Facebook discussion forums damage unity in groups

Carrington York, Opinion Editor

Let’s talk.

Private discussion groups on Facebook subdue the voices that matter.

Like any social faction, online discussion groups hold a pressure to fit in and say the right thing.

With the birth of “DISCOURSE”, a Facebook discussion forum created by ETHS alumni, Kai Joy, many students, alumni and community members have sparked conversation. Joy prides themself on making the forum an open and honest platform for political and sociological discussion. With over 1,000 members, stemming from a wide spectrum of demographics, forum’s goal is to establish mutual understanding and solidarity concerning various sensitive topics, like the 2016 election, trans rights and more. However, there is a distinct dividing agent between members that participate and members that don’t: the admins.

Though many see the group as a place to hear other people’s opinions, others find the group too intimidating to participate in. The people whose posts get the most buzz seem to have some personal connection to the admins. Of course, everyone is expected to support their friends and respond to posts they make, yet this interaction can strongarm others into silence.

According to Robert Tennyson, Editor of Computers in Human Science, “Social Identity theory posits that our group memberships are just as important as individual identity in defining the self and thus are equally important determinants of of our downstream outcomes mediated by the self concept.” In other words, the more we can identify with a group, the better we feel about ourselves.

Seeing members in the group so tightly woven by friendship made outside of the group can make someone feel out of place. A more socially confident member translates into a more active member, and cliques can impede that confidence. A member who isn’t as familiar with the other members might be so intimidated that they resort to just watching the others engage in discourse, similar to a child watching their friends play outside while they are grounded.

This is where action needs to be taken. To make for a more open and productive discussion forum, everyone should be made to feel comfortable to participate. There should be a conscious effort to welcome all members, old and new. So, if you find yourself in a cliquey Facebook discussion, be the one to invite spectators into the conversation.