A Website With a Pathological Level of Devotion

Media Reviews for Media People: MomsLikeMe

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The missus and I have recently been talking quite a bit about the future, which involves asking questions big ("how will we handle the career/child-rearing balance?") and small ("can I keep my office, or will it be seized via maternal eminent domain when Junior comes along?"). We've discussed any number of domestic possibilities for our life together, even sketching out a tentative timeline for the events to come. We have not, however, shared the particulars of these conversations with our families or friends, much less the internet.

This is why the live-streaming on the Twin Cities adjunct of MomsLikeMe of a 23-year-old Minnesotan giving birth prompted such an outpouring of ewwww at our dinner table. Perhaps it's a generational thing, but we found it appalling that even the most tattoo-littered social-mediaphile would choose to share such an intimate moment with the world.

After a combination of curiosity and boredom prompted me to check out the stream -- it was quite tame, notable mostly for the push-it-real-good running commentary and MVP performance by the midwife -- I arrived at the conclusion that it was a canny publicity stunt aimed at elevating MomsLikeMe above the mom-blog fray. As such, it worked spectacularly. I'd never heard of MomsLikeMe before the stunt; now, it's the first place I'd venture for anything mom-related, even ahead of more fully realized sites like MomLogic or Classy Mommy.

Well, if it's attention MomsLikeMe wants, it's attention they shall receive. Disappointingly for the sake of this review, however, MomsLikeMe appears to have gotten its act together well in advance of its extreme closeup.

There's not much to the site graphically. Its home page features a poll, two ads and links to a smorgasbord of discussion threads. There's a coupons page, a bunch of smiley user-submitted photos and a Target-sponsored North Pole Holiday Guide. So why does MomsLikeMe seem to inspire such a pathological level of devotion?

It likely has something to do with the MLM network's widespread geographical reach. The site boasts nearly 100 local outposts, with a great majority of the 50 states represented (suck it, North Dakota!). As a result, conversations that can't generate much traction in a national forum -- those along the lines of "does anybody know a genteel seamstress in Zanesville?" -- thrive here.

Practically any comment will generate a broad community response, whether newsy quips ("say, that Tiger Woods fellow sure seems to have a lot of sex!") to Jack Handey-ish reflection ("Yo-Yo Ma remains at the top of his game"). Too, MomsLikeMe community members respond genuinely, minus the cattiness and Puritanical smarm found on many other parenting web sites. The 28499947372-page thread around the live birth was a little internet miracle, in that it included few troll-y comments. Most were along the lines of "You did SOOOOOO good without an epidural" and "true puking means you could be close!" These people care, dude.

Along those lines, little is topically off-limits within the MomsLikeMe universe. It's relatively pure -- and when was the last time you wrote something like that about a free-for-all internet forum? A quick glimpse at the NYC arm reveals threads about songs that "touch you deeply" (me: "It's Raining Men"), the "most annoying, redundant arguments you have with your teen about?" (that infernal cell phone, with the beeping and the booping and the video games) and "What would Christmas be like if there were NO PRESENTS?" (Passover, maybe?).

The conversations draw you in, even if you're only half-assedly trolling for material. One minute, I was jotting down impressions about the salience of the site's layout. The next, I was as involved in a nutso-insane thread about the offensive amphibio-patriarchal bias of "The Princess and the Frog" as I've ever been in an online discussion about sports or Springsteen.

This level of involvement makes MomsLikeMe an ideal venue for marketers to hawk their wares. This isn't exactly a secret; companies have cozied up to mommy bloggers more than they have any influential online audience, save for technonerds. Still, it's worth repeating that anyone/anything remotely family-oriented -- big-box retailers like Target, child-friendly vacation destinations like Disney World -- should have a commanding presence here.

Perhaps I'm not the right guy to be aiming a critical howitzer at MomsLikeMe. After all, I am currently not, nor have I ever been, in possession of a uterus. That said, even a testosterone-addled idjit can't help but be charmed by the true community that has sprung forth from the kind fingers of MomsLikeMe regulars. Leave your sarcasm at the door and give it a look-see.

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