We’ve all seen it happen. Sometimes it takes place in the comments section of a blog post, other times in a message board, on Facebook or even in private emails. Online mom bullying. Fight the temptation to roll your eyes. Cyber bullying isn’t just for tweens any more.
No one can deny that the Internet revolutionized motherhood. Blogs made it possible for women to walk a mile in each other’s flats, share struggles, and find community. With the spreading of ideas and opinions, dissent is inevitable and discourse, a natural byproduct of emotionally charged discussions. What many have noticed though is that the atmosphere between online mothers has grown an ugly underbelly.
Some blame it on the competition that so often exists as an undertone to female relationships while others turn to boredom and insecurity as the cause for caustic interactions between moms online. Whatever the cause may be, there are victims both known and unknown.
Did you know that a site exists just to unleash insults on Ree Drummond, the Pioneer Woman blogger turned Food Network host? For every blogger who is publicly mocked, there are hundreds who face private written insults and threats. I experienced a bout with this last year when a blogger who felt as if our domain names were too similar tried to have me excluded from an event in my city after I wouldn’t relinquish my URL.
The stories of women hurling personal insults and ganging up on bloggers are plentiful and growing: just ask mother & writer Elizabeth Flora Ross, founder of The Mom Pledge. Through her online movement to bring awareness to the growing problem of online mom to mom bullying, Elizabeth has done more than just create a website, she’s spurned a counter culture of kindness, transparency, and accountability.
I had the honor of speaking with Elizabeth and am amazed at the level of maturity and thoughtfulness she’s bringing to such a heated social issue. If you’re interested in learning more about her project, read the Q & A below.
What is The Mom Pledge?
Elizabeth: The Mom Pledge is a set of principles women commit to following in all their online activities. At its core, it is about treating others with respect. The Mom Pledge asserts there is no one “right” way to be a good mom.
The women who have committed to our principles make up The Mom Pledge Community. Together we are working to speak out and stand up against mom-to-mom cyber bullying.
What inspired you to create it?
Elizabeth: It wasn’t long after I became a mom blogger that I was exposed to the ugliness that exists between moms online. I didn’t care for it. And while I was never personally a target, I saw it everywhere. I wanted to try to do something about it.
Why do you think the Mom Pledge is more important now than ever?
Elizabeth: There is a lot of focus right now on bullying among our children and youth. And there should be. But I don’t believe we will ever be successful in addressing that problem until we look at ADULT attitudes and behaviors. The example set by parents has shown to be a key causative factor in bullying among children.
There seems to be a pervasive attitude among some in our society that it is acceptable, even commendable, to bully those who do not share your beliefs. In the case of moms, it has gotten to the point where every parenting decision a woman makes leaves her open to attack. The Mom Pledge is spreading the message that is not OK, and adult cyber bullying hurts people.
Have you seen progress in terms of online mom conflict?
Elizabeth: I think we have made great progress in terms of building awareness. Which is an essential first step. People have to realize there IS a problem before they become willing to address it.
I will admit I had no idea how big this issue was before I began The Mom Pledge. I have been shocked and saddened to learn what a serious, widespread problem it is. And I continue to be exposed to more each and every day.
As far as reducing the conflict is concerned, one cyber bullying expert I work with very closely recently told me she believes things will get much worse before they start to get better. Based on what I have seen so far this year, I’m afraid she is right.
But I have noticed as it gets worse, and more people are exposed to it, they are standing up and saying, “Hey, this is NOT OK. And it needs to stop.” Which has been great for our movement.
What is your long-term goal with The Mom Pledge?
Elizabeth: I hope to affect positive change in the way moms interact with one another. Create an culture of acceptance and understanding. We are never going to agree on every issue. That is not a reasonable expectation. But we should be able to discuss issues in a respectful and open-minded manner. And learn to accept the choices others make, as well as their right to make them.
We need to focus more on the things we have in common. The Internet offers an unprecedented opportunity for us to connect. What we should be doing is celebrating the joys of motherhood together and supporting one another through the challenges. That is the environment The Mom Pledge is working to create.
The members of The Mom Pledge Community are all moms. They love their children and are trying to do what is best for their families. It is really that simple. Motherhood is an incredible journey. We should work together to build each other up, not try to tear one another down.
How can moms take part?
Elizabeth: Well, the first step would be to read The Mom Pledge. Decide if you believe in its principles and can commit to following them. If so, join our Community and work with us to build a more positive online environment for moms.
Overall, think about the words you use when interacting with other moms online. Strive to be a positive example. If you find yourself in the midst of an ugly situation, follow this advice.
The Mom Pledge is really about “the golden rule” your own mom taught you. Treat others the way you would like to be treated. The best way to share this philosophy with your children is to live it.
About Bunmi Laditan
Bunmi is a mother, writer, and social media entrepreneur living in Montréal, Canada (by way of California). She has two girls ages 6 and almost 2.