Page last updated at 18:04 GMT, Friday, 20 March 2009

The rising power of 'geek mums'

'Geek moms' at SXSW
'Geek moms' say social networks help tackle the loneliness of motherhood

A growing number of mothers are forming social communities online. What is behind their drive to the internet?

At the recent SXSW Festival in the American city of Austin, Texas, one of the discussions centred on the surge in growth in "geek moms" - mothers who spend a large amount of time online.

Women clearly power a large segment of the technology market. In 2007 they spent $90 billion on gadgets, and influenced 61% of all consumer electronics purchases.

But what is it that is driving mothers online?

Beth Blecherman, who runs the Techmama blog, told BBC World Service's Digital Planet programme that many mothers are frustrated by staying at home, and had found social networking as a relief.

"I came from a technology background and was almost a partner at Deloitte - then I became a mum, and suddenly I became irrelevant," she said.

"People were looking at me when I went to stores to buy technology, and not talking to me as someone who understood technology."

Battling loneliness

Celebrity blogging mothers include the news presenter Katie Couric and Michelle Obama, wife of the US president.

The Moms Who Tech forum at SXSW 09 argued that many mothers now routinely use technology and social networking as well as coding their own websites, texting their babysitters, installing wireless routers, blogging and using Facebook.

Ms Blecherman, who has three sons, said that not only are programmers becoming mothers, there is a community of mothers who are using technology to manage their families.

David Cameron in a question and answer session with mumsnet
Sites such as mumsnet allow mothers to meet online and discuss issues

"Moms are natural communicators, and they are taking that natural, savvy communication online and building communities," she said.

"Those powerful communities are influencing mums' purchasing decisions. So I thought this was a really important conversation to have."

She said that stuck at home with the children is something that many mothers had found led to feelings of loneliness - but that they were now able to find support and friendship online.

Often, these virtual networks then become friendships in the real world.

"Online networking is a way to get in touch with people - but then real networking is what closes the deal," she said.


Another "geek mom" at SXSW said she identified completely with those feelings.

"I was very lonely and nobody would talk to me, so I got online," she said.

"All of a sudden, all these great people were talking to me.

"It's a great creative outlet. Nobody is going to hire me to be in a newspaper or magazine, so I just thought I'd write my own stuff. And I did.

"I found a lot of other like-minded people, and we started finding all the tech stuff behind it - and that was when we all just geeked out.

"It was like a Disneyland of technology, and we got to play with the boys' toys."

She added that she felt being a mother is a "thankless, horrible, awful job that nobody should actually have to do for free - but we do. So blogging is our outlet."

Digital Planet is broadcast on BBC World Service on Tuesday at 1232 GMT and repeated at 1632 GMT, 2032 GMT and on Wednesday at 0032 GMT.

You can listen online or download the podcast

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