation on the words ‘death, grief, child loss’ with links to Sands and Tommy’s charities. I left pregnancy-related groups and liked Sands, Tommy’s and Remember My Baby’s Facebook pages, but still, the ads kept appearing.

A Facebook executive comments in the same article that there’s the ‘option to block ads about topics users may find painful’. This would be an excellent tool if it worked. I blocked parenting, babies, pregnancy, newborn and just about every other related word I could think of, and I still saw ads on those topics.

Navigating social media after your child has died is hard enough. There are family photos, pregnancy announcements and lots of other joyful things that – despite being happy for the person – make you feel sad, lonely and angry.  Don’t even get me started on the ignorant idiots who post fake baby announcements for April Fools’ Day.

It would be absolutely wonderful if social media companies (and others that use targeted advertising) could use their algorithms and extensive knowledge to make that navigation a little bit easier.

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Carrie-Ann
Carrie-Ann

Carrie-Ann loves vintage fashion (original, repro – as long as it’s ’40s or ’50s inspired, anything goes) and her husband, and has an unhealthy attachment to Doctor Who, confectionery, and the Oxford comma.

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