Social media is a powerful tool intended to connect people. One of the most common ways that adult adoptees and their birth family members are able to connect today is through social media. But social media brings both challenges and benefits that are unique to the adoption triad.
Adult adoptees who are considering connecting with their birth family via social media may find the following guide useful.
If You Already Have a Relationship with Your Birth Family
Whether you’re an adult adoptee of an open adoption, or a closed adoptee who has been reunited with their birth family, navigating social media can be tricky with birth family members, even if you have a great relationship with them. It can also be beneficial tool for keeping in touch.
Awareness of your own individual situation and applying some general social media etiquette can help prevent any unintended awkwardness on social media. Here are a few tips:
- Understand the privacy settings on all of your social media accounts, and know how to use them. Those settings update often! Consider what you’re comfortable with your birth family seeing.
- Remember that even if you’re comfortable with other people knowing your adoption story, your birth family may not be ready to share their story with certain people, so try to be aware of that and respectful of their right to privacy on social media. Otherwise, you might inadvertently “out” them to friends or family who don’t know their adoption story.
- Don’t tag them in anything or share photos of you together on social media unless you’re sure that they’re comfortable with that.
- Always stop and think before you post. Considering how a post could be perceived or affect someone can potentially prevent any social media missteps.
Following one another on social media can be a nice way to keep up with day-to-day updates, if you’re both comfortable doing so. For some people, it’s a comfort to see one another with their families, living happily. Just be sure that your birth family is ok with that, too. If you’re not sure, ask!
If You’re Thinking About Reaching Out for the First Time
The process of search and reunion isn’t easy, to say the least. A common way that adoptees find a birth family member for the first time is through social media.
If you’re an adult adoptee of a closed adoption and you’re thinking about contacting a birth family member for the first time through social media, you’re certainly not alone. It’s often easier to find a person’s social media account than it is to find their email address, phone number or physical address. But approaching someone on social media comes with some unique benefits and risks that you should be aware of, and contacting a birth family member about a potential reunion for the first time has its own rules of etiquette that you should follow.
A few things to keep in mind as you prepare to reach out to a birth family member for the first time through social media:
- Make sure you send that message privately. Not sure how to do that? Learn how.
- If they don’t respond to your private message, there are a number of reasons why that may have happened. They may not be ready for or willing to have a relationship. This may not be the right person. The message may have even gone into a spam folder. They may still be emotionally processing your message. Whatever happens, you’ll need to be ready to accept any result with respect and empathy.
- When composing your message, explain who you are, what you’re hoping for, and state that your intentions in reaching out are positive. Keep that first message fairly short and allow them the opportunity to respond. Too much information in that first message can be overwhelming in an already surprising and emotional situation.
Contacting a birth family member for the first time is a delicate situation. Try reaching out to other adult adoptees of closed adoptions to see how they approached it, talking to your friends and family members to see how the message you’ve drafted might come across, or talking to a professional counselor who has experience with adoption and reunions.
Is Adding Your Birth Family on Social Media Right for You?
Not sure if you want to send that friend request to a birth family member? It’s understandable that you’d be a little hesitant. There are emotional implications to consider, like:
- Being able to see them live their life, maybe with a spouse, children, grandchildren, or some of your other biological family members. This can either bring you comfort or it can make you feel a little envious or sad. Maybe a mix of emotions.
- Being able to let them know that you’re happy and well through your own posts can give you both some peace of mind. Or you may worry that they’ll feel envious or sad when they see you with your (adoptive) family. Again — perhaps both.
- You’ll have the opportunity to shed the fantasy image you have of your birth family and you’ll get to see them (albeit the best version of themselves) living their daily lives closer to reality through social media, and they’ll be able to do the same with you. This can be disillusioning for some, or bring closure for others.
- You’ll both need to be a little more aware of what you share on social media, and how it can affect the other.
- Adding your birth family on social media brings you a little closer into one another’s lives, and it can be hard to take a step back from that once you make that decision. For most people, following someone on Instagram isn’t a big deal. But for an adoptee, it can be.
- There’s always the possibility that your birth family member will reject the request to connect on social media. Remember that there are many reasons why they may do this, but you’ll need to be prepared for this possibility and be ready to accept it with empathy.
Ultimately, the possibilities of connecting with your birth family on social media often bring some mixed emotions that are unique to each person and situation. Only you can decide if pushing that friend request button is right for you.