The Facebook Group Upgrade Controversy
Two years ago I created a Facebook group devoted to the discussion of area history, this was back at the time when Facebook was still promoting its old group format (the one that is now being phased out). The group was intended to share remembrances of places gone by but still alive in our memories. It grew to include discussions about old roads, lost ponds, master builders, and all things historical. It became as much a study of history as a look back at it.
Being on Facebook no doubt helped promote it, and membership grew into the thousands. I was lucky enough to suddenly find myself surrounded by an ever increasing group of amateur historians who, like myself, were equally interested in researching the history of our area and sharing what they found. Group is an excellent word for what we became. One person would post one old photo, another would be reminded of something he or she knew by it, and they would post something else, and on and on it went.
We realized that with Facebooks ability to spread the word about postings, as well as provide an easy to use format to discuss them, we had found a unique place to have a fun and rewarding historical discussion. I enjoyed going out to the vast reaches of the internet in efforts to bring back new material to show and tell the group about. Thanks to the ever growing amount of digitized material now available, there is much to find and share. I even got the chance to present some of what I had found at the Coney Island Museum in June last year.
A Positive Experience
For me personally, creating a successful local history group on Facebook represented a great new passion. Before 2009 I had only a passing interest in local historical photos. I had gone to the local library and looked at books, but never gone further, never worked on material of my own. With the Facebook group going, that all changed. I started this blog, and came to the realization that I wanted to go further into the study of area history and use the group as a backdrop.
Introduction of Facebook Pages
It was around this time that Facebook introduced product pages, a way to get out the word for companies and brand names. I created one for my group – IT IS HERE – NYC Places that are no more – PLEASE JOIN!.
It soon became clear that Facebook was pushing users away from groups and towards the product pages. It was also clear that myself and others had a lot of time invested into the group and weren’t ready to move away from it so fast. It was also hard for us to get word out to the thousands who had joined the group that we now wanted them to move over to the page. In fact it is almost impossible because Facebook doesn’t allow us to email out to large groups AT ALL.
Group members seemed to respond more positively to the group format anyway, they liked the democracy of it and its impression of being a non corporate identity. The officer assignment feature was nice too, I could give someone who was becoming more active a higher status without making them a full admin. Nevertheless I am continuing to try to move people over to my Facebook page NYC Places That are no nomore. To date I have thus far migrated about 575 people, so that still leaves me about 7700 short of my group membership total of over 8300.
The End of The Line For The Old Groups
In early May 2011 Facebook group members suddenly noticed an ominous banner on the top of the old pages. It told them their group was scheduled to be archived. If we read through the notes we saw there was a glimpse of hope that it might get upgraded. That is, if it meets some kind of vague criteria about being frequently posted to. If the group does not meet the criteria, all the members will be lost!
LOST? HEY, WAIT! What about the members we worked so hard to get into the group for years? The ones we spent time inviting into the group? Are they now going to be whisked away into nothingness? Sounds a little unfair, no?
Even if a still non upgraded group eventually does get upgraded, the fact it has what is essentially a Facebook eviction notice sitting on the top of its page is certainly not very good for group morale in the meantime. It effectively renders the group an abandoned shell of what it once was. Last Friday was the last time I saw any group get afforded an invitation to upgrade. Members and admins of the groups left behind have begun to fear the worst.
How Many Facebook Groups Will Be Abandoned?
I think there are a lot of us out there. It was hard to ignore the group feature in its day as a great way to bring people together who shared common interests. I know of a lot of groups besides mine that should also not be rendered abandoned. Some were just plain silly, but many served important purposes, spreading of information about diseases, places to grieve for lost ones, it runs the spectrum. Below are just a small handful of groups that should be, but have not been given the chance to upgrade, and there are no doubt many more.
I am not the only one who created a group that helped bring about a worthwhile sense of community. I have sent Facebook notes asking them to upgrade but to no avail, they are not easy to contact. This is the only page I have seen as a method of contacting them about any group issues at all.
One thing I have learned in my study of area history is that many communities have been destroyed needlessly in the name of what was perceived to be improvement, this seems to strike a similar chord. My group was devoted to the study of NY places that are no more, I am afraid my group and these others are set to become one more thing that fits into the category.