If you had created a Facebook group that morphed into an 18,000-person support group for moms, would you kill it after it became too much work? Or if some of the posts veered into controversial territory with heated discussion threads? If the mindless mommy chatter veered too far away from the judgment-free, discussion-rich environment you’d hoped to create?
Such is the case for Longest Shortest Time Mamas, a Facebook group that (as of last Friday) is no longer posting members’ content.
Farewell, Longest Shortest Time Mamas
Some background: The Longest Shortest Time is a podcast that calls itself “a parenting show for everyone.” On iTunes, it’s got 1,800 reviews and a five-star rating (which puts it at the top of the “Kids and Family” category). The creator of the podcast, Hillary Frank, also started a Facebook group. In her farewell post, she writes: “I started this group two years ago for two reasons: 1) to give listeners a safe space to support each other in non-judgy ways; and 2) to create a place where we could reach out directly to listeners for potential show content.”
But the Facebook group is shutting down.
Here’s what she said: “Somewhere along the way, moderating a group of thousands and thousands became more complicated than we’d anticipated. In January, our podcast went weekly, which requires a pretty demanding production schedule. Our top priority is making a super awesome podcast for you, and the thing we’ve come to realize is, moderating a group of this size (even with extra help) is more than our two-person staff can handle.”
Filling a need
What’s clear to me, from being part of an 18,000-member group and seeing a fraction of the posts there, is so many mamas are looking for answers and feedback. Sure, we have friends, but at any given moment, how easily can you ask them about minute parenting topics, from selecting middle names for babies, to how to get squirmy toddlers strapped into strollers, to how to cope with bosses who don’t understand family needs—and a million other issues about parenting.
The Facebook group was BIG, which meant there were always other people around, ready to chime in on discussions. And it started with people who listened to the podcast, which was rich with real-life stories from moms, dads, kids, and grandparents.
“Don’t read the comments!”
I’ve cautioned friends to avoid reading comments on articles; I’ve steered clear of YouTube comments; I’ve mostly avoided Reddit in large part because of the weird sub-Reddits and comment culture. But with Facebook groups, the content is almost entirely comments and discussion threads.
And that’s part of the joy of a mom’s group. We laugh with (and at) each other over parenting fails and toddler tantrums. We commiserate over topics that are icky for non-parents (read: lots of poop, pee, and breast-milk talk). There’s dumb stuff too, from time to time, where people make fun of each other, start talking shit about a certain type of mom, take the “wrong” side of a parental choice (vaccines, circumcisions, and public schools are rife for in-fighting with these groups).
Different in a good way
There are plenty of websites and mom-groups that I avoid for a few reasons:
- They’re not my people. Which is to say, I don’t have enough money to join conversations about top-of-the-line preschools in New York City, which doctor to go to for a tummy tuck after childbirth, or where to shop for designer maternity clothes. Let’s be clear, though: If you DO have those conversations and that lifestyle, good for you! I just don’t have anything useful to say on those topics, nor are they helpful for me to read.
- They’re judgy as hell. I don’t want to go onto message boards where people talk shit about other moms all day. I choose to live my life looking for creative, interesting ideas, and being surrounded by negativity (even in a virtual setting) is not my cup of tea. (But sure, I’m not above a snarky text message to my sister or an offhand comment to my husband every now and then.)
- They’re repetitive and uninformed. There’s a certain “Yahoo! Answers” quality to some discussion boards and groups, in which people argue about vaccines (all good science says you should vaccinate your kids); whether breastfeeding is good or bad (it’s good, but I’m not going to make you feel guilty for using formula); and if Aiden/Kaidan/Jaden/Brayden is a good name (pick what you want!). Am I the weirdo or are they? Either way, I’m not interested in those discussions.
The Longest Shortest Time Facebook group started from the podcast, which was rich with personal stories and struggles, little-discussed topics (like sex after kids), and interesting, down-to-earth conversations. So the Facebook group started with that ethos as well. Discussion threads were thoughtful, supportive, and interesting. As the group got bigger, the dynamics changed some, but there were still a lot of smart, funny people, from a variety of backgrounds, talking about mom stuff.
What will fill the void?
Hillary Frank (and the Longest Shortest Time) missed an opportunity with the Facebook community she created. It was an outlet for thousands of women to connect, laugh, find support, get answers and vent about real-life issues. It was also an opportunity to build a rich community for parenting stories. Today’s mothers are looking for a home on the internet rich with conversation, less judgmental than some site-specific discussion boards, more thoughtful about parenting choices
There are plenty of “subgroups” still alive from the Longest Shortest Time main group, devoted to working mothers, stay-at-home mothers, writers, and more. A plucky mom created a new group for people in the wake of the shut-down, and in three days they’re up to more than 3,000 members. That tells me there’s a need and a want for these groups.
Where else can mamas turn for virtual support?
The Bump tends to attract women while they’re pregnant. Though many of the discussion boards continue for women postpartum, most moms seem to lose interest in the boards once they’ve delivered.
Reddit (r/parenting) is the Wild West of web forums. Users have anonymous handles on the site, and there are discussion boards dedicated to parenting, cat photos, politics, relationships, making fun of fat people (yes, really), targeting and harassing feminists and women in tech (i.e. #gamergate). It’s the best and worst of humanity, all in one place, which is largely crowd-managed. (I’ll confess to popping over to the site to read AMAs from time to time.) Even though I have a distaste for Reddit, my co-blogger Leslie says, “I think r/parenting has a lot value. You can read through topics without joining any groups, providing a lot of answers to questions in parenting you may be afraid of asking.”
Craigslist has a parenting forum, but after a quick glance in, it looks like topics are wildly varied, and also, it feels like 2007 in there.
Other Facebook communities: There’s a Facebook niche for all sorts of parenting groups. (I’m in a few for Ohio moms and parents who write.) The trick with these groups is you need to either know someone who invites you, or be part of a community (i.e. read a blog or join a website or follow someone on Twitter) that informs and/or invites you.
NOTE: The Smart Domestic is on Facebook, and we’d love to make it a cozy, thoughtful space for our readers. Join us, won’t you?
So what’d we miss? What’s your favorite virtual support network? Where do you turn for sane, supportive mom-talk online?