Parenting sites are immensely popular. Sites like iVillage, babycenter, and Facebook see millions of visits and views from parents every month. On all of these sites moms use real names or pseudonyms and these sites tend to be supportive places where moms can share information and give each other advice. But what happens on sites where moms participate anonymously?
YBM is an anonymous message board for parents. YBM exposes the intersection between two distinct cultures:
- the empathetic culture of supportive parenting sites like iVillage or babycenter
- the more harsh and critical culture of sites like 4chan and reddit
We collected over 4 million posts and 47 million comments from YouBeMom between 2008-2012 and analyzed what kinds of topics moms talked about.
What do moms talk about online?
- Moms use a variety of shortcodes such as dh (dear husband), dd (dear daughter), ds (dear son), and dcs (dear children)
- Almost 5% of posts are about “dh”
- Posts about “dh” are more angry than other posts
- Post about “dh” are more negative than other posts
- Posts about money co-occur with dh more than other posts
On “real name” sites like Facebook, people may not always want to admit failures or weaknesses, or reveal what they are really thinking. People engage in face saving behavior, where they try to present their best selves to others online. Anonymity lets moms be more honest, without fear of repercussion. Anonymity allows moms to separate their online actions from their face-to-face identity.
Why anonymity online matters for moms
Moms find a different kind of social outlet on YouBeMom than they might find in other parts of their daily lives. This gives them a place to share questions, resources, anxieties, and even fantasies that they might not feel comfortable sharing face-to-face or on a site like Facebook.
For more, see our full paper, The Secret Life of Online Moms: Anonymity and Disinhibition on YouBeMom.com
Sarita Yardi Schoenebeck, University of Michigan