The anonymity the Internet offers makes it appealing to people seeking candid, thoughtful conversation. Tina Anderson, a 33-year-old benefits-office administrator from Provo, UT, has been posting on the "April 1999 Babies" bulletin board at BabyCenter.com since she first learned she was pregnant in 1998. "I tell the women on my board things I would never dream of telling people in real life," admits Anderson, who now facilitates the discussion as board host. "When a doctor prematurely -- and mistakenly -- suggested that my son might be autistic, I was a wreck," she recalls. "But I had a hard time sharing my feelings with my 'real' friends." So Anderson turned to her virtual friends, confident that they wouldn't tell anybody else and that they wouldn't judge her.
At ParentSoup.com, Monica Hixson, a community producer, keeps parents of toddlers and preschoolers informed and active through weekly newsletters, message boards, and chat events. The Denver-based 26-year-old stumbled on a "Pregnant After Recurrent Miscarriages" bulletin board that became her lifeline during a difficult time. "To be able to connect with people who statistically aren't supposed to exist and who understand what you're going through is amazing," she says.
Some people bond more easily, immediately, and intensely on the Web, and the convenience is incomparable. The fact that, at the click of a mouse, at any hour of the day, parents can find virtual parenting companions who share most any circumstance, no matter how obscure, can be comforting.