The Groups feature allows you to create instant private or public spaces for your friends, co-workers, fellow hobbyists, you name it.
Personally, I think the idea behind the new Groups feature is an excellent one. The IDEA, mind you. Just the idea. Application and execution? Poor, to say the least.
By designating smaller networks of friends within your overall list of Facebook pals, you can post updates, photos, videos, and URLs to your individual subsets without bothering everyone on Facebook with the minutiae of, say, your breakfast menu, or how quickly you crossed the finish line in your latest half-marathon.
In other words, this new Groups feature is the “old” Lists feature but, perhaps on steroids!
Here is the controversy though and what concerns me the most. You see, I am all about protecting your online brand, your campuses online brand, and Delta’s overall reputation. But with Groups, Facebook friends can add you to any group they so choose — as long as they’re already members of said group — without your permission. Can you see the problem there? C’mon Zuckerberg. What were you thinking this time?
Why did Facebook make Groups go the “opt-out” rather than “opt-in” way? “To make the product simple” is the official line. Another likely reason for the policy is that it encourages the rapid growth of … well, new groups. Without the necessity of waiting for invitees to accept an invite, Facebook’s groups are free to grow quickly and exponentially. The more — and bigger — groups there are, the more Facebook members will use them — and that’ll make groups more attractive to app developers and advertisers. And that’s online business; like it or not.
Of course, the downside is that you might find yourself suddenly signed up into a Facebook group (or groups) you hadn’t bargained for, such as, well….you fill in the blank. I dare not. Your inbox will suddenly be flooded with email notifications for each and every snapshot, comment, and update posted to the collective group wall.
So, here are the 5 Q’s and A’s I referred to earlier.
1. Who can add me to a Facebook group?
Not just anyone can add you to a group — in fact, only someone who’s already one of your Facebook friends can do so. Still, it’s a bit disturbing that any of your Facebook friends can add you to any group they choose without getting your permission.
Suggestion: If you’re seriously worried about people adding you to groups that you’d rather not be a member of, maybe it’s time to pare down your Facebook friends list, starting with anyone who added you to a group you didn’t want to be a member of. The “Remove from Friends” button can be, in fact, your friend.
2. How do I leave a group — and prevent someone from adding me again?
Just visit the group page, click on the “Leave Group” link under the list of members, and you’re outta there. After that, no one will be able to re-add you to the group in question without your explicit permission.
3. But even if I remove myself from a group, won’t the fact that I got added in the first place pop up in my Facebook news feed, for all to see?
Yes, it will. You can always delete the notification from your wall, but that won’t stop your Facebook friends or other users (depending on your privacy settings) from seeing the update before you were able to delete it.
One proactive measure is to deny the Groups app permission to publish stories to your wall; just click on Account on the top-right of the Facebook interface, then select Application Settings. Find the Groups app, click Edit Settings, then click the “Additional Permissions” tab, and, finally, uncheck the box that reads “publish content to my wall.”
4. How do I cut down on all these email notifications from my groups?
If you’d like to keep your inbox as uncluttered as possible, just tweak your Groups notification settings: Visit the specific group page, click the “Edit Settings button” in the upper-left-hand corner of the page, and select the radio button next to the option you prefer (for example, you can get a notification each and every time a member posts or comments, only when a friend posts, or only when someone comments on one of your posts). You can also visit the email notification page in your privacy settings and turn off all notifications if you wish.
5. Can the other members in my new group see all my Facebook info?
So, the worst has happened: Your now ex-friend just added you to the “Blah, Blah, Blah Club,” and all of a sudden you’re unwillingly mingling with a bunch of … well, people you wouldn’t normally invite over for coffee. Since you’re in a group with these guys, do they now have access to all your Facebook info?
Here’s the good news: not if you’ve limited access to your profile in Facebook’s privacy settings. If you’ve restricted your updates, photos, and personal data to “friends only,” your fellow “Blah, Blah, Blah” members won’t be able to see anything about you except your publicly accessible profile info (which, again, you can customize in your privacy settings).
On the other hand, if your privacy settings allow anyone and everyone to see your Facebook info, other, non-friend members in your new Group will be able see your data too — then again, they already could, even before you (unwittingly or not) joined the group.
So what do you think? Does the new Group feature scare you? Can you think of a way you can personally leverage groups? If so, should I be included in each group to monitor or are we reaching a place of self-moderation and protocol?