Moms Who Blog: What’s The Message Behind the Boards?

The internet has changed relationships between everyone. Would-be employees search online for employment, singles look to connect with their cyber soul mates and people in need of hope and encouragement turn to on-line support groups.

The number of mothers joining message boards, on-line groups and turning to blogging is growing faster than any other online demographic. Due largely in part because internet friendship networks have made it much easier for women to find what they want, women look to message boards and blogs for advice on everything from shopping, finding a job, travel, dating and hobby expertise. Rather than checking television show summaries to see who is appearing on a talk shows, stay-at-home mothers, new moms and seasoned parenting veterans can now find people with common interests to chat with on message boards and blogs.

The evolution of the blogosphere tells a fascinating part of the story. Dominated three women to one man, blogs were first adopted by women as a place to keep online diaries and musings of their daily lives. Message boards and blogs bring the promise of a medium that allows friends and family to remain updated on a woman’s daily travails.

What are they?
Blogs is the nickname for web logs, which are journals that people put online. When you blog, you leave yourself open to responses and anyone can respond online to your entries. Found as links on personal Web sites as well as public sites such as those that offer recipes, parenting advice and diet guidance, blogging interaction does not usually allow anyone other than the blog owner to post an entry or start a new blog dialogue. Some blogs allow owners to block specified individuals from posting a comment on an entry and owners also have the option of accepting comment postings at all.

Message boards and groups are similar to blogs in that they allow individuals – who are often registered users on the site – to post comments. From topics such as parenting, fashion, relationships and favorite television shows, message boards allow users to ‘vent,’ ‘rant’ and sympathize with each other. One notable difference is message boards and groups often allow users to interact with each other. Any member of the board or group can post a question or comment and fellow users can post their responses.

Why blog?
With the number of household computers reaching saturation point, today’s brand of social stimulation incorporates opportunities other than interacting with friends over coffee or once a year to celebrate birthdays. We’re wired for friendship and factors such as loneliness send women to blogging. Many women don’t have the confidence to ask a friend about personal issues over coffee. The ambiguity of blogging with ‘friendly strangers’ is often the needed boost.

“Blogging provides an amazing support system. We can in essence read each other diaries, and often be inspired by one another just by subscribing to blogs,” says Nettie Hartsock, an avid blogger and a member of a mom’s blogging network.

According to Umbria, a company that tracks trends in blogging and message board postings, women are the largest group of wireless and land line phone users and studies show that they use significantly more words in a day than men, 20,000 vs. 7,000, respectively. David Howlett, Vice President of Product Management for Umbria says, “Women blog because blogging is for communicating and women tend to communicate more than men. Whereas men often turn to blogs as a podium or forum to make a name for themselves, women typically are not driven to blog ego and pride.”

How has blogging changed female friendships?
Blogging and message boards give women another means of communicating with many as opposed to communicating one-to-one. “Email, phone calls and instant messaging occurs between two people. Blogs and message boars or groups allow a woman to communicate with an unlimited number of people at once. A woman can post one entry that may be read by hundreds or thousands of people,” says Howlett.

“There is something very free about being able to post something – often something very personal – that will be read by people that you may have never even met or spoken with. It offers the chance to bear you soul without the scrutiny that talking to friends or family often brings,” says frequent blogger and message board poster, Jennifer Paulsen of Bettendorf, Iowa.

Blogs, boards and groups have also broadened the scope of women’s relationships, enabling them to keep multiple people either friends or strangers abreast of their goings-on as opposed to just one-to-one communication. “It gives me the chance to let my college roommate, my neighbor, my family and my friends who live a few states away all to check in on what’s going on in my life at their convenience,” says working mother of two, Maggie Leeds of Montecito, C.A.

“I think there can be powerfully positive effects,” says Hartsock. One of the most positive benefits is the sense that you are not alone. Building blog rolls, commenting on other’s blogs and establishing blogger communities empowers women. “You feel more armed for any challenge you might face,” she adds, “you can feed your mind and boost your knowledge in limitless ways by reading other bloggers.”

Like anything in life, there can be a downside to online communication. Blogging and messaging groups can become addictive. “The trend of ‘letting it all hang out’ on blogs does not always serve to keep the focus on the positive power of blogging,” notes Leeds. Some women encounter blogging cliques, which are not always healthy or productive. “There are just as many fights among cyber friends and just as many blogging wars as if you were communicating in person,” Leeds adds.

Finding one for you
There are millions of ways to put yourself out there, or just lurk until you feel like responding. Creating or joining a message board is easily accomplished by visiting sites that fuel your interests and passion.

Blogs are often specific to your city, your ethnicity, or the ethnicity you’d like to get involved with, your political bent, sexual preference, even your diet — vegan bloggers unite! To find one that suits you, ask around, visit your favorite Web sites or use a search engine.

Sidebar info:
Tips to build a blog
• Blog when you feel like you have something to say. Whether it’s five times a day or every four days, let the reader know who you are.
• Blog with etiquette. Remember all caps is often the equivalent to loud behavior. Re-read before posting your blog to ensure you’re not being rude or offensive.
• If you feel someone is blogging inappropriately, block them to prevent further communication.
• Offer meetings. Suggest anyone interested in watching a show together meet in a chat room.
• Investigate all potential fees before hitting enter. Some blogs are free and others charged based on various scales.

Gina Roberts-Grey is a family, financial, health, lifestyle, and women’s issue freelance writer.