Have you ever felt like virtual groups you joined to lift you up and support you were actually having the opposite effect? When I was pregnant with my first child and struggling as a first-time mom, I found amazing support on Facebook from breastfeeding groups, to cloth diapering groups, to local parent support groups, and numerous pages and blogs in between ready and willing to answer all my questions.
Navigating the waters of motherhood would have proved a lot more difficult without them.
Lately, however, I’ve been searching for connection and not just information—what with the current world situation and finding myself at home with two small kids more often than ever before.
This virtual sisterhood that I’ve come to cherish over the last five years has recently been bringing me down, and I wanted to share my struggles with you.
One particular Facebook Group that I joined a few years back, which I believed would help me create the type of homelife I desire, has turned out to be a scary place to hangout. Whereas the group’s title is exactly what I thought I was seeking, the conversations held there—especially this year—have not reflected the group’s name. It feels like the group is being shaped or molded by the moderators and admins. More and more, I’m beginning to wonder if this is because it’s an American election year.
The group is a “moms” group. It is international, with members around the world, but predominately American. It’s supposed to support spirituality and the crunchy kind of lifestyle I dabble with in different forms.
Since the beginning of the year, I’ve seen this group’s message become more and more narrow. Diverse voices from women of color were being silenced. Contrary opinions to politically persuasive posts were being deleted by moderators, even if the comments were backed up with facts. In various member posts asking for honest opinions of public figures or current events, any criticisms that differed from the majority opinion were immediately addressed by group admins or moderators with sugary sweet aggression.
At first, I felt like this was being done to help keep the peace. We’ve all seen these sorts of groups get out of hand with drama at times. Unfortunately, I kept seeing certain voices silenced and other voices amplified, as the conversations were clearly being steered. All this within a moms support group.
Right now in my MFA studies, I’m taking a Communications class and a Marketing class in addition to my Creative Writing studies. Both of the aforementioned classes address the social media landscape. The COMs class is teaching students how to identify “fake news” and judge various content on the Web for hidden bias and overall accuracy. The Marketing class is teaching students how to sell a brand or message online and engage readers, especially via social media. It also extrapolates on the power of social media as a social change agent, if a business or organization can foster a sense of community. From what I’ve learned in these two classes, I can see exactly the type of member shaping and conditioning that is taking place within the Facebook Group I’ve been discussing, and it’s disturbing.
This moms group is a large group, a couple thousand followers, and new members are added daily. I’m distressed by the fact that these unsuspecting members are being (very politely) force-fed a politically-charged message by a seemingly benign group, which flaunts a name that in my opinion does not reflect the hidden undercurrent being peddled.
I’m not looking to be politically persuaded by a Facebook Group of moms that is supposed to be trading in motherly and spiritual support. The political stance held by the administrator and the moderators is getting so apparent, in fact, I’m beginning to wonder if someone is getting paid to spin the message.
There are plenty of Facebook Groups for politics. There are Facebook Groups for professionals to network. There are Facebook Groups for learning a new trade, or new diet, or new hobbie. Facebook even opened an avenue for businesses to create groups that foster customer feedback, since mall surveys are pretty much a thing of the past.
When we join those sorts of groups, we do so freely with a good sense of what to expect, since the message is more straightforward. However, in friendly support groups regarding personal topics, like these moms groups, it begins to feel more like a meet up with confidants. I can’t believe that a group could become so skewed so quickly.
From now on, I’m going to be a lot more cautious of these types of groups and their thinly-veiled ulterior motives. The world is divided enough without a support group of Christian mothers being conditioned to take a side.
Seek unity, friends! …and continue mothering humanity.