When U.S. Air flight 1549 landed in the Hudson River, Gwen Poth wanted to be glued to the TV. “We live in Charlotte, North Carolina (where the plane was originally headed) and I knew there was a good chance we knew people on the plane — and it ended up that we did,” she says. “But I didn’t want to risk my 3- and 4-year olds seeing the plane on TV.”
So she did what many moms are doing these days: She turned to Twitter (www.twitter.com), where she could follow the story, find news links and see the amazing photo of the passengers on the plane’s wing. Through Twitter (as opposed to just going to an online news site), Poth was able to be in the virtual company of other moms as the whole country held its breath, waiting to learn the fate of the passengers — while she was also at home with her preschoolers.
“It’s something I’m surprised people don’t talk about more — the value of Twitter to moms who are very tied to the house because of their children, but who want to still keep up on current events without scaring their kids with newscasts,” says Poth.
If you’re not already tweeting away, you’re probably wondering — what exactly is Twitter? It’s a free social-networking and micro-blogging service that allows users to send and read other users’ updates, known as tweets. Tweets are text-based posts of up to 140 characters.
The digital back fence
Blogs, Facebook, Twitter — there are many ways for moms to connect these days that weren’t even around when today’s middle schoolers were born. (Boy, could I have used Twitter back then! Probably would have shared way too many adorable baby pics on Facebook, too.)
“Social media is raising the back fence for moms once again by giving them a place to commiserate, kvetch and compare notes — virtually,” says Jen Singer, creator of MommaSaid.net, and author of “Stop Second Guessing Yourself — The Toddler Years” (HCI, 2009). The two-way nature of social media “combines the camaraderie of the local playground with the practicality of the community parenting class — minus the carpool,” she adds.
Sometimes moms turn to social media to help their children — and in the process they help a lot of other families, too. Boston-area mom Jennifer B., who has two kids ages 8 and 5, started her blogs, Free to Enjoy Baseball — Peanut-Free and More (www.peanutfreebaseball.com) and Food Allergy Buzz (www.foodallergybuzz.com), because her youngest child is allergic to peanuts. She also co-founded the Facebook group You Don’t Need Nuts to Fly with another food-allergy mom blogger.
On her blog, A Deaf Mom Shares Her World (deafmomworld.com), Karen Putz, a mom of three deaf and hard-of-hearing kids, has made friends all over the world, and has helped educate other parents about issues such as hearing-aid insurance coverage and coming out of what she calls the “deaf/hard-of-hearing closet.”
There’s a lot of trust that builds among moms on social media as the tweets fly, communities spring up around popular blogs and Facebook keeps us not only involved in favorite causes, but in touch with other moms at times when we may be struggling to work (or these days, perhaps, to find a job), keep hearth and home together and have some family time.
Kindred spirits — most of the time
Of course, it’s not all hearts, flowers and mom bloggers sitting around singing “Kumbaya” by a virtual campfire. Why, you may be wondering, does Jennifer B. keep mum about her last name, both
here and online? She has received nasty comments from some moms who say she’s raising her peanut-allergic child in a bubble and that she should just “give him peanuts and see what happens.”
“I’m just amazed at how emotional people can get in a discussion with a total stranger on the internet,” Jennifer says. If you’ve ever followed the sometimes-heated comments following a controversial blog post (on either side of the issue) on home schooling, breastfeeding or childhood vaccinations, you know what she means.
Moms on social media definitely will let you know when they disagree with you — sometimes in large numbers. When Facebook recently tried to ban the posting of breastfeeding photos, several moms from the U.S., England and Australia teamed up to create a Facebook group: Hey Facebook, Breastfeeding is Not Obscene! Apparently its more than 225,000 members agree.
Social-media moms demand change, find lost shoes — and even try wine tasting
It’s amazing how social media has grown in so many unexpected directions. “TwitterMoms (www.twittermoms.com) are a powerful bunch,” says Megan Calhoun, founder of this social-networking site where moms come together to connect on a wide range of topics and to share their expertise.
“TwitterMoms organized a petition (containing 12,853 signatures) to get Chris Brown removed from the Kid’s Choice Awards and were successful,” Calhoun adds. (Brown was charged with two felony counts of assault and making criminal threats following his alleged altercation with girlfriend Rihanna on the eve of this year’s Grammy Awards.) After the petition was created, “Chris withdrew his name from the nominations,” she says.
Wine Tasting on Twitter? Why not? (I will admit to a bit of confusion, at first, as to how this would actually work.) The Twitter Wine Moms (twittermoms.ning.com/group/twitterwinemoms) on TwitterMoms select a reasonably priced bottle of wine that everyone cracks open at the same time. Members’ tasting notes — and lots of other fun comments — are then shared on Twitter. The group has nearly 400 members so far. That’s some virtual girls’ night out! (And no babysitter required.)
Some of the best uses of social media are local, however. “I subscribe to a Yahoo! group called Hoboken Moms,” says Rosemary Ostmann, the mom of a 20-month-old daughter from Hoboken, New Jersey. “While our town is just one square mile, there are 2,500 moms actively posting about everything from breastfeeding and potty training to a lost shoe and stroller-friendly restaurants,” she adds. “There are usually about 2,000 messages posted each month.”
Designed to fit your day
One of the best things about social media is that it works around a mom’s crazy schedule. Up with the baby at 2 am? It might be too late to phone a friend, but there’s always another mom to chat with on Twitter. Home with a sick preschooler — and not feeling so hot yourself? Pop on over to Facebook for a little pity-party status update. Wondering if anyone else ever wanted to ship her ‘tude-laden ‘tween to Siberia? Come on over to my blog, Parent Talk Today (www.parenttalktoday.com), and you’ll know you’re not alone.
Jen Singer probably sums it up best for many of the Twittering, blogging, Facebook-loving moms out there: “Social media makes it easy to find and keep up with like-minded moms,” she says. “Best of all, nobody sees the grape jelly on your sleeve!”
Kathy Sena is a mom, a blogger (www.parenttalktoday.com) and a freelance journalist who frequently covers parenting and social-media topics. Follow her on Twitter at @kathysena. She also covers consumer issues of interest to moms for Consumer Reports on Twitter at @CReporter.Moms go green with social mediaSan Pedro, California mom Jennifer Taggart is passionate about green and non-toxic issues, particularly when they relate to kids. The mother of a 6-year-old son and a 4-year-old daughter blogs at The Smart Mama (www.thesmartmama.com).
“I’m a founding member of the Green Moms Carnival, a group of amazing green-blogging women,” says Taggart. “Once a month, we have a topic-specific blogging day, where we unite our voices to focus on a particular subject,” she adds. “We are also active on Twitter as a group and won the Shorty Award for best green content.”
Among other things, Taggart and her fellow mom bloggers have brought their voices together to demand BPA-free products and to get a children’s clothing manufacturer to respond to moms’ concerns about the issue of skin burns caused by tagless tags.
Want to learn more? Visit healthygreenmoms.com/blog.