The power of Facebook Groups

As at March 2017, Facebook has 1.28 billion active daily users, and this number is increasing every year. This means over 20% of the worlds’ population use Facebook on a regular basis. This number is crazy when you consider many countries still don’t have access to Facebook including; China, Iran and North Korea.
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Social media is now a key aspect of media and communication studies in the modern world. Platforms such as Facebook act as a two-way communication method in the contemporary public sphere. Habermas defined a public sphere as something that is open to all where society can become engaged in critical public debate. This definitely sounds like Facebook!

“The easy possibility of communicating effectively into the public sphere allows individuals to reorient themselves from passive readers and listeners to potential speakers and participants in a conversation…The network allows all citizens to change their relationship to the public sphere. They no longer need be consumers and passive spectators. They can become creators and primary subjects. It is in this sense that the Internet democratizes”

So its obvious that Facebook is the most powerful social media platform and possibly even public sphere in the world… but with this power comes great responsibility. Facebook has been known to facilitate both positive and negative repercussions for its users, businesses and even government.

Positives

Facebook groups have been successful for educational purposes. The functionality of Facebook groups allows teachers to post important announcements for students, share useful resources, organise tutorials or classes and even conduct live online discussions and video streams. The privacy settings of Facebook groups allow admin to control who is accepted and can remove people at any time.

“When Sarah Murnane found out that her dear friend had been diagnosed with breast cancer, she wanted to do something — anything — to help her out. It wasn’t long before she had her answer”

 

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Sarah put the call out on Facebook for donations to assist her friend who was breastfeeding her young son at the time of diagnosis. Sarah needed to create a Facebook group for those who offered assistance due to such an overwhelming response. In as little as two days Sarah had received 45 litres of donated breast milk for her friend! This shows the power Facebook can have to help people.

Young onset dementia accounts for up to 1 in 10 dementia diagnoses and often requires early access to aged car services. The Young Onset Dementia Support Group was created on Facebook to help connect those diagnosed to share support and information. Members range from countries all over the world. Members identify social media as a great resource for emotional support and even to influence health policies.

“Social media brings a new dimension to health care because it offers a communication conduit between consumers, the public and health professionals. It reaches broadly across boundaries by appealing to the masses, including groups that can otherwise be hard to reach, such as young people, ethnic minorities and low socioeconomic groups”

Negatives

Members often use Facebook groups to target advertising for specific “relevant” niche markets. I’m sure we’ve all seen these annoying posts in the groups we’re members of… They most often than not are simply ignored and treated as spam.

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There are better ways to market your business in Facebook groups successfully…

Various religious minority groups have reportedly been getting shut down by Facebook. This is believed to be due to some users “flagging” these pages are inappropriate and requesting their removal by Facebook admin. The Facebook page “Atheist Republic” which has more than 1.6 million followers was temporarily closed for “violating Facebook’s community standards.” The group has apparently been temporarily shut down four times in the past two years.

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Female exclusive group Bad Girls Advice (BGA) modelled from rival male group “Blokes Advice” has also received negative media attention lately following claims that members are posting about bestiality, domestic violence and graphic sexual images… The group has also been under scrutiny for some of its admin acting inappropriately and sharing nude images of some members with the rival Blokes Advice group as a sort of peace offering. Seems quite hypocritical as the group has rules around sharing of content with one of their commandments being “Do not f***ing screenshot or share BGA content with anyone outside BGA.”

Add to the mix reports of harassment and bullying… these are some Facebook groups you may just want to avoid all together!

The future…

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Where to next? The future of digital democracy is still unknown but in April this year, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg laid out his 10-year plan that places Facebook at the frontier of computer science, making bold moves in bringing artificial intelligence and virtual reality to the mainstream, and cellular networks with new millimeter-wave technology which is 10x faster than current WIFI networks! An ambitious dream indeed.

 

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