Facebook communities

As part joining the #change11 MOOC community, I requested membership to the Facebook group. I’ve been in Facebook groups in the past, and to be honest, I never really participated in them. This was in part due to the difficulty involved with knowing when activity was happening in the group. Facebook’s new settings make it quite easy both to know when activity is going on and to easily access the group.

Upon joining (and without being asked), I was made an administrator by one of the members. This was the case for all new members, apparently. I was fine with this until I realized that whenever anything happened in the group, I received a notification in my FB notification bar and an email.  Dozens and dozens of emails/notifications later, I realized this would be problematic. At first I could not find where I could remove myself as an administrator, so I added that request as part of my introduction to the group.

It turns out I was not alone. A couple of others had similar complaints about the deluge of emails. The person who started the group apologized and offered to remove administrator status for anyone who wanted that. It was around that time that I discovered I could remove myself by using the “See All” link in the members area.

No harm, no foul.  But after I had removed myself as administrator, another member came in and promoted me back again to administrator.  The emails were back! I demoted myself again and sent a kind message to the person who did it. So far no one else has made me administrator again.

It was just a minor hiccup in what has, so far, been an excellent group to interact with. But it was an interesting observation in distributed leadership. In traditional learning situations, there’s an agenda, a small pool of leaders, and the leaders lead while the followers follow.

I liken the Facebook group to be more like one gigantic cocktail party of learning. What you take away from it is based solely on who you choose to mix and mingle with. Given the size of the membership, it will be impossible to mix and mingle with every person there. I do feel a little sad that’s the case. At the same time, perhaps the sheer volume of conversations makes it statistically probable that I will stumble on the interactions that are important for me to help grow myself as an instructional designer.

One downside to the giant cocktail party metaphor is that it’s a little more difficult to get messages out to the whole community. Facebook is designed to be one long stream of chit chat. Traditional discussion boards have sticky topics or FAQs that help orient new members to community norms. Not so in this Facebook group. It’ll be curious to see if one is developed as the norms of this group solidify. Or even if it needs such a primer.

If nothing else, it’s really fascinating to watch the development of this group from an instructional design perspective.

2 thoughts on “Facebook communities

  1. I sometimes wonder if Facebook is the cocktail snack before the meal…. the platform encourages short bursts, smiley faces but hardly considered replies. Also, as you point it doesn’t provide a way to sort or prioritise relevant content. A bit of a melange.

    Can I encourage you to keep writing about this as I’m interested to hear how things develop. Some people I talk to wonder about using FB for informal, network based learning and sharing, and I’m typically I’m dubious.

  2. Happy to continue to write, though my writing skills are not as strong as perhaps they should be. I suspect I’m spoiled by 140, 160, or 500 character limits.

    In some ways, FB can be a place for informal network based learning and sharing. My experience has been that the relationships develop outside of Facebook first, and then are enhanced by the ability to communicate using Facebook and other media.

    For example, I became FB friends with many of my fellow students from my MEd cohort. We still continue to be friends and mostly our posts are social and completely unrelated to Education. But when I needed the advice of my colleagues, it was great to be able to communicate to them all at once, and quickly. They’ve also done the same.

    Honestly I haven’t sought out IDs in Facebook to friend. That’s in contrast to how I do follow many, many IDs on Twitter. I think it’s because I see Facebook to be a place where I can be a more open me, and Twitter to be the face that strangers are allowed to see.

    Thanks for commenting!

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