Almost without trying, I seem to have acquired membership of 26 Facebook groups. Most of these memberships occurred on a whim, including the one I started – “Ad Farts: old gits in ad agencies”. I’m an appallingly poor administrator and yet I wonder exactly how many other groups are as badly run as Ad Farts.
It was amusing to see the group included in two of the profiles of media grand fromages who appeared in this week’s Campaign. It is immensely gratifying, but I think that many Facebookers choose groups to make a statement about themselves, rather than to get involved in any meaningful discussion. This isn’t a criticism – there are far more important things to do with our time – but to me this says that there’s something about Facebook being more than a social network.
It’s a social utility – you flag your interest in a topic and, very much like bumping into the same people at different noisy parties, you become familiar with them through their presence than by their conversation.
Oddly enough, the only group I ever really got engaged with was one that was being trolled by hostile youngsters. The group was a pro-Richard Dawkins forum. Normally a smugly self-assured hang-out of atheists and secular humanists, it quickly became vigorous, hostile, and tremendously fun when the young God-botherers took on all comers. Insults and threats were thrown around like confetti. And then, after a few weeks, they left.
The group is dull and safe again.