I’m rarely ahead of the curve, particularly when it comes to social media. However, when Mark Zuckerberg shared his 10-year plan for Facebook, it didn’t sound like science fiction. I was nodding along. Excited even. He wants to transform Facebook Groups into a meaningful platform for connecting people with shared values. The word “community” was used a lot.
In real life, I’m a pathologically introverted person. In Facebook Groups, the anxiety and inhibitions tied to social interaction diminish. I’m able to connect with people I never would have met otherwise. New people with fascinating stories, some of whom are nearly are crazy as I am. It’s miraculous when you stop to think about it.
Facebook Groups is not a new thing.
Approximately 1 billion people have tried FB groups. However, according to Zuckerberg, only 10% are in what he calls “meaningful” groups. The other 90% rely primary on personal newsfeeds to stay connected with friends and family. After discovering the magic of several “meaningful” Facebook Groups, my personal newsfeed feels like the muggle version of social media. I can still get my social media fix, but it’s unlikely to help me summon my Patronus when the Death Eaters come calling.
Muggle Facebook vs. Facebook Groups
The muggle version of Facebook is a social platform to share with friends and family. Most active Facebook users form “friendships” with hundreds, if not thousands. Unless you’re willing to devote hours to scrolling through an endless loop of posts, you’re bound to miss your best friend’s wedding announcement somewhere between Uncle Ray’s record-setting bass catch, or a screaming goat video from your spouse’s coworker’s grandmother. On the other hand, Facebook Groups remove the pressure to Like every post. We’re free to engage (or not) without risking the stigma of being a bad friend. Similarly, when your post in a FB Group doesn’t receive a great response, it is not a reflection of your virtual worth.
Our muggle Facebook friends also follow us for different reasons. Hiking buddies don’t want to endure another rant about the political issue of the day. It’s almost cruel to subject former professional colleagues to the results of my latest art therapy project. Nobody wants to feel compelled to follow the link to my latest blog post. Because Facebook Groups are usually centered around a specific topic, you know what you’re getting into when you join. So, when you share a post that’s relevant to the group, it’s likely to get a better response.
What is a “meaningful” Facebook Group?
Most Facebook Groups are vast empty chasms filled with the virtual equivalent of unheard echoes. Support groups with thousands of members have requests for help or advice that go unanswered. Countless promotional/networking groups, whose aim is to spread the word about blogs or services or products, are littered with links that are unseen and unshared. Topic groups dedicated to specific places, activities or causes tend to either host an overwhelming number of posts, or minimal activity.
There are hidden gems to be found beneath these daunting debris fields of FB trash. Within the closed confines of these rare groups, we are free to share pieces of our lives with virtual friends who have common interests. Successful group administrators, who control access to closed and secret groups, maintain that careful balance between vigilant gatekeeping and open conversation.
Here are a few that I’ve found so far:
- Bloggess Pals– Bestselling author/blogger Jenny Lawson is our spirit animal. Despite being plagued by myriad physical and mental health issues, she has dedicated her life to living Furiously Happy. In this amazing oasis, we can vent over our struggles with depression/anxiety/PTSD/life, celebrate a new unicorn tattoo, and remain socially active when peopling is not an option.
- Insecure Writer’s Support Group– Guess I’m not the only one that’s ever felt like they were losing the fight against the blank page.
- Big Up Your Blog– one of the few blogger communities filled with members eager to share and engage with one another. Aside from helpful feedback from veteran bloggers, blog-sharing posts routinely garner over 700 comments. The group is currently not accepting new members so we can get to know each other better, but I suspect this will change soon.
*Update: The admins are now accepting applications to join! Clicking on the image below will send you to the Facebook Group page.
- Blog Support Group– I’m not very active here, but whenever I stop in, I’ve been impressed with the level of participation. Not necessarily a social community, but for those strictly interested in increasing their stats, this is a well-moderated promotional Facebook Group.
- Appalachian Trail– a very active community of hikers who share a love for most things that grow or crawl in the dirt and make you sweat.
- Introverts– a group that fully embraces the difference between being an introvert and being shy. Caution: when commenting on a post, you might want to turn notifications off. Things can get crazy in a hurry.
How do I find these active and meaningful communities?
It’s not easy. I primarily use the “suggested groups” section on the side of group pages. It’s populated by my interests, my friend’s interests, and other groups I’ve joined. Most groups are “closed,” which means only group members can see posts and engagement, so it’s difficult to tell which groups are active from the overview. However, once you’ve been accepted into a group and have a chance to look around, if it’s not for you, leaving the group is socially acceptable (unless Uncle Ray invited you to join his catch-of-the-day group because you keep missing his muggle posts, then you’re stuck).
A word of caution about searching for a new group: size matters. Currently, group search results are prioritized by the number of members. However, as with our personal pages, those groups that have 10’s of thousands of members are not necessarily meaningful groups. Support groups in particular are more likely to be successful when membership is low enough that most members get the chance to know one another.
It’s going to get easier to find the right groups
One of Facebook’s reported aims is to improve the “suggested” and “related” groups algorithm. Really looking forward to the day Facebook realizes I’m not interested in joining another knitting community (I’m strictly into cross-stitching).
Facebook has also introduced an expanded set of tools for group administrators. Removing inactive (or inappropriate) members (along with their posts) and screening prospective members will become easier. Admins can also recommend related groups to members. For us little people, this will make our search for new group homes much more effective. But this feature has an enormous potential to turn group administrators into the next social media influencers. (I can already see successful group admins getting flooded with requests to “promote” another group.)
Hopefully these updates will lead to a transition away from the “Drop a GIF and go” approach to Facebooking, and towards meaningful connection within our virtual communities.
Are you active in Facebook Groups too?
I’d love to get hear your recommendations. Still looking for a househusbanding-hiker-living-abroad support group that will let me share my latest sketches. In the meantime, I’m willing to be flexible…