Facebook parenting groups live in the internet’s most divisive corners

Facebook is full of drama, but parenting groups are particularly special. Things usually start off simply enough: A concerned mother posts a photo of, say, red patches on her baby’s bottom, asking for diagnosis and advice.

Someone steps in to reassure her – their child had something similar and “it was nothing.” Almost immediately, another parent retorts that the first commenter is irresponsible: Her own child had an identical rash and almost died. Cue the fiercest Facebook fight you’ve ever seen – until the next one.

Before I became a mother, I never could have imagined that online spaces dedicated to the love-drenched act of parenting could be so dynamic, dichotomous and divisive. Now, as the parent of a three-year-old and a two-month-old, I can say definitively: Facebook parenting groups are some of the most horrid corners of the Internet.

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And there are a lot of them: Per a 2015 Pew Research Center study on parents and social media, 75 per cent of parents use social media and Facebook is the most popular platform. While moms and dads use the network to share and stay in touch like anyone else, they’re also there for parenting-related information and social support.

When I was pregnant with my first child, I didn’t have many friends with children. One added me to a few of her favourite Facebook groups and I was excited to learn helpful information and interact with other parents.

My excitement quickly dissipated into alternating emotions of confusion and annoyance. The first was mainly owing to the endless acronyms flung around without a glossary: “DH,” “VBAC,” “EBF,” “WOH/WAH” – WTF? Even after I learned to decipher “Dear Husband” and “Vaginal Birth After Cesarean,” I rarely contributed. My second problem was how quickly even the most innocuous post would devolve into a cesspool of irate comments.

Still, for every five posts that made me hover over the “Leave Group” button, I’d encounter one that actually…

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