9 Tips for Being Respectful to All Members of the Adoption Triad on Social Media

These tips have been gleaned from 10 years of personal experience in the online adoption community.

Robyn Chittister October 10, 2015
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I live on social media. In fact, I checked Facebook five times while writing this post. I have my own personal blog. So from my extensive experience, I’ve compiled some tips based on what I’ve learned in the past 10 years in the online adoption community.

1. Assume good intentions first, unless proven otherwise.

I’m stealing tip number one from Dawn Davenport of the Creating a Family organization and Facebook group. It is so easy to assume when you can’t hear tone or see facial expressions. Never assume that someone is trying to be hurtful. Before jumping to conclusions or attacking someone, ask for clarification.

2. Think before you post.

Once upon a time, I posted this Facebook status message:

“Cassie’s adoption cost $33,116.04. Wow!”

And Cassie’s birthmother replied:

“What u complaining for?”

I wasn’t complaining. I was simply stunned by the number. However, I’m sure she didn’t see it that way. If I had been thinking, I might have posted something a little less on the nose, with more context about how I was feeling.

3. But don’t overthink.

No one can anticipate every possible reaction to a post, picture, or comment. Take a moment to think about what you’re doing, yes. But you can’t spend too much time obsessing over who will think what. Also, you are totally entitled to your feelings; no one should be telling you how to feel or that you should not express your feelings.

4. Remember: disagreement doesn’t mean disrespect.

There are a number of people on social media with whom I do not agree. We can still share our feelings and thoughts on various topics, however, because we understand that disagreements are not personal attacks.

5. Listen when people say something is offensive.

There are certain terms and abbreviations that certain segments of the adoption triad find offensive. It doesn’t matter if your child’s birth mother doesn’t mind whatever terms you’re using, if your child is totally fine with particular language, or if you don’t think people are being offended. Be nice.

It’s not just about terminology. You express an opinion. Someone else points out that that opinion may be racist, sexist, or any number of other “ists.” Don’t scoff. Pay attention to his point. Just as you shouldn’t read to be offended, you shouldn’t immediately go on the defensive. Open your mind. You could learn something.

6. Don’t try to write other people’s narratives.

I have lost track of how many times people have said an adoptee must be speaking out for adoption reform because she is “angry” or he “had a bad experience.” A birth mother friend of mine who writes favorably about adoption was often accused of “drinking the Kool-Aid.” I’ve been accused of stealing my children from their birth mothers and told that I will be sorry when they “find their birth families.” (Never mind the fact that I’m friends with their birth family members on Facebook, so they don’t have to find their birth families. But whatever.)

Each person is an expert on his or her own experience. Don’t assume that you know more about it than he or she does. And while you’re at it, don’t make assumptions about another person’s role in the adoption world. I cannot count how many times I’ve seen people assume that an adoptee friend of mine is a birth mother, for example.

7. Ask before you post photos of or personal information about another person.

Some parents do not like posting photos online. Some birth family members may be uncomfortable with you tagging them in a post for any number of reasons. If adoption forums are any indication, birth families and adoptive families often disagree about posting information on social media. If someone posts something you would prefer hadn’t been posted, again, don’t assume ill intentions. Have a conversation with the person who posted. Think, “What would I do if my mother-in-law did this?” instead of framing it as an adoption-related issue.

8. Never share anything you wouldn’t mind sharing with the world.

Remember that what you are saying is public. Even in a closed group, someone can take a screenshot. I’m in a closed group that has over 5,000 members. I don’t know all of them. If you need help in a situation that might force you to divulge sensitive, personal information about yourself, your child, or your child’s birth parents, ask a moderator to post for you. I remember being involved in a conversation with an adoptive dad who was asking—in an open, public group—when he should tell his school-aged daughter she was adopted. Several of us noted that he probably just did.

9. Don’t be afraid to block someone who consistently attacks you.

I’ve had to block a few people because they don’t understand that disagreement is OK. If someone is personally attacking you, insulting you, or goading you into a flame war, block her. She’s not worth your time.

Are there any tips you would add?

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Robyn Chittister

Robyn is a full-time writer and mom through private, domestic, open, transracial adoption. She resides in New Hampshire with her family of two adults, two children, and a fluctuating number of animals. She is seriously passionate about adoption and tries to use her words wisely--both here and at her personal blog, Holding to the Ground.


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