- Merrilee MacLean
Women Find Support in Facebook Groups
It seems everyone has opinions about Facebook. There is its alleged role in the 2016 elections, the ubiquitous advertising and data gathering, the reputation for cat and other animal videos, and the retreat of young people to other social media venues while those of us older types are finding how effective it is in reconnecting with old friends. But one surprising development is how women, and particularly older women, are finding Facebook to be an unexpected source of support, inspiration and community.
I love to travel. I love the planning. I love talking to people about places to go, things to do. And now that I am retired I have even more time to do all of that. However, not everyone shares my passion. So, what to do. One day, while reading an article in Conde Nast Traveler, there was a mention of a Facebook Group that it had formed, Women Who Travel, addressing our common interest. Created in June, 2017, as of August 2019 its membership exceeds 138,000. So, clearly the topic strikes a chord. However, any group that broadly defined becomes problematic. My device was constantly pinging with people wanting suggestions for a good place to party and meet guys in Crete (or wherever). Not so good for a woman in her 60’s.
That led, however, to the discovery of a number of other, more specific Facebook Groups, most created in the last two years, that meet the needs of women like me. My favorite is Over 60 Solo Women Travelers. Created in August, 2018 by a woman in Portland Oregon, it had 79 members in December. By April, 2019 over 1700 had signed on. Then something happened – she still isn’t sure what – and word got out. By August, 2019 over 7,000 members, from all over the globe, had signed on. Who would have known that it would resonate with so many people, from so many different places? Typical posts run the gamut from questions about practical things like travel insurance, how to get from the airport, visa questions and the best luggage/backpacks to requests for suggestions for visits to such varying places as the Ukraine, Japan, Uzbekistan, Australia and Montana. One person posted that she was in Santorini – was anyone else in the group there. One of the most touching posts was by the woman that had always traveled with her recently deceased husband, and asked the group how she could continue when she didn’t have her favorite companion. Over 100 women responded to that post, with encouraging messages and suggestions.
The Group fosters a feeling of unity and support surprising among total strangers. Perhaps strangers not for long. Over 20 members recently met in Portland Oregon to celebrate the first anniversary of the group and another meetup is scheduled soon for women in the New York/New Jersey/Pennsylvania region. It will be interesting to see how it continues to develop. The founder of the group, Judith Woodruff, recently posted a story in her blog about how the group has developed: Lessons Learned from Talking to 7000 Solo Women Travelers. It is informative reading.
A review of Facebook shows there are a number of similar groups. The following statistics are as of early August, 2019: Single Women Who Solo Travel, created in March, 2017 has over 13,000 members; Over 60 Women Travel Buddy Search Group, created in May 2019 already has over 1,600 members; Women Who Travel (Women 40+) Women Only 40 and Over, created in 2015 has over 1,200 members; Women who Travel Solo: Group Travel Meetups, created in December, 2017 has over 3,900 members; Black Women Travel, created in 2017 has over 16,000 members; Women who are travelling alone Group created in January 2018, has over 5,600 members; Women Over 60 Europe by InterRail Group, created in July, 2019 has 157 members.
Women oriented Facebook Groups are not limited to travel. One example is Single Women Retiring Support Community, created in May, 2018. By August, 2019 it had over 900 members. Topics in that group include foreign and domestic places to retire, the challenges of living alone, how best to downsize, travel ideas (including a possible golden girl travel group) and even dating. As with the other groups mentioned above, the responses are invariably supportive and encouraging. There appears to be a type of group for any interest and age group. And they all appear to have been created in the past few years. In this often detached and impersonal world we now live in, these kinds of groups appear to be filling a void