The club Facebook group has grown considerably over the years. There are questions raised each year about safety and the large number of members on the group. The following report aims to clear up some of these questions and concerns and offers some practical advice. Please have a read and get in touch if you still have any concerns or thoughts on the subject.
This report sits alongside the annual chairman’s report, so if this hasn’t put you to sleep, you may want to read that as well!
Black Pear Joggers and Facebook
The club Facebook group has grown to become an important part of Black Pear Joggers. The group is used to share achievements, running photos, jokes, advice and events as well as for organising runs, recruiting volunteers and much more.
The club website is another important source of information, with regular news updates, an event calendar, information about joining, etc. However, it’s simply not possible to keep the website updated with all the information that gets shared on the Facebook group.
Despite all the necessary information about joining the club being on the website, new members often join the group to ask about joining and receive lots of friendly replies and help on when and where to meet as well as working out potential groups to run with. This alleviates some of the concerns that they may have about joining.
The group is also used for members to engage with others in the local running community, from groups such as parkrun, Malvern Joggers and Pershore Plum Plodders to name but a few. There are also many ex-members that have either moved away from the local area or unable to run at club runs that use the group.
Without the group, I believe (and I’m sure few would disagree) that the club would not be as strong, supportive and cohesive as it is today.
Despite all the positive aspects of the group, issues occur and concerns raised occasionally. The two main points being:
1) The appropriateness of content posted within the group, including advertisements from local businesses, posts that some may feel are offensive/vulgar or non-running related posts. There have been occasions when conversations have gotten out of hand.
2) Privacy and safety concerns due to the large number of group members (1,455 members as of 10th November 2016) relative to the number of paid up club members (420 as of 1st November 2016).
There are currently 5 group admins, which consist of some of the committee (Claire, Cat, Jo and myself) as well as Dan Bayliss, who originally set up the group. Admins have the ability to approve or block members and can review inappropriate posts reported by other members and delete entire posts or individual comments from the group. At the end of August 2016, Facebook have added an admin log that shows any admin activity for auditing purposes. It is also possible for the creator of a post or comment to delete their post/comment as well, without any admin intervention, should they decide that on reflection a post was inappropriate, or has caused an argument.
There is already functionality built into Facebook to allow members to report posts that they feel inappropriate. This probably needs publicising to members of the group as it has only been used by a couple of members in the past as far as I’m aware.
It’s not possible for the admins to review all the posts and comments that get added to the group, so it should be up to the members to report any content they feel is inappropriate. This also brings up the question of what is appropriate? Should the group be limited to running only posts? Can members reach out and ask other members for advice on non-running related matters, like recommending a car mechanic? Are funny posts relating to running appropriate? This can all be very subjective. What one person finds funny, another may be offended.
When a post is reported, it’s my understanding that it’s hidden from view from the person that reported it, so that even if the post isn’t removed by an admin, then they won’t ever see it again.
If there are ‘repeat offenders’, then members are free to report any new posts or contact an admin and then the admins can look at blocking the member from the group completely.
Privacy and Safety
The group is currently set to ‘Closed’ privacy status. This means that posts can only be seen by users that have requested to join the group and been approved. The alternatives are ‘Open’ where anyone can see group content without being a member of the group, ‘Secret’, which is the same as ‘Closed’, but the group can only be joined by invite only. Neither of the alternatives offer any extra level of privacy from how the group is currently set. Setting it to ‘Open’ may make members a little more careful about what they post, but at least with the current status, there is some level of privacy. Setting it to ‘Secret’ would make it very difficult for new members to join the group.
Any safety concerns about content posted on the group should not differ whether there are just the paid up club members, or hundreds/thousands of lapsed members, members of nearby groups, etc. Members should be careful with anything they put on social media, even on their own personal pages, such as broadcasting when they are away from their home (burglars?), when and where they are planning do run (muggings and attacks?). There are many tips available to read online on how to stay safe on social media and while out running. Perhaps we could look at putting on some talks to members about this?
There could be a separate Facebook group created purely for paid-up members. There are many issues with this though:
- Each time someone joins, an admin would have to review their name against the membership list. They may have only just joined, so they may not yet be in the system at the point of checking, so it may take a week or two to approve the member
- Members may have their Facebook name in their maiden name, a shortened form of their name or a pseudonym for privacy reasons, so it may be difficult to match their Facebook account to their membership
- Each year an admin would have to remove all lapsed members from the group, which would be very time consuming. If they then re-join a few weeks or months later, then they would have to go through being added again
- Some members may have joined the public group and not the members only group, so they may miss out on certain news and updates
- Members may share posts or announcements on both groups, which could cause confusion, members may see lots of duplication and feel they have to comment on both groups, which would be frustrating
- The strong links with members
Another option would be to review the existing list of members and look at either contacting them to check whether they still need access to the group (and give a reason) or just remove all non-members and then explain they are free to re-join if they still need access. This would be very time consuming and would probably need doing every couple of years, but it may alleviate some of the concerns over the high number of members on the group. It may be something worth putting to the rest of the members to decide on what they think the best course of action is?
To put the number in context, there are 420 paid up members and 654 lapsed members, which comes to 1,074. If you take off a number of those that won’t have ever joined the Facebook group, then add in all the members of nearby running groups, past runners of Croome, Wild One, etc. People that had the intention of becoming a member of the club, but never got past joining the Facebook, etc, you can see how we’ve reached the current total of 1,455 members without any sinister reasons.
I welcome your thoughts and ideas on the matter.