Parents

No mean girls: Why one-third of this nation's women joined same Facebook group

Mom judgers. Trolls. Haters. They sure can bring a person down.

But sometimes, the Mean Girls of the Internet can be overcome. As proof, a nation of women in the North Atlantic Ocean has banded together online with a common goal: To be kind to one another and build each other up.

Icelandic musician and TV personality Thorunn Antonia Magnusdottir started a closed Facebook group called "Goda Systir," or "Good Sister," about six months ago because she wanted a safe place to open up about her rocky transition to motherhood and other upheavals in her life. Within three days, 50,000 women — nearly one-third of Iceland’s female population — joined the group.

Courtesy of Thorunn Antonia Magnusdottir
Singer and TV personality Thorunn Antonia Magnusdottir is pictured with her infant daughter, Freyja.

“I think women are just so thirsty for beautiful, non-judgmental communication,” said Magnusdottir, 32, a former judge on the television show “Iceland’s Got Talent” and a longtime singer who made a Velvet Underground cover record with Beck in 2009. “Instead of constantly dragging each other down and dragging ourselves down, we can help each other to be our own good sister.”

RELATED STORY: Please, stop the rush to mom-judgment after tragedy; just stop

TODAY Parents caught up with the Reykjavík resident at the Mom 2.0 conference in California, where she spoke about motherhood, positivity and the power of community. Here’s what she had to say.

Why did you start Good Sister?

Thorunn Antonia Magnusdottir: After I became a mother, I got obsessed with other women — especially women that are mothers. ... I got obsessed with everything about us, the females: our communications, the way that we look, the way that we behave. What are we teaching our girls? What society are they going to be growing into? ... It led me to the conclusion that we are so hard on ourselves, and because we are so hard and judgmental on ourselves, we become hard and judgmental on other females. That process begins when we’re really, really young, before we hit puberty.

Courtesy of Thorunn Antonia Magnusdottir
"I want to do my best to change the world for my daughter," Thorunn Antonia Magnusdottir said. "I care about how people are behaving and what role models women are setting."

How did you get the Good Sister group going?

I couldn’t sleep because my daughter, Freyja, was awake, so I sat down at my computer and I created a Facebook page. I thought my friends were going to make fun of me — I like to look at the positive side of things, and some people actually misunderstand that as being stupid or something. It’s actually not because it’s a choice. You can be happy, or you can be miserable. You can’t change the world, but you can change your world. That’s how you can be the change in other people’s lives, just by being positive and being the change. Being negative breeds more negativity, and being positive breeds more positivity.

When I started the page, the message was simple: A Facebook page for women who want to support and empower each other in positiveness. All negative things are banned. No bitching, no back talking, no complaining — this is a positive playground. You can post whatever you like, as long as it has a positive spin.

What was happening in your life when you started Good Sister?

You know, creating that group gave me strength to overcome some of my hardest things. I was diagnosed with HELLP syndrome during my pregnancy. It’s a life-threatening disorder that can be fatal to both the mother and the child. I started having really bad headaches and nosebleeds. I lost my vision early on in my pregnancy. ... And it was a big shock to me to have to have emergency C-section after three days of labor. So I got post-traumatic stress disorder after that, and kind of depression as well.

I also lost my job at the same time. I was fired when I was eight months pregnant. So it was kind of a huge knock to my confidence. A year before I was this glamorous pop star, I was always on TV, and then all of a sudden I was a new mom, out of a job, suffering panic attacks — I had no idea how to take the next step. How am I going to support my child? Who am I? Plus just being a new mom is overwhelming.

Courtesy of Thorunn Antonia Magnusdottir
Thorunn Antonia Magnusdottir's life changed suddenly and drastically during her pregnancy.

What do you and other women share in your Facebook group?

I’m very open there. I talk about my panic disorder that I got after Freyja was born ... and I share all these unflattering photos of me with no makeup on and granny pants, ha! In general, I write uplifting things to the women.

Courtesy of Thorunn Antonia Magnusdottir
Thorunn Antonia Magnusdottir shared this photo of herself after the birth of her daughter with members of the Good Sister Facebook group.

People share their losses and their love. We raise money each month for one sister in need. If something tragic happens and we get posts about it, we raise money. We started a bank account ... and we encourage the women of the group to give just a tiny amount each month. It can be less than a dollar — in such a big community, the small things really matter. Maybe it’s helping women who have lost their children or their husbands. Death comes suddenly and you have to pay for lots of things, and you don’t really have time to be thinking about the money side of things when you’re grieving. We try to support our sisters in need.

How important is the Good Sister group to you and other moms?

When you become a mom, your guard goes down because you love with all of your heart and all of your soul and your body. You become like a wolf. All of your senses are so heightened. Also, the world becomes a little bit more dangerous and loud and crazy. I guess I took everything in more, especially girl-on-girl negativity. It touched me because I want to raise a beautiful daughter who believes in herself and doesn’t feel the need to drag women down to build herself up. We should stick with each other and be sisters.

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'So much more fun than I thought': Musician mom describes life after baby

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'So much more fun than I thought': Musician mom describes life after baby

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What have your experiences in recent months taught you?

I think a lot about female energy when we stand together. After I became a mom, I valued women so much more because their support is just amazing during those hardest times of the pregnancy. Nobody else can know how you feel except other moms. ...

I’ve also seen that you can talk about almost anything in a positive manner. You can talk about some crazy crisis, as long as it asks this question: What can I do? Can we change this? My favorite sentence in the world is, "What can I do?" Because you can always do something.

How has becoming a mother to Freyja changed your life?

Freyja has promoted me to be a better person in every aspect. I’m careful to look after myself because I am a very, very important person to one very small person. I want to be around for her and I want to be healthy and I want to be a good role model. I eat better. I sleep better. I watch what I say. I watch what I think. People always say you are what you eat, but I don’t think that’s true — I think you are what you think. If you’re constantly thinking something negative, you’re giving off negative energy. So you have to also train yourself, you have to train your brain, to think positively. …

Courtesy of Thorunn Antonia Magnusdottir
Thorunn Antonia Magnusdottir and her daughter, Freyja, share a laugh together. "Becoming a mom is the best thing that's EVER happened to me," Magnusdottir said.

I’m not saying I am the perfect woman and I am so good or anything, but I want to be better. And I think that’s what the Good Sister community is about. It’s about women that aren’t perfect, but that want to be better persons. That’s what matters.

Follow TODAY writer Laura T. Coffey on Twitter @ltcoff and Google+, and learn about her bestselling book "My Old Dog: Rescued Pets with Remarkable Second Acts" at MyOldDogBook.com.

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