How Social Media Has Changed Adoption

It is safe to say that the world we live in today is consumed by all things social media. It is very rare to meet someone who is not plugged into some sort of platform, whether it be Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, or even Tik Tok. Some grandpas complain about political front yard signs that don’t match their viewpoints and five-year-olds whose best friends are the YouTubers they watch more than cartoons. We have information available at our fingertips and children of today’s world will grow up never knowing life without a cell phone. Instant gratification is expected everywhere we go. Google is the knowledge capital of the world and there isn’t a household around that doesn’t have a personal relationship with either Alexa or Siri. We are yet to find out the impact all this screen time is having on our brains, but it has no doubt changed the adoption world forever.

The Internet itself transformed the way people decided which agency to use for their adoption or any business for that matter. Long ago, like most things, the only kind of referrals that existed were word-of-mouth referrals. There was no database available that listed the best adoption agencies so the only way to get information was to speak to people you knew that had experienced it personally or knew someone who had. The referral could have been a friend whose daughter placed a child for adoption or your best friend’s brother’s aunt who adopted a child. Agencies relied on these referrals but had no way of stopping things if someone felt they had a bad or negative experience. Susie Q was able to spread negativity like wildfire around town to whoever would hear if she felt like it. Now, all it takes is the right amount of money to remove Susie Q’s less-than-desirable review from Google if a company chooses to do so.

The Internet has now allowed people to be able to research in the privacy of their homes for exactly what they are looking for and get (mostly) honest feedback regarding other people’s experiences. If a woman finds herself in a situation where she is considering adoption, she can explore her options without hearing the opinions of her friends and family she otherwise would have had to ask for a referral. She can investigate different adoption agencies and what they can provide for her both before and after placement, helping ensure she makes the best decision for which agency might be right for her. She can read others’ stories to help give her a clear picture of what is the right path for her. Giving women the resources to fully educate themselves on all their options during pregnancy is a huge positive benefit of this digital age.

In addition to the Internet, we have now added social media to our world; it is a place for people to say exactly what they want without the fear of in-person confrontation. Social media lets people present only what they want people to see and edit their lives in whatever way they would like. This could be both positive and negative regarding adoption. Ten plus years ago, once a woman decided to pursue placing her child for adoption, she would look at parent profiles that were physical books. These books were and still are made by the prospective adoptive parents, oftentimes spending painstaking hours perfecting them as they are the first impression a birth parent has of them.

Now, most parent profiles are online. They are still lovingly prepared but by putting them online they can have a wider reach to anyone browsing that particular site versus having a caseworker physically distribute them to expectant parents. The information a hopeful adoptive parent puts online is normally limited to first names only but, as we all know, the Internet is subject to the idea of six degrees of separation. Nothing you put online ever really stays private and a quick Google search can bring up every detail about you. The hopeful adoptive parents most likely do not have anything to hide but not all adoptions are completely open, or transparent, right away. Even though there are fewer closed adoptions today as we realize how beneficial open adoptions are for all members of the triad, there still are some people who choose to keep their information private. Some people also choose not to share they have chosen adoption or are adopting until things are finalized to avoid premature excitement for something that might not yet be set in stone. Unfortunately, we can never guarantee the ability to completely protect privacy for both the adoptive and birth families because the Internet makes this virtually impossible. You must think wisely before you decide to share anything.

It is important to discuss the unfortunate negativity that can come along if you decide to be open about your adoption story on social media. If you choose to share any personal information regarding your decision to place or adopt a child, your followers will have an opinion. Even strangers on the Internet can feel entitled to share their viewpoint on your journey and sometimes words can be hurtful. As education becomes more widespread regarding the positivity that adoption can bring, the hope is that there will be fewer keyboard warriors around to spout unconstructive opinions, but the truth is that they will most likely always be around. It is best to remove those that are unsupportive and surround yourself with those that support your decision unconditionally. Additionally, whatever you post online will most likely remain there forever. Trying to erase something you have written or shared online is difficult enough as it is and posting while angry or hurt can most definitely come back to haunt you. Feelings will certainly ebb and flow but finding another outlet to unleash these feelings such as in person with a friend or even writing in a journal is much healthier and is without long-term consequences for short-term feelings.

Choosing to connect with the adoptive family on social media can also make things easier or more difficult post-placement. For some birth parents, it is a great avenue to share updates, see photos, and just feel like you have a closer view of the life of the child they have placed for adoption. Until social media, the only way to receive the coveted update photos for which most birth parents anxiously await the arrival was through email or even good old-fashioned snail mail. Some updates are even sent through the agency if the adoption is semi-open, making the wait for updates and photos even longer. Social media allows people to instantly share a photograph or video with all their friends and family, including the birth parents if they choose.

In contrast, it can still cause grief or pain for some birth parents to have such an inside look at their child’s life. Birth parents place their children for adoption for a multitude of reasons, but it can still be triggering to the trauma they went through to see or hear about their child’s life. If you follow other birth parents online and see they have received an update or are more connected to the adoptive family, you may feel jealous and hurt. Receiving an update can unload a heap of emotions and for some is better saved for a private time instead of the Facebook thread they mindlessly scroll through every day. It can also prove to be complicated when it comes to birth parents wanting to share photos of the children they place for adoption on their pages. Typically, any photos taken before placement belong to the birth parents, who can do with them whatever they wish, but any photos received through updates cross into uncharted waters. Some adoptive parents prefer photos they send not to be shared on social media, which can lead to complex emotions for a birth parent who feels entitled to share anything they would like to share. It all comes down to respect, communication, and understanding of the priorities in the relationship between the birth and adoptive families. The addition of social media in our lives has most certainly added new complications that the adoption community has not faced before but adapting to what is best for everyone within the triad is the most important aspect to remember as we navigate through these times.

For adoptees, social media can be helpful if they did not grow up with open adoption and did not know their birth family. We all know that every person you have ever met will eventually find you on social media. Trying to locate your birth family can be made easier by social media if you find a lead through a DNA match or old adoption records. Birth siblings or other extended family members can also connect easily through social media. A complicated situation that can arise from social media use is a child attempting to connect with his or her birth family without informing his or her adoptive family. Although it could be exciting to receive a friend request from the child you placed for adoption, it is best to avoid accepting until you have an opportunity to check with adults or know this is something with which they are comfortable. Preserving the respect built between the adoptive and birth family is of the utmost importance.

One of the biggest benefits of social media is the ability to connect with others who have walked similar journeys. Social media opens the world up to meeting all sorts of people that you may never have had an opportunity to meet. Personally, as a birth mother myself, being able to share my story with other birth parents and know that they understand what I am going through has allowed me to heal in ways I didn’t even know I needed. There is an entire community of birth parents, adoptive parents, and adoptees online that are working to educate people about the power of adoption. Stigmas are being erased and people are changing the way they think about adoption because of social media and the ability to spread the word to the masses so quickly. The attention that has been drawn to adoption, and specifically birth parents, is growing every day. There is an online support system available that allows birth parents to learn about not only other birth parents but the additional members of the triad as well. The more we can learn about each other, the better we can help support each other. Education can come in the form of sharing personal stories, feelings, or experiences. Gathering with others that have gone through some of the same things you have is therapeutic for all those involved. Support groups have long proved beneficial and in today’s world of virtual meetups, there are infinite options available. From Zoom meetings with a group of 30 to Facetime calls with just two people, connecting is the number one way we can feel less alone in our feelings and journeys.

The last 20 years have brought us many advances on the Internet and social media. We can greatly benefit from these technologies if they are used the right way. All adoption plans are complex, and the addition of social media can magnify the complexities, or it can help adoption grow in ways we never dreamed possible. Respect for each other is the core value we must remember when interacting or sharing our lives on social media. If we all do our part to learn from each other, the next 20 years could take us to a place where the positives of adoption are greatly understood and widely celebrated. Join in with a Google search today to find out how you can best support your local adoption community. 

Do you feel there is a hole in your heart that can only be filled by a child? We’ve helped complete 32,000+ adoptions. We would love to help you through your adoption journey. Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98. Are you considering placing a child for adoption? Not sure what to do next? First, know that you are not alone. Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98 to speak to one of our Options Counselors to get compassionate, nonjudgmental support. We are here to assist you in any way we can.