(Or, I could have titled this post, “More Amazing Things from the Internet”)
Many years ago, when I was the assistant librarian in a tiny town in northwest Montana, it fell to me to teach library patrons about our new computerized card catalog, and also about a networking device called “The Internet.” Remembering this part of my job always makes me chuckle; I am the least-qualified person to teach anything about computers. But in those days, I knew how to turn the system on and off, and I knew how to reboot the program if the power went out, so in that small community, I was the expert.
The most frequently asked question was, “But what can you do with the Internet?” I didn’t have a ready answer. This was more than ten years ago, and back then, the biggest draw was email. But of course, the person you wanted to send an email to had to have an email address. “You mean, in addition to their regular address, and their regular phone number, they need a new address?” people would ask, shaking their heads sadly. Such a fuss!
Just a few weeks ago, Tom’s folks were visiting us. Tom’s Dad was thinking about getting a cordless weed trimmer; so while he was here, he went online and checked out the different models, comparing prices and scanning through the customer ratings. After this research, he could make a good purchase at a fair price.
I remarked what a wonderful thing it was to have all the information you need at your fingertips. In fact, I think I even said, “What did we all used to do before we had the Internet?” It reminded of my days as the assistant librarian, and the meetings in the library conference room. I wonder how many of those early skeptics are now singing the Internet’s praises with me?
But I digress. This post is a part of the MotherTalk blog tour of Mamasource.com, an online community for parents. My growing-up as a mother closely matches the growing-up of the Internet; shortly after my stint at the library, I had my first son Carter. Back then, there were few sites for new moms, and I remember stumbling around a lot, trying to find my way, mostly on my own. It was an exhillarating time, but a lonely one, too, until I found a group of moms of similar-aged children who shared my same passion for finding the exactly the right sippy cup, or for discussing which park had the best playground equipment.
Later still, when my second pregnancy ended, I found myself mostly on my own, again. None of my friends had twins; no one I knew had a baby with Down syndrome. So I turned to the Internet, where the online communities had grown and flourished, and I found support and virtual friendship as real as anything I’d experienced in my first mommy’s group. The only drawback was that because of my rural location, many of the events, or services other moms would write about weren’t available to me and my family.
This is where I get to the part about Mamasource.com. It’s an online community with a geographic component, so that you are put in touch with resources and families you might actually some day see in person. I typed in my zip code and was directed to a discussion about ants (we are having horrendous ant problems this year, too!) and a family-friendly restaurant just 45 miles away (for us, this is relatively close!).
I also typed in my main area of interest: Down syndrome. There was just one entry, and it was more than a year old. The responses were not from parents of children with Down syndrome, just people who knew someone who knew someone. But they were kind, and well-meaning. There were errors, like calling the baby a Down’s baby, or statements like “only special families get special children,” but the last comment was from a mom who knew her stuff, and took the time to add several helpful links.
It’s my sense that the site is onto something big, in the same way that the Internet was going to be something big; how it’s going to happen, well that depends on us. For a site like Mamasource.com to be really effective, it will need lots of members (in the same way that for email to work, we need lots of people to have email addresses.)
I’d encourage you to logon to Mamasource.com and see if you like it–particularly if you live in a larger city, or a suburb of a larger city. It’s another way to build community, one person at a time.