The saying, “It takes a village to raise a child,” remains true, but today in many cases—that village is primarily online.
If you are a mom with a Facebook account, you’re likely part of an online mom group, whether for support, recommendations or resale items. In the past few years, more and more mamas are reaching for their phones to crowd-source answers through these active Facebook groups—myself included.
In my local community, I am a member of an extremely engaged working moms Facebook page with over 4,000 members. When I first discovered this Facebook group, I was thrilled. I felt like I hit the insider jackpot.
I had just moved into the neighborhood and found myself loving the recommendations for local restaurants to try for date nights, best plumber who calls back at any hour and favorite pediatrician in the area.
At first, I had lots of love for this group.
A mom would post about her struggles breastfeeding and herds of mothers responded with advice, encouragement and local resources to get her assistance.
A mom would try a new bakery that just opened, post amazing pictures of their treats, rave about how delicious they tasted and encourage other families to support this woman-run business.
A mom would post a picture of herself just trying to use the bathroom alone with her toddler’s head peeking through the door. I mean what mom can’t relate and laugh about that?!
A mom wanted to help a local homeless man and this online community rallied together to donate clothing, toiletries and a used bike to help him get to a job someone else provided to get him back on his feet.
I wanted to high-five my local mamas! This page was an incredible place for community building, albeit virtual.
But all too quickly, mixed in with all the positives of this Facebook group, came the negative―critical and dramatic.
A mom posted about refusing to vaccinate her child and the comments section was filled with harsh judgement, criticism and rude behavior in seconds.
A mom had a bad dining experience at a small community restaurant and took to the Facebook group to shame the owner and waitress by name, encouraging others to boycott the restaurant and shut them down.
A mom posted a picture of her child’s body completely covered in hives and asked for online opinions, instead of seeking professional medical attention.
A mom brought her baby to an adult-only charity event and when she was denied entry, immediately complained to the Facebook group. This drama took the focus off the important reason for the event, raising money for low-income children’s healthcare.
As I started to read through these vindictive and judgmental threads, filled with comments that were the opposite of community building, I was shocked at the behavior of these mothers to other mothers.
Instead, this was a whole new way to engage in the mommy wars, only this was happening behind a computer screen where it seemed people feel even more empowered to voice their disagreement of others.
I felt pulled in both directions. This Facebook group was giving a loud voice to the negative and critical, but also provided the opportunity for true support and resources that helped the community vibe.
Plus, I found myself disliking certain members of the group for the drama they created, but realized how ridiculous that was considering I didn’t even know these people!
I considered leaving the group because I recognized it was a waste of my time to be reading these negative and childish online fights. But if I left, then I would lose my outlet for recommendations I valued.
I was torn.
So I set some rules to prevent this Facebook group from becoming a negative force in my life. I decided to only use the group on as-needed basis. I hid and turned off notifications from the group so they wouldn’t appear as frequently in my daily Facebook feed—including notifications from specific names of the same repeat-negativity-offenders.
And that was the best decision I’ve made.
As a mother, it’s so easy to second-guess yourself and nobody needs to feel judgement from other mothers. And while online support is great, I’ve found that actually going to my real-life friends and engaging in person is more rewarding and valuable that any Facebook mom group could be.
I remain a member of my Facebook mom group, but at an arm’s-length. But I am pretty sure that is where I will turn the next time I need a recommendation for a dishwasher repairman. ?