How to Get the Most Out of Facebook Groups

If you’re like me, you’re likely in at least a few groups on Facebook. Some of them may be private groups formed by your friends, some are based on your hobbies and interests, and some of them are for more professional improvement and/or networking.

Regardless of the purpose of the group, they all desire meaningful engagement, true community, and useful information. And depending on your bandwidth, your inner lurker status, and your inability to NOT comment, your activity on these groups will likely vary.

I know I may be bit of an outlier in that I spent 99.9% of my life on Facebook. (Judge me all you want – I’m right there with you.) I am in way too many Facebook Groups – including actively administrating several of my own groups.

Now, despite being in a bjillion Facebook groups, I am only active in 5-7 groups with varying degrees of participation. All the other groups, including some of my own, I am in as a lurker.

Personally, I think most people just lurk in groups and if they do happen to have the capacity to be actively engaged, they likely only do so in 1-3 groups. Any more and it becomes too overwhelming and they just quit all groups (or mute them) and only check in when they want an answer to a specific question and maybe scroll down for a few seconds to see if there’s anything else that might be useful or interesting.

I totally get it.

And I’m guessing that due to the limited nature of folks in Facebook Groups, most of us don’t know how to act – let alone act right.

So then, here are a few handy tips for you to get the most out of your Facebook Groups.

1) Read the group rules and guidelines. Follow them.

Look, I know you’re not going to be actively participating much, but don’t be that person who ruins it for everyone else.

Every group has their own dynamics and their rules for appropriate behavior. Most of it is common sense, but think of it like visiting someone else’s house. You can do whatever you want in your own house, but when you’re at someone else’s house?

Follow the house rules.

2) Before you ask a question, use the FACEBOOK search function. Better yet, GOOGLE FIRST. Then use the Facebook search function. Read the search results.

I get it. You might have questions. Burning questions. (Yes, it likely is an STI.) Questions that need to be answered RIGHT THIS INSTANT.

But if you stopped for even half a second before posting, you will likely realize that perhaps, you are not the first person in the world to have this question. And that it just might be possible that prior to your popping in, someone (or several someones) might have already asked this question and if you just did a quick search and actually read the results, your question would be answered.

Incidentally, when I say search first, I don’t mean search your EXACT SITUATION.

Like, if you are looking for books for your five year old girl who likes trucks and donkeys and ballerinas, don’t be searching for “five year old girl who likes trucks and donkeys and ballerinas” and then say, “I can’t find anything.”

THAT IS NOT HOW SEARCH WORKS.

You should also try multiple search terms. Why? Because as my friend, Dots, says, “Just because one search term failed does not absolve you of the responsibility to try some more.”

Also? I get that Facebook’s search function can be wonky and that depending on the device you’re using or day or whatever algorithm is in place, the search results will vary.

Guess what?

GOOGLE SEARCH RESULTS VARY, TOO.

Google results ALSO vary from Bing or Yahoo! or Altavista (wait – is Altavista even still around?). The search results are STILL useful.

Speaking of Google – FFS, people. Use it. Facebook groups are not your personal AskJeeves or Yahoo! Answers.

What’s the big deal? Why am I such a meanie? Why do I relentlessly delete people’s repeat posts or comment and tell people to do a search already?

Several reasons:

a) You look like a jerk and possibly, really stupid.

I mean, just for self-preservation and wanting other people to help you, this should be minimized.

b) You are not entitled to other people’s time.

To not even bother searching or going through previous posts is incredibly rude. What you’re essentially saying is that your time is more important than other people’s time.

You’re telling people that the effort they made to answer this question before is worthless and that they should cater to your inability to do anything useful whatsoever. Not only that, you are expecting them to make this effort again. Just for you.

In one of the groups I admin, some folks have compiled very thorough and helpful posts/files that answer some frequently asked questions.

And guess what?

I shit you not, the VERY FIRST COMMENT on one of these posts is a question that would be answered had the commenter read one of the first few links IN that post.

That is NOT cool.

Other people are not your personal Google.

You are rude. You are being a jerk. Everyone wants you to die. Preferably in a large, explody BOOM.

This pisses people off. Members stop participating. Then the group dies.

Please don’t be that person.

c) It dilutes the usefulness of the group.

All the repeat questions clutter the feed of the group. As a result, members see that the group only discusses the same 3-4 topics repeatedly and the stuff that is actually interesting to them gets pushed down and never gets read or gets engagement.

Thus, people get bored and no longer participate. The group dies.

In addition, repeat questions clutter up the search results for people who actually use the search function. This makes it harder to find the answers to their questions.

And then, people find the group useless. And then the group dies.

d) It pisses people off and then groups die.

Sense a theme here?

Unless a group has a never ending supply of new members to both ask and answer questions, (confer the Instant Pot recipes group where people ask the same three questions over and over again), most groups have a finite number of people who are interested in a topic AND participate.

This is why admins bring down the hammer and insist members read and implement the group guidelines.

It’s not because they’re on a power trip and want to lord their authority over people. (Ok, it’s not ONLY because they’re on a power trip and want to lord their authority over people.)

Don’t be a group killer.

Don’t make the admins (and other members) hate you or use passive aggressive techniques to make you feel as stupid as you actually are being.

3) Explore and read.

Does the group have files? Are there archives? Pinned posts? Group descriptions?

Read them.

They’re there for a reason. People spent time to compile or write them. Show them the respect it deserves (even if the actual files might not be as useful as you hope).

Yes, I know it takes time. But it’s YOUR time. To do otherwise wastes OTHER people’s time.

I also browse through the photos, check out other recommended groups, FB stalk fellow members, and in general, click as many of the clicky parts of the group as possible.

This gives me a good idea of the tenor of the group and allows me to see if it’s a place I want to hang out virtually.

4) Follow directions.

Does the group require you to answer questions before you join? ANSWER THEM.

Personally, I deny all requests that do not answer group questions within the first 2-3 days.

Why? Because if they can’t be bothered to read and follow the very simple directions BEFORE they join a group, they can’t be bothered to read and follow directions AFTER they join the group.

No, thanks.

I don’t have time (despite living on Facebook) to deal with people who don’t respect my time or the time of group members.

5) Participate.

Yes, I get that not everyone has the luxury (or quite frankly, desire) to live on Facebook like I do.

I’m not saying you have to participate in EVERY single group. Or even in ANY.

But the likelihood of other people extending grace for missteps (and trust me, I have made many!) or taking time to answer your questions increases if you are a useful, active participant.

No one like takers. Be a giver.

Oh, and participate thoughtfully.

Don’t be that entitled mansplainer who has never once contributed anything useful or helpful but then, jumps in to tell the admins what they should be doing to make your life easier and then, when the admins thank you for volunteering to do the job because FUCK YOU for being such an entitled twat, you say that it’s too much for one person to do (but it seemed just FINE to have the admins do it by themselves) and then tell the group it should be crowd-sourced and then reap the rewards of other peoples’ work while you disappear again, all smug in your asshole-ishness.

To quote my friend, Irish Twins, “Think of it as a community. If you wouldn’t say it to a bunch of people in person, don’t say it in the group. Maybe a community pool. It’s great for swimming and socializing, but don’t take a dump in it. Help keep it clean. It’s ok to just sit on the sidelines.”

6) Don’t spam. Don’t post ads. 

I mean, unless the group is specifically for spamming and ads, don’t do it. Oh, and don’t do thinly disguised spam/ads, either.

People aren’t stupid. We can tell if it’s an actual helpful or useful post that benefits the group or is off topic.

Don’t be an asshole.

7) Make life easier for admins and moderators.

The admins and moderators do a lot of behind the scenes work and most of it is extremely tedious.

Honestly, sometimes it may seem as if an admin or moderator is on some power trip (and maybe they are). But in general, admins and moderators really don’t have the time to do so.

They have to read almost every single post and comment to make sure nothing is offensive or violates the community standards. They have to contact the members who do break the group guidelines and occasionally are on the receiving end of abuse as a result.

For instance, I give you this:

Here’s a protip: DON’T BE A RACIST SHITHEAD TO THE ADMIN.

Admins and moderators aren’t paid. They are volunteering their time to make sure no one is the drunk guy breaking things at a party. They just want to have a good time and eat and chat with their friends but inevitably, someone has to ruin it for everyone.

Don’t be that person.

Alternatively, if you end up being on good terms with the admins or moderators, they’ll likely cut you some slack on stuff and be more likely to be on your side if there is FB drama. (But please, don’t cause drama!)

8) The measure you give is the measure you receive.

Like all things in life, you get what you give.

Pick one group you particularly like and start participating – even if it’s just “likes.” It may feel weird to you at first, but you may find that the more you invest in the group, the more it will feel like your local watering hole.

9) Adjust your notification and feed settings accordingly.

There are some groups that I really don’t care to know about every single post. I don’t need to know of every single new Instant Pot recipe or repeat newbie question about rubber gaskets, but I definitely want to know the instant my friends post in our secret group.

So, depending on how much you enjoy (or hate) Facebook notifications or the clutter in your feed, you can change the specifications to what works for you.

Remember: Facebook groups are for YOUR benefit. You are not ruled by them!

Hmmmm. I feel as if this entire post could just be summed up by saying, “Don’t be a dick.”

But that would be a really short post.

Oooh! Ooooh! Also? “Don’t make other people think for you. Use your gorram brain.”

That’s it! I’m sure there are other more technical things that you can do to maximize your FB Group mojo, but like I said before, I’m not the most tech of persons. I’m just here for your emotional edification. (And FB Groups definitely can engage all your emotions.)

What did I miss? Let me know in the comments.

What’s the Worst that Can Happen?

So, on Monday, I was very nervous about posting my thoughts on SCA5 because quite frankly, it required facts and citations and I’m terrible at those things. I would make a really shitty journalist. There is a reason I was not in one of those majors that required writing multiple term papers. After all, you can cram organic chemistry and wing an exam (albeit, poorly) but the only way out of a ten page term paper is to write a ten page term paper (even with double space).

The other reason I found it hard was because it is such a polarizing topic. I was prepared to be called a race traitor or naive or whatever. In particular, I was worried about alienating my Asian friends who were against the measure. I didn’t want them to think I thought they were bad people or cause any trouble. After all, people are allowed to disagree with me – and when they do, they are not always crazy or insane!

I admit, I didn’t even know what SCA5 was about until I saw a friend post about it. Because I learn a lot about the news and the world through Facebook (I find that my friends are endlessly fascinating sources of information), I wanted to see what SCA5 was all about. Once I did, I realized that I very much wanted to vote for it. However, as I am usually wont to do, I didn’t say anything about it on Facebook because in general, I dislike talking politics because I hate arguing issues (see the first paragraph re: facts).

But, after seeing an ever increasing number of friends posting “No on SCA5,” I just couldn’t stay silent on the matter anymore because I firmly believe that SCA5 is a good thing (just like some of my friends firmly believe that SCA5 is a bad thing). Furthermore, I didn’t want my black and Latino friends to think all Asians were against SCA5 and that I was among that group.

Now, before I started Mandarin Mama, I tended to post solely on neutral things. You know, pictures about my kids, rants about my day, funny comments, etc. I purposely avoided posting anything that would even contain a whiff of the controversial. In fact, I’m one of those people who absolutely HATE changing my profile pic to support things. I think it’s the internet version of peer pressure and refuse to do it even when I agree with the issue. (This is just my personal baggage. I am aware people are perfectly capable of changing their profile pic to support issues for completely valid and non-conforming reasons.)

But after regularly posting my opinions here, I realized I was sick of being “neutral.” I was sick of being afraid what other people would think of me if I actually voiced my opinions. I wanted to be brave. I wanted to have opinions about Real and Important things (even if my two cents were just a mere pip in the surrounding cacophony of voices).

I wanted to step away from fear. Fear that my friends would drop me. Fear that I would look stupid. Fear that I would be wrong in public. Fear that I would muddle facts. Fear that I would actually have to research facts. (Funny enough, that didn’t kill me!) Fear that I would have to write in a different style than I was accustomed to. Fear that I was becoming more and more myself – and if people rejected me, they would be rejecting me versus some carefully crafted version of me.

It is scary to put my thoughts on controversial issues out there – particularly since I keep telling myself that I am bad at research and facts. But you know what I discovered? Thanks to the internet, facts are pretty easy to find and check. Also? I am capable of writing something that is not just “slice of life.” And the best part? My friends are a lot more gracious and a lot less petty than I am.

I Was a Mean Girl

On Saturday, I went to a high school choir reunion with a few friends. As we were checking out the new cafeteria (well, new since 2008 anyway), I saw all these anti-bullying posters on the wall and got super annoyed. Since when has a person ever stopped doing something because of a PSA poster on the wall? In fact, these posters in their cheerful teenage girl script and their stupid blue ribbons made me WANT to go out and bully someone just because I could.

I am a bad person.

But it got me thinking. No one ever thinks they are the bully. (At least, I don’t think they do.) I mean, look at me. I’m a nerdy Chinese girl who went to a high school with mostly white people and I was definitely not popular (or unpopular, really), so in my memories, I was always cast as the underdog. But was I, really?

I recall being part of a group of girls on the color guard (we called it the drill team) and we basically threw a coup d’état and got our tall flags team captain (we’ll just call her Captain Girl) demoted to a regular member and somehow got me to be the captain instead. My friends were the co-captains of the entire color guard and had convinced me that I should be the one to do this.

Here’s the thing though. Captain Girl was a good team captain. I never had any particular problem with her. She had solid routines and was very organized and talented. (She eventually was good enough to teach at USA Spirit Camp or whatever it was called. You don’t get to do that if you suck.) I also didn’t particularly want to be captain. But I went along with the plan to overthrow Captain Girl anyway because, hey, being captain would be good for my college applications! Also, I was too cowardly to disagree with my friends.

Well, I ended up being team captain, sucking at it, and hating every second of it. In fact, to this day, one of my recurring stress dreams is being at a band competition/football game/parade and not knowing the routine. (This is a close cousin of the taking a final for a class I didn’t even know I was enrolled in type of stress dream.) Captain Girl was very gracious, never made a big stink about it, and was kind and helpful. More than I ever deserved.

I bet Captain Girl thought I was mean for targeting her and systematically taking away her captaincy. And then, to rub salt in the wound, I wasn’t very good at it. But because my friends were the co-captains of the entire color guard, I got away with the coup. I’ll bet you that my friends didn’t think they were being mean, either. They were just as nerdy and dorky as I was.

This incident is one of my biggest regrets from high school. You know, I think I’ll find her on Facebook, message her, and apologize (if that’s not too creepy). *heads off to google then message*

Ok, I’m back.

Another incident that I look back upon with immense shame is from elementary school. I was in the third grade and thought this boy, Crush, was SO CUTE! I liked him SO MUCH that whenever possible, I would sneak up behind him and then kick him in the balls. I thought it was hilarious. I did this to this poor boy at least once a day. He eventually moved. I hope he can still have children.

When I think back on this, I feel so awful. Poor Crush! Can you imagine being kicked in the balls daily by this tiny Chinese girl with Coke-bottle glasses? Not only would you be kicked in the balls every day, it would be by a girl. A TINY, little Asian girl. Can you imagine having to tell your dad this? POOR Crush!!!

Anyhow, my whole point, I guess, is that even though I thought I was this poor victim in high school and elementary school, I was actually a perpetrator. I was a bully! I find this mind-boggling and totally at odds with my self-perception, but it is completely true.

I was a mean girl.

Sometimes, I still am. I regret to say that I often take delight in being a complete and utter bitch. Hapa Papa will tell you how I am the Queen of All That is Petty and Small. I used to think I was a nice person. It took being married to Hapa Papa and him actually seeing the truth of who I am for me to realize that I am NOT nice at all! *sigh*

Now, before everyone protests, (Anyone? Hello?) I am capable of being a civil and polite person. I am also capable of being a good person to my friends and people I like. Big deal. Anyone can be nice to people who are nice to them or people they want to like them!

“If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that.” (Matthew 5:47 NLT)

I must say, the broken part of me enjoys the notoriety of being a mean person. And truth be told, I’m not sure I want to be a nice person. I would rather I be a good and kind person. However, we are living in the realm of Reality, so don’t hold your breath, people.

Let’s hope the kids take after Hapa Papa. Although, come to think of it, he’s not really very nice, either.

My kids are screwed.