So, you are keen to start a Facebook Group with a particular purpose, aim or theme in mind? Does the idea fascinate you because it would not only provide an outlet to your creativity; but, would also provide similar outlets to others and would be viewed as social service?
Sounds great; doesn’t it? Let me give you a reality check:
First of all, it is almost like the idea of starting a new Religion; it would be subject to so many interpretations and variations that eventually what emerges will have nothing much to do with the original concept, except perhaps the name.
And, that is because we are Indians and immediately and spontaneously resist any attempt, even mild ones, at being focussed and disciplined. How can, we silently ask, there be a group with a theme and aim when we are totally used to Chalta Hai approach in life and this CH approach has held us in good humour all these centuries? Please notice Indians in an aeroplane. Even after the announcement for fastening seat-belts, keeping seats upright and switching off cell phones; we don’t do any of these. We keep waiting for the air-hostess to come to us and personally point out. And then, we reluctantly do so, our looks indicating that she is only being a stickler to some archaic procedures. We are like that only (Read: ‘We Are Like That Only’).
We look at any attempt at regulation as being against and killing creativity. The result is that we don’t have a free society but we have a reckless one that is adept at taking short-cuts to suit its own interests and styles.
Majority of the Indians won’t have visited China. But, that doesn’t stop them from extolling the virtues of Indian “free”, “open” “liberal”, “democratic” and “fearless” society in comparison to China’s “draconian”, “closed”, and “autocratic” society wherein people live in perpetual fear. It would come as something of a shock that we, perhaps, live in greater fear than the Chinese in our everyday lives. For example, because of our chaotic, reckless and dangerous traffic conditions, when we leave our homes in the morning, we have no idea whether we shall return home alive. We never let go of our creative and free-flowing spirit (if not spirits) even on the road.
Our creativity Is also hugely appreciative of easy availability of everything on the Internet that we can copy and paste as our own. Take three of my Facebook groups, for example: ‘Humour In And Out Of Uniform’ (HIAOOU), ‘Laugh With The Punjabis’ (LWTP) and ‘Dil Ki Nazar Se’ (DKNS) to promote respectively humour about Indian armed forces, humour about Punjabis, and love for old Urdu/ Hindi songs. The membership of the first two gradually reached 20000 each and the third one is at about 1500. In all three groups the number of people who write original posts is very small. Majority is copy-paste experts. Since the majority is like this, it appreciates copy-paste culture in others too. Hence, your original and painstakingly written post may fetch a dozen Likes, but its copy-paste post, even if being repeated for the nth time, doesn’t fail to attract hundreds of Likes and Comments. This is real humour, the majority says; the kind that should be there instead of the “long, boring (originally written) posts”. Even though the cover picture of HIAOOU advises that the group is about ‘Humour related to Indian armed forces and nothing else’; most members feel that the group should be allowed to put up all humour and non-humour posts.
Irrespective of the name, aim and theme of the group started by you, we like to put up each and everything. Our favourite posts that find places in almost all groups are: Greetings especially Good Morning, Happy Diwali, Happy Holi etc; Motivational Quotes; Pictures and praise of religious places and symbols, god and goddesses; Pictures and praise of the armed forces (these have to be liked by everyone lest they should run the risk of being dubbed as unpatriotic); Posts that show they are modern enough to be empathic about such social issues as girl-child, women’s empowerment and child-labour (these never fail to get dozens of likes and comments since others too want to be seen in the same light), riddles (such as 2+2×3-4×2-2 is how much? Or if your brother’s aunt is married to your sister-in-law’s father, what is her relation with you?) and romantic shair-o-shairi, pictures and quotes. On my group Laugh With The Punjabis, for example, I keep enquiring from members who put up such posts, despite norms clearly spelled out in the pinned post, whether such posts as that of gods and goddesses and girl-child are something to laugh about or at. But, that doesn’t stop the members from giving vent to such latent creativity.
In the end, most of the groups on Facebook just become friends’ circles wherein everything is fair game including “how are you, friends? “, “hope you have a great time”, “anyone from Shimla?” and “Add me”.
Then there are those who want to advertise free of cost. They put up ads about their products such as jewellery, shoes and even to like their pages and groups. Many of them flood your groups with dozens of such ads both as posts and comments and it would take you considerable time, sometimes hours, to get rid of these.
The new scourge on Indian Internet is pornography. Sexually oppressed and depressed Indian people have suddenly found virtual impunity in making profiles that are gay, lesbian, transgender, incestual, wife-swapping, cuckolds and open interests in such profound subjects such as Desi Gay Stories, Meri Bhabhi Ki —-, Hot Sisters and so on with explicit pictures. Whilst on the subject of profiles, my experience shows that almost half the Facebook profiles of Indians are either fake or have fake pictures; commonest being those of actors, actresses, foreigners, children, gods and goddesses, quotes, flowers and places.
On my group ‘Humour In And Out Of Uniform’, I tried to promote original writing of anecdotes since the Internet hardly had any material (including cartoons) on humour about Indian armed forces. But, I found that firstly there were very few takers and secondly even those who wrote originally decayed into writing on anything and everything and letting these pass as humorous posts. I then started a group, satirically titled Chalta Hai wherein such posts could be published. But, I should have known that the fun of putting up the forbidden stuff on a group with a specific purpose far outweighed the lure of putting it on a group wherein it is actually permitted. Hence, people kept on putting up Chalta Hai posts on HIAOOU and even tried to justify these. A senior member, for example, is convinced that everything that happened in his tenure in the armed forces in India and abroad and in the civvie street is worthy of being chronicled in HIAOOU for the benefit of the youngsters who are looking up for leadership and guidance from the armed forces.
With all this, your desired social-service of having a Facebook group suddenly becomes a punishment for you. You spend the whole day managing your groups, over and over again advising people to stick to norms (to the extent that they and you both start getting on each other’s nerves), removing and banning posts and members, getting into lengthy discussions with people as to why you removed a post/member without personally cautioning him and her (remember how they are used to being told by the air-hostess?), inducting and blocking members after checking their profiles, and hoping like hell there would be some time left for you to actually use your own creative spirit to write (the original purpose of starting the group). And all the while, the copy-paste artist spends all of fifteen minutes in doing his boy/girl-scout good act of posting his stuff and moving on to post the same in dozens of other groups that he/she has become members of. By the way, when I check profiles of members at induction I am surprised to see many of them being members of hundreds of groups.
Narayan Murthy in his address to students of the Jawahar Lal Nehru University at New Delhi entreated everyone to assimilate some of the attributes of Western societies wherein people invariably thought of the society before thinking of their own freedoms and liberties. But, we, in our Chalta Hai attitude, often consider ourselves as the centre of universe, and reason out how just our type of exceptions from the rules should be permitted.
Most Indians are also good at – nay experts at – giving advice (Read: ‘One Good Advice Deserves Another’). There are very few who mean well whilst rendering such advice; many of them use the medium of advice to gather as much attention for themselves as they can gather (after all, the very aim of Facebook is to seek attention, they reason out). So, whilst you need their active help to maintain your groups for the purpose for which they were created, these advisors would tell you that the simplest thing to do is to throw a person out who is putting up irrelevant and objectionable posts. They forget that you would have to spend hours reading all the posts even to decide which are the irrelevant posts. Ask them to help in this as co-admins and they would do the Mr. India act of becoming invisible.
What, then, are the solutions? You can try one of the following options:
- Close down your group or groups. This is easier said than done. On Facebook there is no such quick-fix option available to deactivate a group. You have to physically remove each and every member and then remove yourself and seek closure. Hence if your membership is large (in my case the total membership of my groups is close to a lakh), and you spend only 30 seconds for removing a member, you may spend as many as 50000 minutes of doing it, if you don’t take a break. This is as many as more than 800 hours or 35 days!
- You can restrict the membership of the group(s) to a manageable number and restrict entry by making it (these) either closed or secret groups. This defeats your original purpose of doing all-round social-service.
- You can change the setting of the group to ‘All posts to be approved by an Administrator’ prior to posting.
- You can increase the number of Administrators. This too is easier said than done since most of the advisors are actually very busy people who do not have sufficient time to do this public service. And in any case, if the norms are subject to individual interpretations (causing you chagrin in the first place), administrators’ duties then become another cause of individual interpretations.
So, finally, what are you left with? Perhaps have just one or two more trusted administrators and have the setting for posts to be approved by administrators prior to putting up. This is hard-work for the administrators but then it does away with all the heart-burn caused by removing posts, removing and blocking members, and being embarrassed by vulgar and pornographic posts being put up when you least expect them.
If you have any suggestion, please feel free to post it in the Comments below the post.
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