By Viri Garcia
One of my closest friends once said I’m “well-versed on the internet,” and he’s not wrong. Being active on several social media platforms ensures my exposure to plenty of content. I have been from the socially conscious and aesthetic pages of Tumblr to the icky, questionable corners of 4Chan and Reddit and back. I have seen things I wish I hadn’t, and others that I wish I could go back and see but are now too deep in the internet for me to return to. Regardless of my vast internet travels, the only place on the internet that still makes me feel strange is Facebook—and it is all my fault.
I think most people have a love/hate relationship with Facebook, the space where family members, close friends and long-lost friends randomly intertwine on your screen. Naturally, it’s going to be at least a little unnerving to see someone I went to high school with share pictures from a page called “Hood Memes” while my relatives post pictures of my cousins. However, I have found a way to make Facebook an even more bizarre experience: Facebook groups. Facebook groups are what they sound like. Not everyone is part of one, some require approval of admins to join while some are open. Members post content that may or may not require admin’s approval and revolves around the group’s theme. Sometimes, I enjoy scrolling through the varying content that gets posted in the groups, and other times, I find myself turning my brightness down when in public and looking around to make sure nobody saw the self-incriminating video of Shrek that popped up on my newsfeed.
As of right now, I am in 36 Facebook groups, not including those for buying and selling and finding housing and textbooks on campus. These groups’ titles and focuses range from “Birb memes,” “Things that are not aesthetic,” “Vaporwave,” “Rick and Morty,” “Recipes for disaster,” quality drawings of objectionable things, to elderly people trying to use social media, and pictures of traffic cones people encounter. At this point, I have become cautious when I open Facebook in public because I don’t know whether I will scroll past a cute bird video or some extremely questionable Minions fan art of a minion sliding a ring onto Gru’s finger while they both blush. So, maybe I am being extra with all these Facebook groups. However, I think that being a part of them adds something to the Facebook experience that can’t be attained through the simple friends and family network.
I have come across several articles about Facebook groups, or as they are commonly referred to: Weird Facebook. I agree in that my feed has gotten much weirder since I joined the 36 groups I am currently in. However, the groups that are more on the “mainstream” side, such as “Please show to Jim ! ! HA ! ! HA ! !” (101,431 members) and “Vaporwave Sadposting” (145,044 members) are not what I would call “weird.” Of course, they’re weird in the sense that they are closed groups and none of your friends can see what you post or comment on those groups unless they are members, but they’re not weird as far as content goes: usually content revolves around the group’s theme and can be generic, such as the rooster with sneakers pictures on the bird memes group. However, in some rare and extreme cases content can also be screenshots from some grimy Reddit on the group for things that are not aesthetic. From this angle, Facebook groups become more of an “alternative” Facebook, but considering content and network, a better term for it is “extra” Facebook: almost like a Finsta, which only your close friends follow. On Instagram, it has become increasingly popular to have two accounts: one in which you upload the more aesthetic parts of your life, or a Rinsta, and another (usually private) in which you reveal what your life is really like beyond the sugar-coated parts, or a Finsta. Facebook groups appear to parallel Instagram’s Finsta concept without the need of a different account. However, on extra Facebook, you can choose to interact with other group members and make new friends or you can just observe from afar. I’ve noticed that after being in multiple groups for a while, you start seeing some people overlap, people who consistently post to certain groups, or people who argue with everyone in the comments sections of several groups. You begin to observe that controversial posts get the most comments and what kinds of people pick sides.
In addition to providing an alternate virtual social space, Facebook groups provide specific content that the user joins the group for. For instance, I think that older people trying to use the internet is funny and wholesome, which is why I joined the group “Please show to Jim ! ! HA ! ! HA ! !” in which members post screenshots or texts of “Jims” (people who try to use social media, but it becomes obvious they don’t know how to), such as a screenshot of your dad’s autocorrected texts saying “big chocolate fudge cake with euthanasia.” Facebook pages may or may not always provide themed, quality content, but groups do, mainly because posts are not made by a single group of admins, but rather group members. I have seen posts get weirder over time, but only in certain groups: mainly “Things that Are Not Aesthetic,” “Important Posting,” and “Despite My Moral and Ethical Objections I Must Admit this is Drawn Well,” which given their names alone seem that they could get weirder and more obscure over time: one of the latest unaesthetic posts is a bowl of ramen with milk, while one of the latest important posts is a picture of a newspaper with the headline “China may be using sea to hide its submarines.” As someone who’s used to weird things on the internet, the weirder the content, the funnier it is to me. If anyone sees me around campus, nine times out of ten I’m trying my best not to laugh at something I remembered from a Facebook group. However, there is a point that can be reached in which too many groups equates to too many members and people posting things you see as you scroll, creating a saturated space that can either be entertaining or slightly unnerving.
I don’t think being a member of 30+ Facebook groups creates a negative experience, even though it has its setbacks. Facebook is unique in that it is so popular compared to other social media platforms that an alternate but simultaneously equal space can be required, which is what Facebook groups provide. The more groups I’m a member of, the more entertaining and “social” my experience becomes. There is a certain place in the internet that can only be reached by joining 36 Facebook groups. Different groups will expose you to different weird spaces and people, but it’s definitely something worth exploring and experimenting with, especially once you get extra with it.