Facebook Groups: Community or Conditioning?

Post updated August 9, 2020

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 from around the world, but its membership is 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 in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, the subsequent demonstrations and riots, and Blackout Tuesday. Sadly, many women left the group during this time.

Contrary opinions by group members in response to politically persuasive posts were being deleted by moderators, even if the comments were backed up with facts. In various posts where a mom would ask for honest opinions from fellow members regarding specific public figures, any criticisms that differed from the majority opinion were immediately addressed by the group admin or moderators with sugary sweet aggression. Basically, “agree or be quiet, please.”

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, certain messages promoted and other messages removed 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 classes outside my core curriculum 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. With the help of this course, I can easily put a name on what has been lost by this moms group little by little this year, and that is objectivity.

“Objectivity is the extent to which material expresses facts or information without distortion by personal feelings or other biases.”

-M.A. Tate in Web Wisdom, 3rd Ed., 2018.

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. This class helps me to 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.

There are studies of Facebook Groups being created or infiltrated specifically with community shaping in mind, because Facebook is where people hangout most online and can be influenced. 

This moms group is large–a couple thousand followers–and new members are added daily. I’m distressed by the fact that, amid the childcare and faith dialogue, 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.

When I wrote to a moderator concerning her deletion of a few comments in a thread promoting a controversial figure in the news today, she was unreceptive and could not explain her moderation actions, which were not a reflection of group established rules. When I then turned to the group administrator asking about these censorship tactics, I received no answer at all.

Here is a small excerpt from my private message to her: “I have offered differing opinions in the past on certain issues and never been censored. This [new] practice is not conducive to open and honest discussion and I find it disturbing that this group attempts to steer group opinion [in] a very singular direction. I agree on so many topics and support so much of what this group stands for, but I don’t let any one group dictate to me how I shall think or feel. Are you attempting to create a safe space here, or not?”

The truth is, 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. I understand the need to vent frustrations over current events, but the political stance held by the administrator and the moderators is getting so apparent, 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 could foster customer feedback and can help determine the future of the brand–you know, since mall surveys are pretty much a thing of the past. 

When we join those sorts of professional or business groups, though, we do so freely with a good sense of what to expect, since the message is more straightforward. I love some of the new writer’s groups I’ve joined recently.

However, in friendly support groups regarding personal topics like these moms groups, it begins to feel more like a meet up with confidants. We get really personal sometimes. If the group fosters a supportive vibe, sometimes it’s the only place some mothers can open up about private issues. I can’t believe this group that I cherished could become so skewed so quickly.

Is it a reflection of a politically polarised society at large? I don’t know.

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.

Luv&Hugs,

*Kristine*

Featured Image Photo courtesy of Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

A Quality Connection

Like so many others, I found myself way down the rabbit hole of social media these past few weeks, thanks to various attention-grabbing topics.

It’s almost ironic that a month ago I was blogging about staying connected, and now I feel drawn to write a post about disconnecting.

After pondering further, I realized it’s not about disengaging entirely. As with anything in life, moderation is key. Social media, texting, and video calling are all wonderful ways to keep up to date on Framily—a mashup we lovingly use here at Mothering Humanity to mean friend, family, and those people who blur the lines and make life better.

Sometimes, however, our connection with the outside world is so powerful that we begin to ignore those within our own home. I found myself losing grip of my girls by hyper-focusing on world events. My heart was hurting for humanity, but I was forgetting about the tiny humans at my fingertips.

It’s hard to admit, but I was filling what little free time I had staring at a screen.

“Mommy, can you play with me?”

“I can’t. I’m busy.”

It had to stop. My girls needed some of the attention I was lending out to others, or should I say, “other things.” I wasn’t using the time to connect with Framily. I was reading articles, blogs, studies and op-eds on police brutality, racism, the black experience, white privilege, the coronavirus, plagues, vaccines, political movements, the Nordic model, the economy, you name it!

I was enjoying a week off, while between courses for my MFA, but I wasn’t spending it with the people who mean the most to me. It was time to take action!

I ditched the phone for a few days and my girls flourished. To begin with, we had a crazy-cool photo shoot in the woods and ice cream afterwards. As a family, we played in the pool and barbecued, while hanging out with the in-laws. My kids got to play with their cousins, roll around in the dirt, and pick flowers. We went to bed late, slept in, cuddled a ton, spent time playing, learning, coloring and connecting at home. We sang. We danced. We went out to eat with family. It was awesome!!

It was also a good reminder that mothering humanity begins with family. True change begins at home. I can only hope to influence my children if they trust our mother-daughter bond. A quality connection is key.

…It’s also a lot of fun.

Best,

*Kristine*

Happy Mother’s Day

I’m excited to be relaunching Mothering Humanity today of all days! A huge shout out to all the moms — new and seasoned — for doing the best they can each and every day of the year. You are the glue that keeps the world from cracking into a million little pieces. This photo will always hold a special place in my heart. Among other reasons, it marks the day I joined your ranks.

Check out the “In the Works” section for what’s coming and take a peek at my updated bio in “Author Cred” if you have time. If not, come back and visit soon. Above all, enjoy your day!

Best,

Kristine

Potty Training

When I started potty training my daughter over the holidays, I was ready to give up after the first 48 hours.

As a first-time mom, I had already made a mistake in this department when I misread my daughter’s signs at a mere 21 months and introduced the potty way too soon.

This time last year, my husband and I rushed out to the store eager to buy our baby a potty chair. She had taken to stripping off her clothes at home and we thought it was a good time to ditch the diapers. We were so excited and proud the first few times she did ‘pee pee’ or ‘poo poo’ on her adorable Doc McStuffins potty chair we scored at a deep discount as Toys “R” Us that doubles as a stepping stool. Once the novelty wore off, she quickly lost interest in the business of doing her business like a big girl.

Her and I both got extremely frustrated. There was some shouting and crying from both sides, and we eventually went back to diapers fulltime and put potty training on pause. I learned, if your child is not ready to potty train, it will not happen. Don’t rush it. Definitely, don’t force it. Take cues from them.

Now, at the ripe old age of two and a half—a good 10 months after our first go-round—I was pretty sure she could handle it. I went out and bought some adorable new “big girl panties.” This advice from my mom was to get my daughter something she’d be excited to put on. We also inherited a lot from my niece who had grown out of a large set of undies before they got around to potty training. I had plenty. If she messed a pair or two and I had to throw them out, it wouldn’t make a dent in the substantial stash.

I marked my calendar for a two-week stretch that I’d be on break between my studies and crossed my fingers that the timing would also be right for my daughter. My mom had all five of us kids potty trained around two years of age, so I was feeling like I was lagging behind. Also, my daughter must be fully potty trained before going off to preschool in the Fall.

I let my daughter play around with the potty and the panties for a week beforehand to get her comfortable with the idea before we went diaperless. When the day rolled around and I confidently announced, “No more diapers!” I think we were both mentally prepared to take on the task.

I didn’t leave home the first two days. That was part of the plan. Let her pick her panties, and let her wear them around the house all day. I know she must have been annoyed with mommy’s persistent, “Do you need to go potty?” every ten minutes, because I got tired of saying it. When she used the potty, I went wild with praise and excitement. My neighbors must have thought I was bonkers. We did have quite a few accidents, nonetheless. I called for help:

 

God, grant me:

Serenity to accept the challenge of potty training,

Courage to become intimately acquainted with my mop & washing machine,

And Wisdom to know when she needs to go.

 

I tried to keep in mind that she was just learning to control her bladder. Up to this point, she’d been able to go in little bursts in her diaper throughout the day. Praying kept my patience flowing.

After a lot of rinsing and washing of floors, clothing, and kiddo, we ventured out into the world on the third day. With a bag full of clothing changes and patience, we arrived at the supermarket. We did a lap around the store loading everything from our list into the cart. I asked my panty-wearing princess if she needed to go potty as we were finishing up and she said, “Yes.” I hurried to the front of the store, let a cashier know that I was leaving my cart near the unopened register beside her, and rushed to the restrooms.

Entering the foreign bathroom with the big white toilet must have been too much for my toddler. She was so nervous, perched on the edge of the seat, that nothing came out. I knew we needed to wrap up our shopping spree quickly. I grabbed the mouthwash and laundry detergent and was heading back towards the front when I got distracted by the discount bin. I wanted to see if I could grab any last-minute Christmas gifts for half off.

It was there that her bladder burst.

I assured her that everything would be all right as I wheeled the stroller back to the checkout line area, and informed the same cashier of our accident. She called for clean up and handed me a roll of paper towel, so I could wipe down the dripping cart. A quick clothing change at the car, and we were back to finally check out. The trip may have taken twice as long as usual, but I was proud of us for braving it. All-in-all, I thought we handled it fairly well. But I did learn that a clothing change isn’t enough. You also need to pack a pair of shoes, just in case the first pair get soggy.

We made a few more outings and had a few more accidents over the next week until my daughter learned to communicate better and feel comfortable with unfamiliar facilities. We also went through a three-day, no-poo crisis that ended in a celebration photo sent to Daddy at work. Don’t worry too much, it usually works itself out in the end.

By the time Christmas Eve came, she hadn’t had an accident in three days. She wore her pretty, red dress over to our in-laws for a feast and arrived home without incident. That is… until she realized Santa had visited her while we were away. She rushed into the living room to see her loot under the tree and whizzed herself like a puppy out of excitement. It was actually kind of cute. She did it again while twirling around in her new ballerina costume. We were all laughing (and cleaning).

In a perfect world, I would say that was the last time she wet herself. It was not. But the accidents have been very, very few. I think we’ve had maybe three in the last seven weeks. I didn’t understand why my girlfriends with little kids didn’t have more sympathy for me when I was in the throws of it those first few days. It seemed like the crappiest job ever – pun intended! The truth is, it all goes by quickly. In just a few short weeks I saw my toddler grasp the new concept and put it into practice. We got through it together and I’m so very proud of her. She already pulls her own garments down and back up by herself and even tried to empty her own potty a handful of times. I applauded the effort, cleaned up the mess, and reminded her that it was mommy and daddy’s job to do the transfer to the toilet. We always let her flush the big toilet, and that puts a smile on her face. Having a potty-trained two year old puts a smile on mine.

Potty Training