Every week, The Friendship Files features a conversation between The Atlantic’s Julie Beck and two or more friends, exploring the history and significance of their relationship.
This week she talks with a group of moms who met online in the early days of the internet. They were initially all part of the same parenting discussion board on Usenet, and when a couple dozen moms discovered they were pregnant and due around the same time, they formed a private email list called “rKids” to support one another as their kids were born and grew up. Twenty-five years later, the email list is still active, mostly as a hangout for its members, though they still do send updates on their (now grown-up) children. In this interview, eight of the members of rKids discuss what it was like to make friends on the internet before most people had ever used the internet, and how they supported one another through parenting wins and challenges—including the dreaded college-admissions process.
Grace Chan, 51, a consultant in Chicago, Illinois
Quinn Jay, 51, a home-health-care aide in Monroe, Washington
Sandy Krause, 63, a retired IT professional in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Stacey Lebitz, 54, an engineer in Middletown, New Jersey
Liz McFarland, 60, a database administrator in Federal Way, Washington
Amy McNulty, 58, a technical writer in Westwood, Massachusetts
Lynn Miller, 52, a software consultant in Cape Vincent, New York
Wendy Schreiber, 55, who lives in Spring Hill, Tennessee
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Julie Beck: You all met on an early version of an internet forum in 1993. Can you explain to me how exactly that forum worked?
Stacey Lebitz: It was called Usenet, which was kind of like Reddit today—it was a bulletin-board type of system. It was before the World Wide Web existed. You had to log on with Unix and type, I want to go to Usenet. It was divided into different categories. One of them was called misc.kids. That was all people talking about having babies. At some point we split off from the group, because there were a bunch of moms who all had babies due at the end of 1993. We formed an email group instead.