* And not in the ways you think.
I think the dear old Bible has a lot to teach us about Facebook groups. And I think Facebook groups have a lot to tell us about the Bible. I shall explain.
You have an idea to set up a community. Something nice. Maybe something fun. A place for like-minded individuals to flourish. You have in mind a community, a place to share and cherish. And you hope everyone who turns up will take responsibility for the group and for each other.
At first, you set it up. You might even post a few things to help get it going – something to nourish the first people. You set the stage. You make it look pretty. You pick a nice background and make it user-friendly. You’re so naive and optimistic that you don’t bother with rules as you think everyone will be pretty happy with what you’ve made for them.
And then your first members join!
It’s great. It’s small and friendly. You mingle freely with them, though you get the feeling they aren’t quite as forthcoming with you around as they might be. Everyone’s nice to each other. Oops, though. You show what could be construed as favouritism, because you ‘like’ something one person shares, but not something someone else shares, and you end up having to get all nasty and turf someone out.
After that, more and more people come. It’s great. For a time, there’s a real sharing of experiences, even of languages. People help each other out. You even make a few friends that you can send out to do your work for you if people are getting a bit out of hand. You make a few examples out of the crazies and everything runs fairly smoothly.
You get pretty confident you can leave your group for an hour or two to entertain themselves but wouldn’t you know it. One day you step out for fifteen minutes and all hell breaks loose. You end up having to have a blue fit just to get people back under control because as soon as you aren’t looking, they’re ignorant and offensive and often downright breaking the law.
After that, you get all draconian. Codes, laws, rules, commandments. Anyone who doesn’t do what they’re supposed to – pointy reckonings and smiting. And you build up a nice little team of stand-in admins who do a pretty good job of steering things and solving disputes.
But wouldn’t you know it… the group gets bigger and even all the admins can’t control it. You can’t man it 24/7 and neither can they. Every time someone thinks admin aren’t looking, up pops someone offensive trying to cause an argument. You go out for an afternoon and World War Three breaks out over something trivial and pathetic. Not only that, but it turns out a couple of your admin have got involved in it and now you have to kick them out. This thing that was supposed to be beautiful and harmonious and fun – well, it’s just a lot of shouty, judgey people who can’t behave themselves unless they are being constantly supervised and constantly threatened with expulsion and firey aftermaths unless they keep offensive thoughts and ideas to a minimum. All you wanted was a nice, smiley, cheerful place and what’s left is a cacophony of shouters and militants, each absolutely convinced they know better than everyone else.
So you spend less and less time there, leaving them to fend for themselves. Some people seem to get off on implying a personal connection to you, as if they know exactly what you’re thinking or what you would say. Others are downright rude about you behind your back. And some of them are whiny little bitches who spend all their time telling you how other people should behave and paying no attention at all to themselves.
Soon, you have no desire at all to spend any time there, let alone wander round among them Great Unwashed. People start to even doubt that you exist. They tag you over and over to try to get your attention, but it’s the same old, same old. But the less they are supervised, the worse they behave. Sure, they sometimes do nice things and pull out all the stops to be charitable or supportive, but give them two minutes and all the sense of community disappears up the Yangtze. Eventually, you are so sick of their miserable little lives that you can’t possibly hang around there any more. You leave them to their own devices and wash your hands of it completely, vowing never to do anything of the sort again.
Now, I’m sure if you are religious, you might not like my desire to make God into some kind of shouty admin, but the facts are there. I know. I read it in my Bible. And don’t tell me many admin don’t spread rumours that they’ll pull the plug on the whole thing if it gets too terrible. Now tell me that doesn’t sound like Revelations?
Anyway, enough of my rantings. It’s les vendanges – or the grape harvest to you and I. I better get to bed, get an early night because I have 150 vines to harvest over the coming days. A girl’s work is never done.