Thursday, May 9, 2013

Community Breakdown and Mob Mentality

I was recently witness to perhaps one of the most heartwarming things on the internet in a really long time.

A young mother's life ended too soon. The details are unclear, and frankly unimportant at this point. What is important is that she was an avid babywearer and one sling in particular was especially important to her. She sold the sling not fully realizing it's sentimental significance until it was gone.

Shortly before her passing, she commented to a friend that she wished she hadn't sold it, and regretted her decision to do so. When word reached this friend of Sara's, her mission was clear. She needed to get Sara's sling back to her family.

A facebook page was created, Sara's story was shared, and it spread like wildfire across the babywearing community. The sling was found, and there was much rejoicing, and many, many tears shed.

Sara's sling had been found! Sara's sling was on it's way home! How wonderful!

Social media and social networking actually worked as it was intended to. It brought people together in a common goal with a purpose.

Then it all went horribly wrong.

A woman that I know, a woman who (as another friend described her) "is one of those 'pure' people...the ones you know truly think first and want to always do the right thing no matter how hard" was asked if she could call in some of her media contacts to bring light to this wonderful group effort. She was happy to help and reached out to members of the babywearing group who were closest to Sara. What happened next was like a bad game of "Telephone."

The true intention of the story was quickly lost, and she became the focus of rants, hateful posts, and comments. The page that was set up to find the sling became a festering pool of misinformation. People had twisted the original intent to someone looking for fame and glory for a local babywearing group. There were misinformed posts saying that reporters were hounding the family, and one person went so far as to say "She should be taken out back and put down."

This is just a sampling of what was sent to or said about a woman who had nothing but the purest intentions at heart:
"Someone on your page contacted the local media to do a story on this mom, FFS!!! I mean, seriously, now they're going to be hassled by reporters when they should be grieving? But, they're totally cool with that too, right?" 
"So someone's using her death as publicity for their group, basically. Such kindness." 
"A story for a cub reporter? Gross" 
"What is wrong with people? How does contacting her family for that news story seem like a good idea?" 
"Can someone link this group? I'll be honest and say I'd like to report it." 
"It's reportable on a computer. I did. This is so gross. "Look at me! I'm using a mother who killed herself to make me look good on the news because how I look is ALL.THAT.MATTERS". Fuck you women. I fucking hate the people in this community sometimes." 
"I can't read this. The sling is going to her friend? WHAT? News crews are being called? This is disgusting." 
"I'm so sure her family wants the media to know how her life ended. This is so awful. I'm so sick for Sara over this." 
"Fucking attention seekers and those using someone else's tragedy for their own gain should be taken out back and put down. This shit is lower than low."
As you can see, the claws came out and hit the keyboard without taking the time to get the full (or correct) story.

Sadly, she was also mistreated by women in her own community, the administrators of the board  for her local babywearing community treated her terribly and acted as though she brought this on herself. They seemed to forget that she was approached by another member of the group and asked to do this. This was not her idea. They also never bothered to ASK HER what was going on. They threw her to the wolves, and ran.

My dear friend Natalie has since demanded a public apology (by way of a post on the group's Facebook page) from the admins of the local babywearing group, and twice her post has been removed. As I sit here typing this, she is sending the demand to every single one of the 738 members of the group in a message on Facebook.

I'm going to share her post on here.
This post was deleted from the [Redacted] Babywearing and Cloth Diapering Group by the Admins, so I'm sending it via mass PM for your consideration.
I would like to see [Redacted] publicly apologized to, on this page, by the Admin team. It's hard for me to wrap my head around what I’ve seen said on this page, on other groups (that she was not a member of) and the harassment I was privy to via PM by our "leaders". I am personally not comfortable continuing to be on this page if this is not resolved. I have the luxury of speaking out because I am no longer in [redacted] and do not have to fear recourse, blacklisting or community snark. [Redacted] is a soft spirit has been wounded deeply by this situation. 
This type of abuse of community footing should not be tolerated on any FB page, especially on one promoting maternal support. This should be a safe, loving and kind space. Taking responsibility and admitting one is wrong is a sign of strength of character, maturity, humility and humanity. We all have moments we wish we could take back. I hope you all consider that and take this opportunity to rise to the occasion. It’s easy to sweep resentments aside when one is the aggressor. 
I expect this to be deleted under the guise of “drama creation” or “pot stirring”. But we all know that is not the truth. So, know that if it is, I will be sending it to the FB page membership via PM. This is not a threat, but an assurance. As a community, we have a right to hold our leadership accountable and determine if a change needs to be made. I would like this to be seen as a sign of how strongly I feel about [Redacted] as a person, friend and community member.
~Natalie W. (May 9, 2013)
I'm still trying to wrap my brain around how this got so far out of hand.

What has happened to us?

Technology, for all its wonderful improvements to the existence of mankind, has done us all a huge disservice.

Technology has taken our humanity, and I fear we may be too far gone to ever get it back.

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