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Moms Make Connections, Build Community on Facebook

I never thought that I was the type to crumble under peer pressure, surrender to the insanity, and plummet into the bizarre, underground world of web-based social networking. Call me old-fashioned, but I’d rather schmooze over a café latte at Starbucks than silly icons in cyberspace. Until recently, I associated these popular online communities, such as Facebook and MySpace, with bullying teenagers, child predators, and sly spouses about to break the seventh commandment.

Truth is, Facebook (FB, for short) is serious fun for millions of people from all walks of life. Many are moms who want to build a sense of community by connecting with old friends and making new ones with similar interests and activities. It’s a strange concept, but here’s how to get started on Facebook. First, go online and fill out a profile. (You can lie about your age if you want). Then, post the most flattering picture of yourself that you can find, even if you’re wearing a poncho from the 70s. Next, invite as many “Facebook-ites” as possible to be your friends, like you’re trying to win a popularity contest. Finally, after they “confirm” you as a friend, invite their friends to be your friends and so on until your computer crashes or your head explodes from overstimulation, whichever comes first.

Facebook is a useful tool for moms in particular because we can monitor the mischieveousness of our underage children and spy on their friends as well. We also can track down high school classmates who we haven’t seen in decades, exchange cheese ball recipes, join the movement to stop genocide in Darfur, search for business opportunities, and send family vacation pictures to far away relatives. Not only that, we can get advice on everything relevant (or irrelevant) in our lives, from potty training and retirement planning to adoption and home schooling. Bottom line, Facebook brings people together. Hopefully the blogging craze will calm down before my kids ask for their own account.

The brainchild of this now $15 billion business is Mark Zuckerburg (sounds Jewish to me), who launched Facebook five years ago in his dorm room at Harvard University. He was 24 years old at the time, and Forbes Magazine named him “the world’s youngest self-made billionaire” due to his creation of the popular website.

The popularity of Facebook is undeniable, attracting more than 140 million active users who spend 2.6 billion minutes online each day worldwide. In fact, more than 70 percent of Facebook users are outside the United States and more than 35 translations are available thus far. The fastest growing demographic is 25 years of age and older. Also, more than 700 million photos and more than four million videos are uploaded to the site each month.

As if moms need another person to answer to, I already struggle to keep up with messages on my landline, cell phone, and emails. Now I have to check my Facebook page everyday. I need a secretary.

Not surprising, these online communities can be as addictive as chocolate covered almonds. Once I get started I can’t stop. The Facebook founder describes his invention as “contagious, infectious, and viral…(but in a good way).” Just think Webkinz, only for adults.

For years, I resisted blogging for that very reason. I mean the last thing I want to do with my limited free time is sit at the computer for more hours than I do already. I can find much more productive things to do in a day, such as clean the basement, walk my dog, fold laundry, write a book, and dice celery for tuna salad. After all, I need to set a good example for Jack, almost 14, and Sari, now 10. That’s why I encourage them to interact face to face with people instead of playing on the computer all the time.

With so much emphasis on computerized communication and superficial relationships at an early age, the future generation is doomed to forget how to actually speak to real people and write complete sentences. Admittedly, since I became an official blogger, my own parental judgement seems impaired. The other night I was engrossed in Facebook, searching for a toy poodle fan club, and I didn’t even notice that my daughter was watching flatulent monkey videos on a laptop computer right next to me. Not only that, it was way past her bedtime.

I’ll never understand their idea of entertainment anyway. Access to these high-tech toys is way out of hand. For example, Jack is so attached day and night to his LG Rumor and video iPod that he falls asleep in bed with his favorite electronic devices. Lately when I drive him and his sister in the car, they both plug into their iTunes, and I talk to myself most of the time. The silence is eerie. I miss the screaming.

Maybe that’s why Facebook is so popular among moms. We feel like someone is actually listening to us. Of course, I rationalize my temporary obsession with Facebook as research for my column. And it’s free. After all, if Barack Obama can launch his presidential campaign by drumming up support on Facebook, the least I can do is explore the possibilities for myself.

“Mishegas of Motherhood” is the creation of Ellie S. Grossman, a St. Louis freelance writer and stay-at-home-mom who never stays home. She enjoys Facebook but not as much as chocolate covered almonds. Feel free to send any comments to: ellie@mishegasofmotherhood.com or visit her website at www.mishegasofmotherhood