The pandemic has plunged us into a bleak period with cities on lockdown and enforced social distancing guidelines elevating our sense of isolation.
But thanks to social media, various Facebook groups manage to provide a sense of community through a common bond with many members interacting harmoniously.
One closed Facebook group, however, just ostracized one of their own for challenging posts she thought were inappropriate.
"Exclusive Pumping Mamas" currently has over 30,000 members and was created for women "to discuss feeding pumped/expressed breastmilk through bottles," according to the description on their page.
Buzzfeed News reported on the group's controversial trend that featured pictures of newborns and toddlers with signs that read:
"My First Pandemic."
Many saw humor in it, but Holiday Bartelt—a 31-year-old mother from Elgin, Illinois—did not.
She strongly opposed the trend and saw it as "inappropriate."
Shen then openly criticized the trivialization of the pandemic and wound up suffering the consequences of speaking up.
Bartelt told Buzfeed she was unceremoniously blocked by the group "for disagreeing [with using] a global crisis as a photo op with babies."
Here are some screenshots from the Facebook group.
To drive her point further, Bartelt referenced the recent death of a 9-month old child from Cook county who became the first infant to die from the virus.
She asked her fellow Facebook group members:
"An infant in Chicago has died by COVID-19 now ... Is it still cute?"
Bartelt said other "first pandemic" pictures—featuring babies posing with disinfectant and toilet paper—circulating and did not understand the reasoning behind the trend.
"I've never seen anything like this before."
"My neighbor recently alerted me that she is suspected of having [the virus]. She has three young children that she can't see, a husband she can't hug, two little pups she can't even pet."
"All because she was instructed to self-quarantine herself. That hit too close to home."
Here are some examples of other "first pandemic" baby pictures found on Twitter and Instagram.
When Bartelt saw a photo shoot of a child with a sign that read, "Not my first pandemic, survived H1N1 2009" on the Facebook group's page, Bartelt felt compelled to ask the mother if she would have posted a photo of her baby in a coffin had he not survived.
Bartelt said of the woman she was in conflict with:
"She said 'yes,' and that she was worthless for this argument because I would not change her mind. I agreed she was worthless."
After the spat, she eventually found herself blocked by the group.
The group's admin and founder, Amanda Glenn, confirmed that Bartelt was kicked out, not for being outspoken, but for "being rude."
Glenn told Buzzfeed:
"The default response when someone is rude to one of us is usually to kick them out and block them because we strive to keep the group positive."
But Bartelt remained firm in seeing the trending photo shoots as inappropriate.
"I still stand by what I said. I know this is just my opinion and doesn't mean much, but this is highly in poor taste when people are dying."
"Taking your young children and babies and turning a global crisis into a photo op is not OK."
Buzzfeed reached out to the mothers posting their pictures to the group, but most refused to explain why they would share the "my first pandemic" pictures.
However, one mother did respond with the following explanation.
"I shared it because it's cute?????"
An admin of the group who wished to remain anonymous sent a message to all its members about the recent activity concerning the "first pandemic" pictures.
The message read, in part:
"This is something that some saw as cute and harmless while others found it upsetting."
"We really strive hard to make sure this group is supportive and positive."
"Las week the decision was made to no longer approve posts with these pictures to avoid any further upset and all past posts were deleted."
"On one of these posts a member made a harsh comment about the admin team for allowing these pictures."
"She was removed as we just do not allow this type of negativity. This morning we were contacted by a reporter, who mentioned this ex-member by name, and was looking for an explanation as to why someone was booted from the group for expressing their opinion."
"Since then I have been PMed by a few members who were also contacted by the same reporter. It seems this person was disgruntled and has decided to give out the names of members who posted these pictures."
"To me this is such a violation of privacy."
The admin asserted that this was a private group and that it is supposed "to be a safe place."
"I would hope that others would be empathetic to those suffering."
"This isn't something to look back on and giggle about."
So, what do you think? Harmless fun or poor message to attach to your child by using them to joke about a deadly pandemic?
The book The Design Aglow Posing Guide for Family Portrait Photography: 100 Modern Ideas for Photographing Newborns, Babies, Children, and Families is available here.