Of Babies and Contests

Friday, March 19, 2010

When I became pregnant 2 years ago, I was ordered "complete bed rest" by my doctor. Being at home, I've scoured the internet for any and all information about pregnancy, babies and parenting. When we decided that I will be a SAHM after giving birth, I continued my online habits, what else could I do? It was only a matter of time that I got hooked on joining baby-oriented sites for their forums and some even held contests. That being said, I'd like to share some of my experiences and insights...

I became a member of a local baby site in 2008 right after I gave birth. First off, let me put it straight that I do not regret being a member of such site. I've met a lot of friends, to which until this day I keep in touch with. Some I've personally met already, and some I'm still anxious to meet. When that site started, the competition for a monthly winner was very healthy. We were voting one another and even campaigned for our friends.

Just a couple of months passed and the "culture" changed. Competition was taken VERY seriously. A lot of accusations were thrown that dummy accounts were used to vote. From then on, I didn't feel I wanted to be part of that. I became very inactive in that site and just connected with my friends through facebook, yahoo messenger or multiply. Why did I not delete my account? Because I still vote for some friends when they ask me to.

It was during this "inactivity" that a friend, SS, mentioned another site. This site was international, based on their address, from the USA. My closest of friends were also members of that group and it was a joy for me to see them winning monthly. They were sent certificates, international certificates. It wasn't about the winnings, there weren't any prize, but for us, it was somehow an achievement to have won an international contest. Winning wasn't easy. My friends told me that I had to be pretty active in posting comments and "voting" for other children. They said that is how you get the vote back.

The people on the site were mostly Americans and for me and my friends, the culture and environment was so different. "They" didn't hog votes, "they" didn't speak ill of other children or parents. I was so overwhelmed that these people, who I'm sure I have cultural differences with, would leave such sweet words about my child EVERY DAY! At first I honestly thought that they were just like anybody else. They dropped by our page, left a comment to make sure you KNOW they dropped by... but no, these ladies, or at least most of them were very sincere. If I was inactive for 2 days, they would actually ask if anything was wrong. This is where another kind of friendship started.

It is amazing how you can form special bonds through the internet. I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would form friendships with "foreigners" just like that. They were so easy to talk to, they were open about anything and was never judgmental. You can ask the most stupid question you can think of, and they'd still say it's the most common thing in the world. Until the site changed how the game was played.

Stakes were higher this time. You're child gets to be included in a quarterly magazine!! From where I'm coming from, that's an international magazine. Wowzas! (courtesy of LGAW) BUT... you have to pay for membership. At the end of the day, nothing in life is free, right? From that time on, a lot of changes happened too with that site. People became different. Accusations here and there, people getting too sensitive about everything because one person seems to be getting all the attention. Suffice it to say, it became nasty!

Issues popped up all the time that the admins booted members off the site if they were offended. A number also left the site because they didn't agree with the admins. Soon, almost everyone got scared to voice out their opinions for the fear of being booted. Oh well... such is life.

I was lucky enough to have won my child a spot in the first issue of the magazine. Some of my "local" friends' children won too in the first or second issue. Lucky us! Since I did pay for one year membership, I continued to stay on the site. I still tried to be active but everything was just so different. People changed. So for the duration of my membership, I logged on the site maybe once a week, just to check if I had messages, or what was new in the forums. Now that my membership has "expired" I requested to be deleted. I didn't see the use of maintaining a profile. I didn't want to compete THAT bad for a spot, especially since everything was paid for. I can definitely use my money for much more important matters.

My leaving wasn't a loss though. In fact, it was the complete opposite. Those friends that left the site became REAL good friends. We "see" each other in facebook everyday. Somebody formed a group and we're posting comments one after the other in a matter of seconds! These ladies are part of my life now, literally. We discuss everything that we do on a daily basis. We discuss joys, triumphs, problems, pains, sickness... HAIRCUT, everything!! There's this feeling inside me now that just warms up when I open my inbox in the morning. Some of them are still part of the other site but it doesn't matter, we're all really "connected" now. An invisible line that runs the whole globe.

Our Christmases, Valentines, Birthdays will never be the same. Last year, my daughter has been greeted happy birthday for 2 local days but technically just 1 day around the globe. She received cards AND gifts for her birthday and Christmas, and then some ;) We even got a St. Patrick's Day card a couple of days ago from Ireland!! I'm so happy with everything that has been happening, I can't wait for my daughter to grow a wee bit older so she can realize that she's loved from all over the world!

Now that's for one site, an international site. Let me go "local" again this time. The atmosphere in the "stagemom" world now is pretty much nasty. Let me just give an example of how it works now. There's an ongoing contest and a "user" left this comment:

i just wish that the administrator of a "well known" babies site did not join this (removed by author) contest. It would be unfair to the other contestants since a lot of that site's members are also members of (site). Points can be given to moms who can campaign for her entry..( ring a bell )? It's just sad because history CAN repeat itself. Play fair and give chance to other moms for crying out loud! It's a good thing that only 50% of the criteria will come from the "likes" of site account holders because if the only criteria of judging will be based on the number of "likes", we definitely know who would win this contest. There are lots of moms whose lips are sealed i know but i think it's time to give chance to other moms who just want to showcase their kids. Bato Bato sa langit,,ang tamaan ay wag magagalit

The group admin responded:
Thanks a lot for your comment and for caring about the other mommies. However, group has no control over who's going to join the contest. As far as our rules are concerned, all mommies/daddies who become fans of group and another group can join whether or not they have more friends/fans than others. One of the challenges of this game really is to get your friends to like your kid's photo. We also share your concern that votes (likes) alone is not a good selection criterion for photo contests. And that is why we included unbiased judges who will help us select the winning photo to contribute in leveling the playing field. Thanks a lot again and please don't hesitate to drop us a message if you have any other thoughts that you would like to share with us.

I read the mechanics. Nothing that said if you have a site/group/blog you can't join. That much was clear. Lucky is the mom who has most friends, but still, it's up to the friends if they will indeed "like". As for dummy accounts? Those will never end, and I think that's why 50% is actually through "unbiased" votes. Question is now, how unbiased is unbiased. If my daughter was a contestant, nothing would seem unbiased if she didn't win. Judging will always be biased because it will always be "beauty" based on the judges' taste. If they personally prefer fair-skinned to dark, chubby to slim, short haired to long haired... we have no control over it.

For those who joined, good luck. Play the game with integrity and honesty. Every child deserves it.

Let's see how this contest ends in a month. Again, these are my thoughts. I respect every mom for doing everything in their power for their children... and I also respect every mom who stands up for her belief and values.

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