As Twitter experiences upheaval, what happens to the parents who use it for advice and support?

Twitter has helped countless parents connect. But as the social media app changes, many are wondering what's next. (Photo: Getty)
Twitter has helped countless parents connect. But as the social media app changes, many are wondering what's next. (Photo: Getty)

My oldest child is 11, which means I grew into motherhood during the explosion of online parenting support. As he learned to roll over and sit, I watched parenting discussions move from Yahoo listservs to Facebook, which was exploding in popularity a decade ago. As our family grew to include three more children, so did my use of social media as a parenting network. I joined groups about anything that applied to me: adoptive parenting groups, twin parenting groups, “three under three” groups and groups for parents of kids with disabilities. For many years these spaces were my lifeline. They were mostly good, sometimes bad and critical to my well-being. I have written about when your Facebook online mom community collapses, racism in online parenting spaces and even met up with internet friends in real life. Much to my husband’s surprise, I was not murdered or robbed even once.

I was late to discover Twitter, but once I did I found I enjoyed the parenting support there more so than Facebook. The vibe felt different — a little more sarcastic, a little more real. On Twitter the walls between us regular humans and famous humans are low, so celebrity or expert parenting advice is as common as advice from your neighbor. One of my kid’s favorite stars regularly replies to cute things he says when I tag her. It’s a mostly healthy space for me and many parents I interact with.

Since tech magnate Elon Musk bought the company in the fall of 2022, it’s been impossible to tell if Twitter will stick around. There was one dark night where it seemed the ship was sinking as we all played our violins like the band on the Titanic, but by morning it remained cautiously afloat. The near-collapse, though, had many Twitter parents wondering where we would actually turn if the microblogging platform collapses or shrinks into irrelevance.

As an active Twitter parent, I tweeted a question out to my followers and friends to get a sense of what they were thinking.

Claire Zulkey, the voice behind the Evil Witches Twitter and Substack accounts, is curious about how things might change, but not worried. She’s seen different social media platforms come and go in the more than two decades she’s been online, so views this as another inevitable shift. She’s also a more seasoned parent now. “My kids are in such a different phase now (they are 7 and 10), which is not to say I don’t still need support and help — I do — but I also know who my people are and who my kids are and who I am as a mom, which I didn’t when we were all brand new," she says.

For parents with infants, the loss of virtual support can feel more critical. For me, I needed the most online support when my oldest three kids were infants and toddlers. By the time they were 6 and 4 and our last baby was born, I was more confident in my mothering.

Krys Malcom Belc gave birth to his second child a month ago. He is the author of The Natural Mother of the Child and a transmasculine dad who relied on Twitter for parenting discourse fairly heavily when he birthed his first child.. Nine years later, as he nurses his family’s newest addition, he’s anticipating a decline in Twitter support and seeking out other options.

“I think I need it a lot less than the first time, but I started attending breastfeeding support groups with my 1- month-old,” he says. He’s ventured out to a few in-person groups but has also had a positive experience with a virtual space run by a IBCLC. Belc wrote about attending a previous iteration of this group in-person with his first child for The Rumpus, and has explored both in-person and virtual groups for the second child he’s birthed. The virtual group is run by a local birth center, but is open to anyone. “It starts with intros and then problem solving and open convo. It’s actually really well moderated and I could see it being weird, but it isn’t.”

Other parents from various corners of the Twittersphere chimed in with a variety of different options. Some are still in touch with their “due date groups” from old What to Expect boards, and are delving back in to the online forums hosted by the popular book series.. Others are dipping their toes into Reddit or experimenting more with using Instagram to connect with other parents and experts. Many pediatricians, such as Anita K. Patel, have begun to use Instagram to share vital information about health and development. Thousands of parents ask questions on her posts and interact with one another in the comments. Parenting newsletters from national newspapers such as On Parenting at the Washington Post and the New York Times Well section are a support that many Twitter parents rely on. Alongside newspapers, popular Substacks such as Parent Data by Emily Oster and Is My Kid the A**hole? by Melinda Wenner Moyer, along with Zulkey’s Evil Witches, ranked high as resources too. The comment sections on Substacks are often lively — and a bit heated – without any character-count restriction.

None of these options are the same as Twitter, but they don’t have to be. While the decline of a familiar platform might leave some parents feeling untethered, the truth is we’ve been here before and will be again. Social media will is not static — new platforms rise as old ones crumble all of the time. Zulkey believes ultimately that people raising kids might stumble around a bit before steadying their footing. “If you really need help, as many newer parents often do, the medium doesn’t matter as much,” she says. “Things will work out and parents will find a way.”

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