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.