Online Groups for Keto & LCHF: What to Look For

Finding a group for support online has always been a great help to me in pursuing this WOE.  There are many different kinds of LCHF, keto and paleo focused groups, though–and there are literally dozens, if not hundreds or even thousands to choose from.  Groups can be a huge time-suck. Worse, they can discourage you, as well as encourage you. How to choose where to spend your precious time and energy? 

Open Group Vs Closed Groups

In an open group, there are no real privacy settings. People who are not part of the group can easily see who is in it and read the posts. For ways of eating matters, open groups have their advantages –but also their disadvantages.  The main advantage is you can read the group contents without joining it to see if it is for you. 

If you’re in a webforum of some kind (rather than Facebook), the moderators will have different tools available to them. Many non-Facebook forums or groups are open.  And there are those that are closed. Forums or “chatrooms” exist on just about every platform–WhatsApp, Wechat and Telegram all have this capability to form groups.

On Facebook, closed groups are more common.  In a closed group, people can see that you’re a member from the “outside” but no one can see the posts without joining it. Closed groups require people to request to be “added” or admitted.   Only people in the group can read the posts and comments (and see what goes on there.)

Openness helps to keep things civil (but it is certainly no guarantee).  Still, few people want to be in a group for support that is open for the whole wide world to see.   There are people I don’t want to know about my weight loss (or my stall or my struggle with my kryptonite, the wonderful, evil potato.)  I grew up in the South. I have sisters. Enough said! 

When you apply to be added to a group, pay attention to how long it takes to add you. If it takes a week?  Then there is no real attention being paid to the group by moderators and administrators.   Lack of attention to what’s going on in the group is a warning sign of an inadequately attentive moderating staff.  A day or two is quite normal to wait for an “add.” Bonus points for “same day service.”

You’ve been added. Now what?

There are three main questions to ask when you sign up. 

  • How long has the group been around?
  • How many people are in the group?
  • How many posts a day? 
  • How many moderators/administrators are there?
  • What are the rules? 

New Groups Vs Old

When you sign into a group after you’ve been added, you get a peek at the stats for that group on your first visit. Pay attention to this.  If it’s not Facebook, then you can ask how long the forum has been around–and where the rules are located if you don’t see them.  

Newer groups tend to be friendlier and more active. Older groups have people with lots of experience and knowledge.  I’ve seen excellent new groups and ones where the moderators and administrators are a bit out of their depth.  I’ve seen old groups that let the older members bully new members.  New groups often change and shift as everyone gets to know one another and the moderators and administrators figure out how to do their jobs.   The next question is how hard is the job of these moderators?  Can they keep up with the work load?

In one newish group, I posted about a product that I had tried (Trader Joe’s vegetable pizza crusts) — and someone pointed me to “their” quick and easy fathead pizza recipe. Now, I’m an old dog.  Fat Head Pizza has been around for yonks (a long time, years in fact).  The poster replied to my post invited me to check out her recipe and I found that this link she provided was in fact an invitation to her personal, new closed group. This is an attempt to “poach” a member from one group into another.  It took the moderators about a day to find that post and remove it from the replies.  That was pretty fast!  Still, if I was a newbie at groups, I might have signed up for her group to see “her” recipe.   

If she had posted her recipe, or a link to her recipe, that would be fine. Attempting to use my “ignorance” to her advantage, to steal away a member from one group into another was not ethical.  Groups do divide and separate all the time.  Growing a group is hard. Poaching is dirty pool.  I wouldn’t join any group that did that. Should I have notified the moderators?  If it had gone on for more than a day, I would’ve.  This was a small “bait and switch” that they initially missed (but clearly someone did their homework and found this quickly).

The Importance of Rules

Look at the number of posts per day, the number of moderators/administrators, and the number of members. Groups can be in the tens of thousands.  My favorite group just leaped up to 6K!  When I joined it had four moderators/admins and 72 posts a day. And it was six months old with 4K followers.   72 posts is a moderately active group.  This activity includes comments and replies, not as many as that sounds.  

I look for a group that is well established with a long list of rules about behavior.  Rules against bad behavior, spamming, rules about fighting, guidelines on how to discuss civilly, rules about what will be tolerated and what is out of bounds are usual.   If the group is old (2 years is “mature” in Facebook, many are four, five, or even seven or eight years old), it’s not uncommon to find super-long lists of rules:   old groups have weathered many internal fights and have figured out how to manage those conflicts with clearly stated rules, up front.   These rules will tell you volumes about they consider “fair and just” treatment.

Some groups are ruled by Somebody With A Book and so everything is about their Bible.  Others are ruled by a Brand of some kind (such as Atkins).  If the somebody with a book is smart, they’ll monitor the heck out of conversations and keep the tone under control.  A good author needs to develop a personal relationship with customers.

Brand-based groups tend to have more diet police. No one’s personal reputation is on the line; it’s all about the interpretation of the brand by the group owner, administrators and moderators. Controlling individuals tend to proliferate in brand-based groups because it is all about the “discipline” of their brand, not about personal relationships. 

Bullying and incivility can occur in any group.  I’ve seen excellent groups fracture and lose people when incivility and bullying become increasingly, gradually more evident.  I personally ghost those groups if they are large.   This is why they may appear to have tens of thousands of members — if they’ve been around for a several years, it’s possible that even a big group is composed largely of inactive members.  

Do you want to stay?

Four moderators for seventy two posts is pretty good.  The work has been spread around so that someone is usually around to pay attention to posts.   If posts run up to 200 or 300,  you’d need more moderators and things will get missed.  There will be arguments in groups. Keeping things civil is difficult enough–keeping up with threads that go on and on is really tough, even for a large moderator pool.  I’m in a couple of groups with over 10K members and lots of moderators and a good bit of activity.  Fights and bullying and uncivil behavior can occur in the best of groups.  You’re always adding new people — and many people join groups just to troll others.  (See my post on the diet police about this problem.)

There is also the question of the purpose of the group– and what it is YOU are looking for. Recipes?  A cheering squad?  Helpers? Some people are looking for the Magical Keto Recipe for a Perfect Body.  There is no recipe; my body is cantankerous and unique. What works for one may not work for someone else.

Last but not least–read several days worth of posts.  This will tell you a great deal about the tone of the group and what matters to them. Is this mostly recipes? If so, what do people say about them?  Often the group will “police”  the recipes to make sure they are not giving “bad” advice.  For example, if the group is anti-artificial sweetener (they often are — with a passion) how do people respond to the post using one?  Are people civil?  Are they condescending?  Are the downright mean and bullying? Are they outraged? 

  • Is everyone’s voice given respect? 
  • Are spammers in the group hawking their own particular product? 
  • How do moderators respond?
  • Do posts that are against the rule (like the rule on spammers) taken down promptly? 
  • How are newbies with questions treated?
  • How are even obvious or even (to your mind) “dumb” questions treated? 
  • Are there arguments?  How are they mediated?   Are people encouraged to be civil and respectful or do they “dogpile” on a thread with negativity?

The Right Group (or Groups!)

Facebook groups are not the only forums out there, but these rules can apply to just about any forum.  I would suggest that folks try out two or three, at least different groups. Don’t be afraid to come in, thank the moderator for the add (that’s polite)–and sit back for a few days and read what everyone else has to say at first.   As Yogi Berra once said, “It’s amazing what you can see by observing.”

 Groups can provide recipes, hints for success, perspective and support. Often support is lacking at home for ANY kind of change.   A group can also harbor individuals who will actually undermine your confidence by their tone and attitude.  Don’t give those group your energies. If the group is very large (10K plus), it’s doubtful it’s going to change.  Smaller groups of 500 or so ? They will have different dynamics.   Really small groups of under 100 can be like small towns where everyone knows everyone’s business — for good or not-so-good–towns vary!   If you need support, ideas, knowledge, recipes — groups can be a tremendous help on your journey.  Do your homework and you should be able to find the help you need. 

Namaste ~Lola

The Diet Police in Online Communities

 As January 1, the official Starting Day of Diets approaches, I notice lots of people online getting a head start.  The forums and Facebook groups are expanding rapidly after Thanksgiving. I have a love-hate relationships with these groups.  They provide great support and friendship opportunities.  On the down side, they can sometimes be full of Guerrilla Marketers–and worst of all, there are the Diet Police. Diet police love to pick on newbies.  Here’s the low-down on what’s going on. 

The Seekers and the Sought

People approach a new way of eating, especially LCHF and keto, in “seeker” mode. Many are tentative and fearful, full of body shame.  Admitting one’s relationship with food is unhealthy is difficult. Some people have been in denial, others have known but put off really facing the problem of –let’s use the horrible word — obesity.  This can set people up for an unhealthy relationship with their SUPPORT group. 

I was on Weight Watchers for several years (which helped me gain at least twenty pounds! Yay points!–[note to self: design sarcasm font].) but I found the bullying and sneering and general incivility on their forum to be fairly relentless and unchecked.  At one point, a bunch of us  created our own group on Facebook to escape from that horrid den of cattiness. It was small, warm, and friendly group.  And within 18 months, it was dead. None of us were able to lose weight on that program. A few of us went on to other eating styles but mostly we’re all still overweight.  And gods, we tried. The group was warm and very supportive.  And we all honestly really wanted to follow the program and lose.   But we were past the “seeker” stage, those first uncertain steps when no one is sure what they’re doing. WW makes sure that EVERYONE can get super-informed — and the forums are just echo chambers for rules and regulations. 

The Diet Police: Cadet Squad

Moving from the position of  “seeker of wisdom” to “giver of wisdom” is a heady step.  Many people enjoy that rush of “I know this!” and like moving from the position of newbie know-little to Experienced! Successful! –and they form one kind of “Diet Police.”  I think of them as “Diet Police–Junior Cadet Squad.” 

They delight in giving the newbies the usual, everyday knowledge that most people have.  Most of them are delightful (not always spot on accurate, but delightful. ) Honest, happy, a little jubilant over their initial success, they joyfully share the wealth.  

There are Others, however, who enjoy their authority too much.  They revel in their knowledge and use it to punish people.  These are the Diet Police: Troll Division — and they are everywhere.  Worse, their attitudes often trickle down into the Cadet Division, creating a new generation of bad attitude cops, getting high off of belittling, mocking and attacking others. 

The Diet Police: Troll Division

I discovered trolling back in 1988, when I was in a new parents usenet group.   Some idiots came into the group seeking to spark fear and terror into young parents about — you guessed it — vaccination.   The anti-vaxxers are a weird, persistent group that had been with us for at least that long.  As a social scientist, I was fascinated and appalled.  I spent my free time studying this situation which quickly drew me into the new world of “flame wars” and “trolling.”   

Rather than boring you with 20 years worth of research (okay, more, I’m old)– let me cut to the chase.  Trolls are out for ATTENTION.  They just want to be the center of a cult.   Most of the time, they have only  a half-hearted allegiance to the point of view they espouse (some have NO dog in the fight, they just love trolling.)   The role of Diet Police: Troll Division suits them very well. 

Some of the most uncivil, ruthless and vicious people on diet forums are,  well, let me put it out there: experience and research in trolling would suggest that many of these Troll police are MEN who hate women and enjoy controlling them.  Diet groups are a great way to pretend to be a woman and set the cat among the pigeons (stir up trouble).  It’s a fantasy role for them, a bit of online cross-dressing.   When the Junior Cadets begin to idealize them and emulate their behavior, the fantasy is complete.  On the Internet, no one knows you’re a dog.  And no one knows you’re not a guy. 

Many groups tolerate (and thus encourage) trolling of newbie members, either light trolling (smug comments, belittling behavior, minor catfights about Doctrine) or  full-on hectoring lectures. The seekers are in a terrible position. They earnestly want salvation–and their self esteem is damaged. They are exactly what controlling, vicious trolls are looking for in terms of “fresh meat.”  

Does this get you angry?  I hope it does. Ladies, let us unite against incivility in diet communities. Vote with your feet, complain to the moderator, demand that the tone of humiliation and trolling cease and desist.  Toxic communities are everywhere and they grow, newbie by newbie. 

Online Groups as Video Games

In my research into online communities, I find that there are five kinds of participants, just like in video games  ( I stole these categories from video game research). There are Achievers, who want to rack up the most followers, make the most points.  There are Socializers, who are there for the social contacts.  There are explorers — these guys are great, they run all over the Internet for interesting things to bring back to the group.  There are the more rare “content creators” (or Builders) — people who make recipes or resources and share them.  And then there are Dominators.  Dominators are not having fun in a video game unless they win AGAINST PEOPLE.  It’s not good enough to win against artificial intelligent fake bad-guys.  They need to beat their friends. 

When a video game fails to control dominators, the numbers of dominators in the environment grow.  

If dominators begin to outnumber other kinds of participants, then the group (or the video game) begins to degrade.  Online groups, like video games, will have to rely on having a fresh supply of newbies all the time, so one REALLY has to be wary of groups that are slated as “for beginners.”  

The problem is: if there are NO dominators present in a video game, if their activities are TOO controlled, the video game tends to die because it is totally “no fun.”  Everyone has a little bit of dominator in them, it turns out.   Let’s face it, we can all be a bit smug and smart-alecky.   We all enjoy the feeling of “winning”–  we enjoy being right, being knowledgable.  Moderators have to tolerate some degree of discord, cattiness and know-it-all posts or people feel their freedom of expression is being denied.  Moderation is a tough task.  So be good to moderators. They have pretty thankless tasks and daily headaches.  But don’t be afraid to call out bad behavior–or at the very least, vote with your feet and get out of there. 

In my next Blogmas post, I’m going to cover What To Look For in Online Groups.