Absolute (Facebook) Power
by Heather Beauchamp
The first time I was banned from a Facebook group, I had a really good laugh about it. More like a “disbelieving guffaw” and an audible “WTF”. I mean seriously. I was deleted for expressing my opinion on a post that was accusing food stamp users of selling their government assistance for drugs. Now, whether or not that was the case, why the hell are we discussing it on a “Buy, Sell, and Trade” page. Oh, right, because of the man upstairs. And I’m not talking about The Big Guy. I’m talking about an even more powerful entity…. The Facebook Group Admin. (Dun Dun DUNNNNNNNNN).
Oh, Facebook. We know it’s not real life, but then again… it sort of is. I’m not going to name any names or point any (middle) fingers here, but I do want to express my feelings on a new trend I see happening on the ol’ Facebooks, and I’d love to hear what you guys think as well.
Joining a “group” on Facebook is a way to connect users with others who are interested in the same thing, or who live in the same area and can share information (like lost dogs, and "suspicious black males"). There are groups for everything. Cities, counties, Neil Diamond fans, people who dress up in pirate costumes, there’s even one called Badly Stuffed Animals, which highlights eerily bizarre instances of unfortunate taxidermy. Anyone can start a Facebook group. It’s easy. And if your topic and conversation are relevant and interesting, you’re going to gain members quickly. Which is a good thing, until it all inevitably spirals out of control.
If you’re a member of any of our local Spalding Facebook pages, you probably have had at least one headache caused from excessive eye rolling. I try to hang on as long as possible, maybe just to watch the train wreck, maybe for researching human behavior, or maybe just to be in the know. Who knows why we stay in there after it becomes incredibly frustrating. I've seen people come on there to ask a simple question, and be attacked by the masses. It's not always like that, but when it is, it's hard to watch.
Rules and Rules and More Rules
There are rules pinned to the top of every group page, posted with (hopefully) the best of intentions by the group creator or admin. There’s typically no cursing allowed. Everyone must be respectful or you will be REMOVED FROM THE GROUP. Like, seriously banished. FOREVER. You can’t advertise your business. You can’t post photos you don’t own. You can’t go off topic (unless you’re the admin). Did I mention no cursing? Yeah, they mean that.
So, you’re racking up members like crazy, you have your nice, polished rules clearly posted… what could go wrong?
The discussion on these pages inevitably goes off topic. Someone will bring up Obama. Someone will bring up legalizing pot. Then comes the gun control. These threads of conversation will go back and forth for hundreds and hundreds of comments on the same thread. The admin will have to delete users who get out of hand – easy as shooting fish in a barrel. Sometimes they give you a warning. I got one of those once. At that point, I had to decide whether keeping my mouth shut and abiding by the “rules” of someone who had absolutely no power over me was more important than keeping my identity intact. (Banned.)
Utilizing my Admin Power… Or Not So Much
I once ended up being the admin of a large group. Instead of getting off on all the power and stomping out peoples posts, I went the opposite way and abandoned it when it became too big for the group discussion to be productive. There was some controversy going on and some comments were causing problems. I sat there with my finger over the “delete” button and just could not do it. I didn’t agree with the comment, I thought it was pretty stupid, really, but who am I to edit this person’s thoughts? You can’t just delete the crap you don’t like and beam proudly that everything that’s left is perfect. Life isn’t like that either. If it were, there would be no laundry or Miley Cyrus.
A lot of admins go the other way. They dig their heels in and literally monitor almost every post and every comment to make sure their rules are not being violated. I can see how that would be stressful, for sure. The longer an admin can keep their group members in line, the more loyal followers begin to pop up. But, there will be some that rebel. They will fight the rules. The will say the “f-word”. They will argue that maybe we shouldn’t just shoot people on a whim. The rebels will stand against you and agitate your loyal members. And they must be destroyed. That’s ok, they probably didn’t have anything valuable to say anyway.
The Other Side of The Wall
I was deleted from one page for calling out the admin for posting something completely irrelevant and self-serving that was insulting for a lot of people. At that moment, I realized that this group wasn’t about sharing information, or buying a used lawnmower at a good price, this group was someone’s 15 minutes of fame.
This group was a power trip.
Where someone who maybe no one listens to in real life could be heard. So instead of being angry, I was relieved. I have way too much going on, both online and in real life, to worry about some self-proclaimed leader monitoring my thoughts and language. I wouldn’t sit in his house and hang out in real life, so why was I subjecting myself to an environment where he was the boss of me? Ew. No thanks. And while sometimes I do find useful information in the groups I’m still in, (which will probably zero by the time this gets posted) it’s nothing I can’t ask on my own page. Or just Google.
The latest trend is for the weary banished folks to go out and start their own group, mockingly similar to the old ones. They make new rules that better fit their mentality and good times ensue. Members of the old group will mosey over and check out the new group and report back. It’s all very Game of Thrones. Only not even a little bit.
People should be able to express themselves in a safe and productive online environment. But when you have so many people doing so in one tiny space, it gets out of hand. People disagree and lash out. The role of the admin, should they choose to continue it, is to keep everyone playing by the rules. I’m sure it’s exhausting for those who really do mean well. (I think there may be a couple). I really commend their efforts, if they really are doing it for the right reasons. But to the egomaniacal power-trippy ones, guess what you can do with your rules? I wish you and your loyal followers many happy months of online ego stroking, and I hope the lines between Facebook and reality someday blur and you realize that people are real, whether you “delete” them or not.
Let me know what you think about this topic! Unless your disagree with me, in which case your comments will be deleted at my discretion. ;)