People helping people
At the beginning of July of this year (2012), a Facebook group was started by a friend of mine (I’ll call him AF) and his two friends. The idea came about from a conversation between AF and his friends, to try to help people locally with some “free-cycling” and food collection/distribution for those in need.
About a week after the group was started, AF invited me to join, explaining what it was about. I loved the idea of a community coming together to help where Welfare, food banks and other charity services couldn’t or wouldn’t, and I was more than happy to help out wherever I could. Many people are turned away from services because they make “too much money” (she says while rolling her eyes). This group’s purpose was to fill in those gaps by people in our community.
After a few days, things started to get really organized, with several people in a 50 mile radius becoming drop-off/collection points, each with their own designated list of nearby towns. AF and I teamed up for our local area, since he has transportation at all times (I don’t), and I have storage space (he doesn’t). I was pretty excited to be helping out, especially since our family has been in that “gap” for quite some time, and I know how frustrating it can be to not have any money, yet not qualify for help.
Things went great for about 4-5 weeks. We still weren’t perfectly organized, but we’d started to gain members, and people were coming out of the woodwork to help, and to be helped. We made some emergency deliveries of food for a family that had nothing, and people were working together nicely to help each other out. Items were being posted that were available, and people were posting items they wanted (known as ISO=in search of, or INO=in need of).
Unfortunately, as these things so often go, people started abusing their privileges, and even worse, the admins running the group started abusing their power. I’d had some clues that this was coming, but I tried to ignore them, as I thought it was just “growing pains”.
The first clue was the apparent illiteracy of one of the admins. Sometimes it would take reading a post 2-3 times just to understand what she was trying to say. I kept my grammar nazi in check, because this was for a good cause, and I understand that some people have serious problems with spelling, grammar and punctuation. But as time went on, it started to bother me that the “face” of the group – the one everyone had to interact with – couldn’t communicate clearly.
The second clue was that both admins seem to revel in drama. Whether it was good, bad, angry, happy or sad, it was like watching a badly written school play. If there was good or happy news, there was gushing and crying. If there was bad or sad news, there was pouting and crying. But the absolute worst drama (I could overlook the other two) was the drama that played out when someone got their feelings hurt, or when people weren’t “playing by the rules”. That’s when the page-long sob-fest would happen. It usually went something like this: “I started this so people could help others, and now people aren’t obeying my every command, and someone has hurt my feelings, and I want everyone to feel sorry for me, so I’m gonna sit here and cry and threaten to shut down the group, until I get 20 comments that I feel sufficiently give me the credit I so rightly deserve!” And people ate it up! Comment after comment would pour in, giving them them the attention they craved.
And speaking of attention, the 3rd clue was when people started to say thanks for creating the group. Instead of just saying “you’re welcome”, the admins lavished upon themselves all the admiration they could muster. Each admin would heap praise on the other for their wonderful idea. I couldn’t help but wonder why AF was left out of this praise-fest. Remember him? I did, but apparently neither admin did. He hadn’t even been made an admin for the group, and was never mentioned at all. So I sent him an email and asked what happened, thinking maybe he’d had a falling out with them or something. He confirmed that he was just as confused as I was, and was actually getting a bit angry at the behavior of his friends. So I posted a comment in the midst of the praise-fest, asking whose idea the food collection/distribution was, since I knew that was AF’s idea all along. Imagine my (and AF’s) surprise when they took THAT credit, too!
It was at this time that I started to lose a major amount of respect for the two admins. One or two of those clues I could have over-looked. But all three? It was just too much. So I pretty much went quiet, and just read what was posted for the next couple of weeks.
Then something even worse happened. Clue #4 for me. Because a couple of group members were abusing the group privileges, the admins took an extreme hissy-fit, made quite a few drama posts, and completely changed the rules of the group. The new rules are as follows (group name, and individual names blocked for privacy):
No longer were people allowed to post INO or ISO. People now just had to sit and wait, and hope that something they needed was posted by someone else. Or they could go to another group to ask for things. Because, you know, only people who are giving things are important to this group now. Group participation took a drastic slide. All of the posts that were INO or ISO were deleted. When asked why, one admin said it was “clog[ging] the room up” and that it “took me over an hour to delete all ISO it was bumping down many things that folks offered to give an noone seen so it was time for the ISO to go”.
I really started to dread being a part of this group. But I’d made a commitment, and I intended to follow through on it.
Over the next couple of weeks, things progressively got worse. The admins weren’t following their own rules, but would chastise others for not following the rules. Sometimes very rudely. But mostly treating others like they were children, not capable of an intelligent thought. People started posting “prayer requests”, and pictures of their newborn babies, and information about their family, and sob-stories. Every day, my notifications were filled with these things … these things that have nothing to do with what the group was created for. I started to disregard the notifications altogether. If someone tagged me in a post, I didn’t see it, because it was too much to wade through. I started scrolling through the group, to see if there was anything truly important posted. It started to take me forever to scroll past all the prayer and drama nonsense, and find an actual post where someone is giving something away. In case you think I’m blowing things out of proportion, here’s a look at my scroll-bar:
I went back to the rules again, to see if anything had changed that they neglected to tell people. Nope, everything was still the same. I carefully read the rules, thinking I’d missed something. I hadn’t. And it started to grate on my nerves. My time is valuable, too, and I felt the admins had lost respect for their members by allowing certain things.
- The group was now for ONLY posting things you are giving away, and no ISOs would be allowed. It’s very clearly listed at the top in ALL CAPS, and again as rule #6, so you can’t miss it. Yet, the admins themselves would post ISOs, and give “special permission” for their friends to do so, as well.
- No rude comments, or treating others without respect. Yet, the admins were frequently rude to those “breaking the rules”. They weren’t respecting others’ time. They certainly weren’t respecting others religious beliefs (I wonder if they know that Jehovah’s Witnesses and other religious groups don’t publicly pray? I wonder if they know that not everyone is a Christian? I wonder if they’ve ever read Matthew 6:5-6 ?).
- No private information? I now knew all sorts of private information about members. Stuff that hackers could easily use to break into accounts. Baby names and birthdates, peoples’ whereabouts, etc.
- Rule #8 says that “bumping” is allowed once every 24 hours. Presumably, this is to make it fair to everyone, so their posts aren’t always at the top of the page. Which is great. Except that every time someone comments, it “bumps” the post to the top of the page, AND creates a notification. So for all of those INO prayer requests, and the dozens of comments on each one (where everyone has to announce that they will pray, so everyone can see that they’re such good Christians), all of the other legitimate posts get pushed farther and farther down the page, and everyone is inundated with a ton of notifications.
So, I’d had enough. I decided to behave like an adult, and bring my concerns to the admins, in private. I thought the best course of action was short, sweet and to the point, showing the rules and the breaking of the rules, and offering a suggestion. I probably wasn’t as calm and collected as I could have been, but I wasn’t mean or rude.
What I got in return didn’t surprise me in the least. It was basically the same response I’d get from a 12 year old having a temper tantrum because she didn’t like what I was saying. I was, however, hoping for a bit more maturity, and maybe seeing things from outside her own little bubble.
I figured I’d just let things go, and if it continued to bother me, I’d just leave the group without saying a word. But then, the inevitable happened. I should have seen it coming a mile away. I knew the admins were drama queens (remember the clues?). I guess I naively thought they could handle things like an adult this one time, since it wasn’t brought up in the group itself, but in private! I was wrong.
The other admin (the one I did not send the email to) posted this in the group:
After a whole lot of confusion by other group members, the admin that I emailed responded with this:
If they had told the entire story, instead of what you see posted here (which is the only thing either of them said), I might not be as upset as I am. But they both managed to twist things around, omit details, and once again start their drama and crying to garner support and accolades for themselves. Ironically, the drama queen that I emailed is the one that says, “i am so not into drama”. Oy!
So you might be wondering – why did I type this all out, and go through all this trouble? All I have to do is leave the group, right? Well, it’s not that easy. First I have to explain to AF why I’m leaving the group, and leaving him with my end of the commitment as well as his. And since I had to explain it all anyway, I figured I’d just get it all off my chest at once.
And to be quite honest, I’m quite pissed off! Even though my name wasn’t specifically used, I don’t appreciate being dragged through the mud and used as just one more way for these admins to get attention. And because I’m sick and tired of hypocritical Christians, and this was the straw the broke the proverbial camel’s back. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, perhaps you might want to brush up on your Bible reading:
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.
3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,
4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
I also want my story to serve as a lesson to others who are thinking about doing something similar. Please, by all means, create a group, a community that cares! But if you’re going to admin the group, there are a few things you might want to consider.
- Have a clear plan ahead of time. Know what you will or won’t allow. Some of the ideas from this group were fantastic! Some just made no sense at all considering the purpose of the group.
- Don’t make rules and then enforce them willy-nilly. Most definitely don’t make some people follow rules, while others are allowed to do whatever they want. In other words, don’t be a middle school clique.
- Listen to your members. Don’t just react in a knee-jerk way, having a temper tantrum when you don’t like criticism. Realize that most people want what’s best for the group, and may bring up points that you never considered.
- If you’re easily offended, or can’t keep your emotions in check, find an admin that can!
- Make sure your admin(s) are literate, and communicate clearly.
- Keep the drama out of the group! That includes the admin(s)!
- Unless your group is specifically a religious group, whose sole intention is to ask for prayers, keep it out of the group! Remember that all those prayers and prayer requests cause notifications, and push everything else way down, thereby eating up group members’ valuable time. Also remember that not everyone shares the same religious beliefs. Respect ALL of your members, not just those that believe the same way you do.
I hope that this group flourishes. But I have serious doubts that it will. It seems to be too great a stress on the admins, who can’t control their emotions or attitudes. I still think the idea for this group is a great one, and hope that others find inspiration from it.