When Nestle rounded up a bunch of mommybloggers to fly out to California this week to attend a sponsored event, a social-media firestorm was probably the last thing it expected. PhD in Parenting launched the first volley with a post decrying the company’s unethical business practices, especially when it came to promoting formula over breastmilk in the developing world.

“In developing countries, the difference between being breastfed and being bottle fed truly is life or death,” she wrote, describing the widespread practice of watering formula down because of cash-strapped circumstances, as well as the lack of clean water, which results in disease and death.

Kids fighting by Klaas Tuin on Flickr

As the conference kicked into gear, the conversation—such as it was—migrated to the Twitterverse, where it took on a life of its own. What started out as a civil debate, unfortunately devolved into name-calling and finger-pointing. (You can track what went down through the Twitter hashtag #nestlefamily.) Conference participants were pilloried for tweeting with the enemy and Scott Remy, senior vice president of Nestle USA, had to throw himself into the war zone to call for a ceasefire.

If Nestle ever underestimated the power of social media before, you can bet it’s going to ponder long and hard before it uncorks that genie out of the bottle in such a flippant, clueless manner again. But no matter what our personal values and beliefs, one fact remains: We’re all grownups here—can’t we all play nice (or at least speak softly) instead of brawling in the sandbox?

+ The Nestle Boycott

+ Baby Milk Action

+ Nestle Family Bloggers Twitter