So I finally got added on to possibly the most popular Facebook group for moms in Hong Kong. It’s a closed group, but not hard to get into, except that I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to be on it. From what I had heard it is a cesspool of  controversies, and I wasn’t sure I had the time or inclination to be sucked into it.

However, while on the search for a primary school of Nene, I realised it might be useful to be on such a group so I can get more feedback on schools, so I got a friend to add me. And it’s been interesting. I’m not an active participant by any standards, but I keep a tab on the posts.

Despite the group’s name, there are men on the group. On the one hand, it would be more egalitarian to call it a parents group. On the other hand, I think it originated as a way for mothers to discuss without the “intrusion” of men, who on the aforementioned Geobaby would sometimes be overly cynical bordering on trolly. It’s actually quite interesting that by calling it a mom’s group, the group marks out the space as a female one, while not being averse to the presence of males. It’s that rare space where female culture is majoritarian.

The group is an updated version of Geobaby, which was the most popular online parenting forum in Hong Kong. However, unlike Geobaby, here everyone is identifiable by their Facebook identity which makes anonymity harder. Also, unlike Geobaby, where the posts were largely related to pregnancy, early childhood care, school stuff and mommy health, here the topics are pretty much anything.

It’s almost as if people have forgotten Google exists and ask any odd question that pops into their head. (for example, where to buy this or that or where to go on vacation). The fact that often these questions have been asked and answered a zillion times before notwithstanding, why not use a search engine first? It’s almost like we have been transported back to the time when Google didn’t exist and if you had a question, you’d ask your neighbour, who’d ask her neighbhour etc. It is kind of cool, this sense of extended community and yet, I feel that it is being misused out of sheer laziness.

Or if not laziness, the need to “be seen” by asking something on the forum. Or answering it. The randomness of the responses is also bizarre. For example, the one thread I participated in related to someone asking specific questions about the area I live in because they are considering moving there. The majority of responses consisted of women waxing eloquent about the amazingness of whichever area they lived in and suggesting that the poster move there instead. I simply could not understand why people would feel the need to respond to a question they did not know the answer to.

Although the group has gained a reputation for bitchery, I find by and large there is a sense of camaraderie, wherein women post random things that made them laugh or think and sometimes a discussion gets going. I sometimes wonder why these people don’t post on their own walls and discuss with their actual friends, but maybe they find a better ear here? Or maybe it’s a way to win friends and influence people with one’s awesome personality?

There are a few women on the forum who are chronic answerers. They will respond to every post with some general advice. In person, they are the confident mothers I wrote of earlier, but probably the annoying as hell variety who have an opinion on every.single.thing. What is the sense of self these people get out of commenting on these websites?

Apart from the randomness of questions is the generality – Can someone recommend a “reasonably priced …”? Immediately a slew of responses follow which indicate that what is reasonable for one is not for another. Actually, most of the responses do not seem “reasonably” priced to me, but maybe that is the slant of the group – expats with inflanted salaries who live around Central. Again, when people ask for suggestions they rarely specify the district, and most of the suggestions seem to be around Central (the last place to get anything reasonably priced). When district is mentioned, it’s usually New Territories which again confuses me because that could mean anything from Tseung Kwan O to Tuen Mun and Yuen Long, all at different ends of Hong Kong.

Last night, someone started a thread asking for recommendations for water filters for their baby. And one of the responses was that she only allows her baby to drink Evian, from the purest Alps. Dear me.