Why I said ‘Goodbye’ to Facebook Groups

Groups on Facebook are a way that like minded people can come together and discuss topics of interest. Anyone with a Facebook account can start a Group, and dependent on the settings others can find it and join. Once accepted the new member can make posts and comment on other peoples posts. All of this is great in theory, but it relies on the premise that people are accepting of the ideas of their fellows. In the end I found groups to be more divisive than inclusive, again showing that ‘social media’ is a fallacy.

I’m right and you’re wrong!

Many Facebook Groups appear to follow the mantra, ‘I’m right and you’re wrong!’. However, this is flawed thinking. A Group by its definition is supposed to be a place of shared ideas. People of different backgrounds join or are invited because of a common theme. Listening and understanding the thoughts of others is how we learn. We don’t have to accept the ideas of others but it is not that hard to listen, and engage in sensible debate. I found that too many times a person started a Facebook Group with the intent of shouting their messages and ignoring or abusing all others. But that is more akin to a Page rather than a Group.

So what happened?

I was a member of several groups that were about a similar topic. However, I found that many people were just arguing all the time, mostly over rules and how it should be played. But the funny thing about this particular hobby is it has very few rules on how to play, as set out by the creators. Some of the arguing was so bad that a few members had split and formed new Facebook Groups. But even in these new Groups a lot of the talk revolved around which Group was right and why they don’t talk to that Group and so on…

It was all very depressing and it made me start to dislike something that I had loved doing. A few times I had  commented that maybe these things were not worth worrying about, only to find myself at the bottom of a dog pile. So instead of trying to weave my way through the clouds of hate that these groups produced, I pulled the plug and exited all of the groups. I’d had enough. I didn’t care which faction was right. Why should I let some toxic individuals ruin my fun? It was something I didn’t need in my life. It was all very sad (as in pathetic).

How I feel now…

After ditching all the groups, I felt a massive wave of relief. I got back into doing what I thought of as an enjoyable pastime. I began to see it for what it was, and was less concerned about what others thought of it or each other. I started to follow people that seemed to enjoy it as much as me. They were making videos and periscopes and running blogs. They talked about the hobby itself rather the who did what or where. It was a much more interesting time. I feel that Groups are really for the few individuals that start them, and not necessarily for other people to join.

Would I try them again?

All of this happened some time ago and just recently I have joined a couple of different Groups. I am much more diligent this time and I read a few posts and see how people respond. Also I found that a Group that has clear rules about what it accepted and what is not, has made for a better time and an active community (such as this Hiking & Camping Group).

What I learned…

Basically, if something is happening in a Group that you don’t like. Don’t hang around, get out! Odds are many others feel that same way. As I said before, anyone can start a Group, but to run a Group? Perhaps that takes something more than the average Facebook user is willing to commit. Before starting something, have a think. What will the Group be about? What should the discussion revolve around? How should the discussion take place? How should people that don’t follow guidelines be dealt with? Maybe then social media will become more social rather then a network of closed door rooms.

Feature Image: Goodbye. by Lucy (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Forget to Logout? The Expectation of Online Privacy

At work last week I was looking up the companies Facebook page and noticed that my boss had, at some point, forgotten to log out of his account. While many nefarious thoughts about what mischief I could cause ran through my head, in the end I clicked on log out and left it at that. I didn’t tell him or snoop around on the page – I’m not sure if that is my personal set of ethics kicking in or just a lack of interest. My boss is a reasonably casual guy and I don’t think he would have cared if I had hit him with a sneaky status update. We have all seen it before, someone has their account ‘hacked’, which is code for leaving their phone unlocked around ‘friends’. But it got me thinking, do you have the right to privacy if you leave an account logged in?

Facebook by Samantha Steele
(CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

If the worst thing to happen was a friend writes a funny update on your status, that can be deleted as soon as you find out, then it is not really a problem. Most people that do this sort of thing would be privy to most things on your Facebook page anyway. But what about a stranger? What if you left your phone on a table for a minute and when you returned to collect it someone was casually scrolling through your Facebook page? Would you feel different or the same?

I did once find a phone at work, it was left unlocked, and we did the right thing and called a couple of her contacts to let her know that we had her phone. I have also found four wallets in my lifetime, all which were returned because I went through its contents to find information about the owner. I still felt very awkward about searching through someones private contacts. Even though on these occasion there was a reason to be searching and probing into someone’s private details.

Where does this stand with a computer, particularly one that is known to be used by other computers. So at one point my boss was in my office, most likely ‘helping’ with some paperwork – I was sick for a few days last week – and I guess at one point he checked his Facebook status and left it logged in. So if you forget to logout, do you have any rights to privacy? or is it the same as leaving a $50 note in an ATM (this happened to me once)? As soon as you walk away the expectation is that it is gone, despite what the reality may be.

Facebook by Johan Larsson (CC BY 2.0)

Generally I don’t log out of Facebook at home or on my phone, it is always logged in. This is because I am lazy, I can’t be bothered to log out and back in every time I check it. However if I found someone – even a family member – casually scrolling though the page I would feel violated. I know several time sat work I leave Google signed in, which in my view is worse than Facebook as they have access to all of my emails, drive docs, and purchased entertainment – I don’t have credit card information saved, but I suspect that many people might.

The right to privacy comes down to the location. At work you should have an expectation of privacy as it is a professional place, at home absolutely, unless you are a child. However in a public place than absolutely not, if you leave a public computer logged in to Facebook, or worse, than anything that happens is your own fault. I’d like to live in a world where this doesn’t have to be the case, but the desire to see how the other is living is a core trait of humans – it is something that has been done for survival for generations. After all is this not what Facebook and other social media is all about? We are allowing others into our lives to see how we are living. A like is really nothing more than a stranger saying that you are doing things correctly.

It would be good if Facebook had a setting that caused it to logout after a predetermined time of inactivity to prevent someone from gaining access due to a forgotten logout. But that is not reality, and even in areas where general privacy is a given, in the end it is more hope and trust than a guarantee. The only way to be certain of privacy is to log out after every use, make it a habit. In Facebook click on setting, and it is the last menu item, click it to sign out and secure your online presence.

Feature Image: PRIVACY by Metro Centric (CC BY 2.0)