11 June 2014

Facebook groups are not BFFs

I'm in one of those Facebook groups called "XXXXXX mums" which I very recently joined because a heap of my friends were in it, and I never like to miss out.

It's terrible. It's car crash territory. You don't want to look but you can't help yourself.  People discuss their mother-in-laws, cheating husbands, legal issues, books, sex, birthday party venues, illness, babies, parenting and then in their spare time bring down all manner of wrath on people that don't do things THE RIGHT WAY.

I asked my girlfriends why they were on it and they replied basically that its better than what's on TV and that it was kind of funny and occasionally fascinating.

Which is true.

And there are moments of encouragement and beauty.  People sending positivity and love when somebody is having a bad time or doubting themselves.  People who are sick or need to borrow something will be swamped with offers of food, goods, babysitting and other practical support.  These are the moments when the real value of such groups shines through.

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And then there is well meant outright lying.  A woman was asking what a cervical sweep was as she her doctor had indicated they would do one to bring on labour.  People answering her made it sound quite gentle and unobtrusive, one described it as like a pap smear - uncomfortable and quick.

If you've never had a cervical sweep let me help you - somebody who you have most likely never met - puts their arm, possibly both arms, inside you and then proceeds to invite all the members of the Village People to do the YMCA somewhere up your hoohar, all the time telling you to relax and breathe.  If it's like a pap smear, blowing your house up with dynamite to kill the spider is like stepping on a spider with your shoe.

You'll be pleased to know I did not upload that answer.  That woman has gone for her sweep in complete ignorance.

The thing that fascinates me about the group is that there are thousands of people in it.  Most of whom you have never ever met.  Sharing information about books or birthday party venues or details of an upcoming Wiggles gig is one thing, but asking for legal advice or talking about the possible sexual abuse of your child is a whole different level.

These are not anonymous forums.  You're not in there with made up names.  You're not talking about things with people you know you can trust.  And I am fascinated by people's eagerness to buy into a story and damn to hell all the alleged protagonists.
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These forums exist in their purest form to support, to uplift and to provide an outlet for people that might feel isolated.  There is a sense of community and it's nice to have people outraged on your behalf or prepared to answer your questions.  But people, think very carefully about what you share.

Once you put that information out there, it's in the public domain. You have no control over who does what with it.  Like the curtain twitchers of ye olden times, there are group twitchers - a question you asked in good faith goes viral and that information will be shared with authorities and possibly even that mother-in-law you're bitching about.

True.