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It takes a village: How virtual villages connect and empower mothers

Liz Freeman  |  May 10, 2018

In honor of Mother's Day, we were curious to learn more about how virtual villages connect and empower mothers around the world. Technology has made it easy for moms to connect and share information, advice, and encouragement with one another via virtual villages, expanding their worldview and pool of resources. Using remote interviews, we evaluated how technology has impacted the channels, devices, and groups moms use for advice and explored the value of the virtual village.

How we explored virtual villages

We used discovery research to gather information on why, how, and where these virtual villages exist and what purpose they are playing in a mother’s life. Discovery research is leveraged to, as it sounds, discover more details about an experience. It’s valuable in business because it can help you identify an unmet need of your target audience, spark an idea for a new product, or optimize what’s is already being used. For this study, we interviewed women across the country, to understand the impact that virtual villages have on their lives. Rather than conducting traditional, face-to-face interviews, we conducted remote interviews. A remote interview is similar to a face-to-face interview, except that it’s a recorded, rather than a real-time, conversation between the interviewer and interviewee. Not only do remote interviews save you a ton of time, they also encourage participants to provide more candid information.

The benefits of virtual villages

All of the mothers in our study mentioned some type of virtual village as a resource where they sought parenting advice, support, or encouragement and a place where sometimes, they simply went to vent. The sources included blogs, forums, and public and private Facebook groups. Their virtual villages allowed them to get quick answers from a wide variety of perspectives, help others, and share the experience of motherhood.

Virtual villages expand a mother’s universe

Virtual villages helped moms extend their community far beyond their geographic locations. Villages enabled them to explore parenting from the perspective of many mothers across oceans and continents.

I value the diversity and opinion. I value the collective feels more intimate. –42 year old mother I also just really like this global wealth of knowledge you get. It's not just out of a textbook, it's not just 'this is how it is'. It's a wealth of people coming to you from all different walks of life, all different ages, giving you all different ideas.–39 year old mother

Virtual villages helped mothers feel supported

Villages helped connect mothers with one another which helped them feel supported and that they weren’t alone, as other mothers could share their stories and advice as they went through the same experiences.

Need...that's what motivates me...need of just knowing what to do. Need of knowing I'm not the only person going through certain things. Need of feeling a connection with other people who have either experienced or are experiencing similar things. –53 year old mother None of us are parenting experts, so any little bit of information you can find out there is helpful and makes you not feel alone –42 year old mother

Virtual villages provided the best medicine—laughter

Villages often provided one some much-needed levity and laughter when mom’s needed it most.

I think there has to be a little humor along with it. You can't take yourself too seriously. –45 year old mother

Virtual villages supported moms through tough times

Villages also helped moms get through even the toughest times with support, encouragement, and kind words. In one example, a woman shared the challenges she faced when her son was diagnosed with leukemia at 18 months old. She found support and encouragement from others who were going through similar trials.

Virtual villages connected mothers

Our remote interviews with mothers across the U.S. gave us a better understanding of the breadth and depth of virtual villages. They’re thriving as a place for women to connect, share stories, ask questions, and find humor in their parenting experiences. Virtual villages increase mothers’ access to other perspectives, while at the same time creating a smaller, close-knit community. These villages effectively expand their perspectives and make their world more intimate through technology.

Want to learn more?

You can learn more about remote interviews at UserTesting Senior UX Researcher, Yuling An’s upcoming talk at UXPA. If you’d like to learn more about how UserTesting can help you understand your customers through on-demand human insights, contact us here.

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About the author:

Liz is a Research Manager at UserTesting. She’s a first-time mom, who’s passionate about exploring life through research, travel, and of course, wine.