How many Facebook groups do you belong to? I’m guessing a number.
Of those I’m betting that more than one is probably about Coeliac Disease (CD).
Participating in these groups can provide a sense of belonging and and escape from an overwhelming feeling of isolation. It is also a way that you can give back and support others who are new to the disease or facing challenges with CD.
In fact, if you were able to determine what occupation members of a CD facebook group are engaged in, many of them would be Dieticians, Nutritionists, GPs or in some professional capacity, trying to help others. This is how Kiss My Gluten Free came into reality – the need to help, to share.
Things can, however, get interesting depending on the underlying intent of the group administrators.
Expectations Vs Reality
On the surface, Facebook groups oriented around Coeliac Disease function with the same mechanisms – questions and answers about the day to day and unusual nuances of the disease. It’s how they are managed that make the difference.
Most people expect that a Facebook group is a passive environment – administrators only intervene if there is anti-social behaviour, incorrect information makes its way into discussion, or something needs to be brought into line with the rules of participation for that group. Housekeeping, more or less.
In most instances, this is indeed what happens.
However, there are some groups around where the intent of the administrators is not so passive.
Gathering contributed recipes to publish a recipe book, collecting lists of safe restaurants, removing non-favourable reviews of others because they have an undisclosed financial agreement with them or expelling group members who challenge their content or management methods are just some administrator behaviours that go largely unchecked.
In these instances, these Facebook groups have actually been set up as a business to collect content and provide a financial benefit to administrators.
This is not ok.
The Right Way
On the flip side, other active (non-passive) Facebook groups create a safe environment that supports and actively rallies when someone seeks help. A classic example of this is when a group member may seek advice about workplace bullying in relation to being a coeliac and feeling as if their employment is at risk as a result.
This is when you get to see the gluten free community at it’s absolute best. The sense of genuine care, support and willingness to provide actual tangible assistance (not just words) is quite simply awe inspiring.
Of course, this scenario has to be carefully managed by administrators and when they do it is truly inspirational. These administrators actively nurture the trust and care of the group.
From this point, you have a community trust, a bond that creates a collective strength. Something that cannot be manufactured, bought or bashed into existence.
Take the time to Check
The next time you check in to your Facebook group, consider the disposition of the group. Are you comfortable with the administrative approach?
Taking advantage of vulnerable people is not ok.
Supporting them and nurturing their community spirit is.
Going by face value, are you getting what you think you are from your Facebook group?
If you are, then show the group and the administrators your appreciation.
If you are not happy, speak up, leave the group – do whatever you have to do. Do not put up with it because it’s not ok.