Tuesday, 20 January 2009

What price for peer support?

There are many possible negative aspects to the internet, temptation, withdrawal, fast and easy access to just about anything you desire and the ability to submerge yourself in an online life + neglect the real life friends + family you have. My husband and I have been 'sad' enough as a teenager would say to sit in the same house and previously text each other and more recent IM each other on facebook.

But, four years ago while pregnant with my son I stumbled across a site called babyworld.co.uk and ignored all the 'expert' articles and went straight to something which was at that time fairly unique; a forum for peer support from people expecting a baby at the same time as you and at the same point in pregnancy. Over the interceding 4 years our group has declined and whittled down as members found other forums, had new babies and joined new groups or simply lost the time they once had to spend online but we have maintained firm friendship bonds that we know we can call on for advise when needed. Together we've faced the death of parents, divorce, life threatening illness in a child, diagnosis of life long disorders and more bumps in the road than any of us can probably remember. We exchanged Christmas and birthday cards and hold meet ups and the webspace on which all this was made possible was free to join and use.

But in these tough financial times it seems nothing is without its price and now new members must pay for their opportunity of friendship, the exact price I'm not sure of, I've heard £35 and £50 and lots in between. The premise behind introducing these charges is that 'expert' advise is provided on the forums, and that these experts are on the payroll.

I am not entering into a debate about the quality of such advise but I will say I have found it neither timely or helpful in any circumstance and certainly would not pay for it, especially considering the NHS in this country is free at point of contact.

Its sad that new mums coming to the site may now miss out on the opportunities for friendship I have enjoyed, I hope babyworld can see its greedy behaviour will loose it members and therefore it will loose its advertising revenue as well, which I suppose will lead to higher fees for those who stick around.

Good job facebook is still free!

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