Why Facebook’s most ‘meaningful’ Groups show us where the social network is headed

Image: Paul Sakuma/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Facebook’s newest priority isn’t a shiny new technology or a funky new predictive algorithm. It’s Groups, one of the earliest features on TheFacebook.com.

These aren’t your sophomore year of college Groups though. Facebook is pointing to a series of highly-engaged collectives that highlight why they believe that Groups will play an important part in the future of Facebookand fulfill CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s goal to “bring the world closer together.”

It comes down to a particular word: “meaningful.”

Facebook’s representatives keep coming back to this word when discussing Groups. Maybe that’s because the feature initially lent it self to jokes like “Bring Back The Jello Bears,” which I championed back in 2007.

This all happened somewhat off of Facebook’s radar. Groups like Pantsuit Nation amassed hundreds of thousands of engaged members. Many Groups have developed important use cases which even top Facebook executives were unaware of until they began traveling the world and interviewing users about why they use the site.

“A lot of Groups came and went,”said Facebook Chief Product Officer Chris Cox earlier this year in an interview. “If you just looked at the average Facebook Group you maybe wouldn’t find it something that’s deeply meaningful. But if you go and study, just asking people all around the world what the most meaningful experience you have with Facebook, you started discovering these Groups.”

But just what Groups are “meaningful” on Facebook? We can gleam some insight from the list of peopleall administrators of Facebook Groupthe company invited to its first-ever Facebook Communities Summit in June.

A Facebook representative shared with Mashable a list of seven different Groups:

  • FIN (Female IN): a private, women-only group described as a no-judgment support group for women” and includes personal stories from women of African culture around marriage, sex, health issues, beauty tips, parenting, domestic violence, mental health, work challenges, and loss

  • Black Fathers: a private men-only group described as dads doing our thing” and includes men asking each other questions about raising teen girls and custody disputes

  • Keep Austin Fishing!: an open group described as a “fishing family” where people in the area are invited to chat about fishing

  • Lady Bikers of California: an open group for women who ride motorcycles, with meet-ups in real life and planning of group rides

  • Affected by Addiction Support Group: a private group for people recovering from addiction and their friends and family to offer support and share stories

  • Moms of Beverly: an open group for moms in Beverly, Illinois to meet up and ask for advice

  • Bethel Original Free Will Baptist Church: an open group for members of the Bethel Church in Decatur, Georgia, includes announcements about events, meetings time and also uses Facebook Live to share sermons

These Facebook Groups are all over America and include people of all different demographics. What they have in common is being deeply personal but not necessarily inclusive of people already within a Facebook’ user’s social network. They bring real world interests and activities online, connecting users to people who they may have never met in real life.

It’s a goal that has drawn comparisons to Reddit, which has subgroups that serve a similar use case by connecting people over topics of discussion. But unlike Reddit, Facebook is not anonymized. The social network prides itself on a real name policy, where even drag queens and sexual assault survivors who wish to use different names are forced to oblige with the rules.

Facebook’s Groups are meant to be safe spaces, where trolling is more difficult in an online environment that does not allow users to hide behind a made-up username like on Reddit, Tumblr, or Twitter.

Facebook also has a bit of overlap between Groups and Pages. While the former is focused on interest-based communities, the latter can be dedicated to a person or an organization. For example, Mashable has a Facebook Page where we share our stories. But now, as part of this new Groups push, Page owners can promote Groups. For example, The New Yorker has a Facebook Group for its Movie Club.

This new emphasis on meaningful communities can be a good service for people, as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg emphasized in his 6,000-word manifesto titled “Building Global Community” earlier this year.

It’s also a smart business strategy. Facebook is trying to address its other big problemdeclining engagement among its users. Facebook makes money when people spend time on its platform, so it needs people putting up stuff and liking/commenting on that stuff.

Groups, it seems, is key to creating a better world through Facebook, which inevitably means spending more time on Facebook. More people spending more time means more money for Facebook.

Facebook follows the money, just like any successful business. How does a social network make money? Advertising.

To capture ad budgets, you need engagement. Facebook has 2 billion monthly active users, and yet, advertisers still say “Snapchat” when you ask where to find a younger audience. There’s the fear that Facebook is becoming “old news” combined with the bad public image of being a distributor of “fake news.”

But people will always have passions and if Facebook can provide the best place to dive deep into those passions, they have your attention, and therefore, they have money.

Whether Groups are good or bad isn’t really the question. They’re engaging, or “meaningful,” in Facebook parlance.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/07/20/facebook-groups-meaningful/

Watch Mark Zuckerbergs Harvard commencement speech here

College dropout-turned-Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg finally got his degree today, and now hes about to give Harvards 366th commencement speech.

You can watch him speak here now, where well embed the Facebook Live broadcast on TechCrunch, and provide frequent updates on any news or insights he mentions.

For a deeper look at the substance of his talk, read our follow-up: Zuckerberg tells Harvard we need a new social contract of equal opportunity

Ill share what Ive learned about our generation and the world were all building together Zuckerberg writes. This is personally important to me and Ive been writing it for a while.

Live Updates From Zuckerbergs Speech

Zuckerberg began his speech by calling Harvard The greatest university in the world, and cracking a couple corny jokes like telling students You accomplished something I never could.

He described how he met Priscilla Chan at the going away party friends through Zuckerberg when the university threatened to kick him out for creating Facebook-predecessor FaceMash. In a touching moment, he says because it led him to meet his future wife, FaceMash is actually the most important thing he built at Harvard.

Then Zuckerberg got into the focus of his speech: Purpose. He described how through his travels around the country, people have told him theyre trying to fill a void in their lives as jobs and community become less important in modern society. And that Zuckerberg foreshadowed how these problems could worsen as technology replaces jobs.

His first strategy for the world to find purpose is for people to make the hard choice to get started on big projects. For example, it might be tough to start fighting climate change, but we can put people to work installing solar panels, or we can start ending disease by getting people to contribute their health data and genomes.

His second strategy revolves around equal opportunity. He believes its time for our generation to define a new social contract where we measure progress by everyone having a role and a purpose. Zuckerberg suggested universal basic income, affordable childcare, flexible healthcare, prison reform, and continuous education as the ways to provide this equal opportunity.

Finally, he believes that we need to build community, both locally with our neighbors, and between nations to unite the globe.

To learn how Zuckerberg plans to fix the worlds problems without just saying Facebook is the solution, read our follow-up:Zuckerberg tells Harvard we need a new social contract of equal opportunity.

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2017/05/25/watch-mark-zuckerberg-speech/

Popular social media sites ‘harm young people’s mental health’

Poll of 14- to 24-year-olds shows Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter increased feelings of inadequacy and anxiety

Four of the five most popular forms of social media harm young peoples mental health, with Instagram the most damaging, according to research by two health organisations.

Instagram has the most negative impact on young peoples mental wellbeing, a survey of almost 1,500 14- to 24-year-olds found, and the health groups accused it of deepening young peoples feelings of inadequacy and anxiety.

The survey, published on Friday, concluded that Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter are also harmful. Among the five only YouTube was judged to have a positive impact.

The four platforms have a negative effect because they can exacerbate childrens and young peoples body image worries, and worsen bullying, sleep problems and feelings of anxiety, depression and loneliness, the participants said.

The findings follow growing concern among politicians, health bodies, doctors, charities and parents about young people suffering harm as a result of sexting, cyberbullying and social media reinforcing feelings of self-loathing and even the risk of them committing suicide.

Its interesting to see Instagram and Snapchat ranking as the worst for mental health and wellbeing. Both platforms are very image-focused and it appears that they may be driving feelings of inadequacy and anxiety in young people, said Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health, which undertook the survey with the Young Health Movement.

She demanded tough measures to make social media less of a wild west when it comes to young peoples mental health and wellbeing. Social media firms should bring in a pop-up image to warn young people that they have been using it a lot, while Instagram and similar platforms should alert users when photographs of people have been digitally manipulated, Cramer said.

The 1,479 young people surveyed were asked to rate the impact of the five forms of social media on 14 different criteria of health and wellbeing, including their effect on sleep, anxiety, depression, loneliness, self-identity, bullying, body image and the fear of missing out.

Instagram emerged with the most negative score. It rated badly for seven of the 14 measures, particularly its impact on sleep, body image and fear of missing out and also for bullying and feelings of anxiety, depression and loneliness. However, young people cited its upsides too, including self-expression, self-identity and emotional support.

YouTube scored very badly for its impact on sleep but positively in nine of the 14 categories, notably awareness and understanding of other peoples health experience, self-expression, loneliness, depression and emotional support.

However, the leader of the UKs psychiatrists said the findings were too simplistic and unfairly blamed social media for the complex reasons why the mental health of so many young people is suffering.

Prof Sir Simon Wessely, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: I am sure that social media plays a role in unhappiness, but it has as many benefits as it does negatives.. We need to teach children how to cope with all aspects of social media good and bad to prepare them for an increasingly digitised world. There is real danger in blaming the medium for the message.

Young Minds, the charity which Theresa May visited last week on a campaign stop, backed the call for Instagram and other platforms to take further steps to protect young users.

Tom Madders, its director of campaigns and communications, said: Prompting young people about heavy usage and signposting to support they may need, on a platform that they identify with, could help many young people.

However, he also urged caution in how content accessed by young people on social media is perceived. Its also important to recognise that simply protecting young people from particular content types can never be the whole solution. We need to support young people so they understand the risks of how they behave online, and are empowered to make sense of and know how to respond to harmful content that slips through filters.

Parents and mental health experts fear that platforms such as Instagram can make young users feel worried and inadequate by facilitating hostile comments about their appearance or reminding them that they have not been invited to, for example, a party many of their peers are attending.

May, who has made childrens mental health one of her priorities, highlighted social medias damaging effects in her shared society speech in January, saying: We know that the use of social media brings additional concerns and challenges. In 2014, just over one in 10 young people said that they had experienced cyberbullying by phone or over the internet.

In February, Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, warned social media and technology firms that they could face sanctions, including through legislation, unless they did more to tackle sexting, cyberbullying and the trolling of young users.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/may/19/popular-social-media-sites-harm-young-peoples-mental-health

Facebook and The Trevor Project hope to help prevent LGBTQ youth suicides

Facebook has been working to make users feel safer on the platform for years, and in its latest effort to enhance the online community, the social media platform partnered with The Trevor Project, an organization dedicated to suicide prevention for LGBTQ youth.

On Tuesday in the middle of Mental Health Awareness month Facebook announced that users will be able to connect with mental health resourcesfromThe Trevor Project right from their direct messages. The project rolls out over the next few months.

According to The Trevor Project’s website, the rate of suicide attempts is “four times greater for LGB youth and two times greater for questioning youth than that of straight youth,” so it’s clear how helpful access to a supportive chat bot could be. And though The Trevor Project is aimed at helping suicide prevention in young people, the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey found that 40 percent of transgender adult respondents reportedly made a suicide attempt during their lives, so Facebook users of all ages could certainly benefit from the helpful resource.

The messenger crisis support will also expand awareness to other areas of the mental heath community with the help of participating organizations likeCrisis Text Line, the National Eating Disorder Association, Partnership for Drug-Free Kids and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

The social media site recently received a great deal of backlash surrounding the spread of live-streamed suicide videos and earlier this month after a violent video of a Cleveland man shooting and killing a 74-year-old man was posted to the site founder Mark Zuckerberg admitted more human intervention is necessary on the site to ensure the safety of users.

The site also collaborated with mental health organizations back in 2016 to launch tools and resources aimed at supporting the mental health community. Users now have easily accessible support groups along with the ability to report concerning posts related to self-injury or suicide directly to Facebook.

Back in March the site was even testing a pattern recognition system that would use AI to identify posts that include certain keywords pertaining to suicidal thoughts.

Studies have shown that excessive social media us could increase levels of depression, so the more resources the better.

If you want to talk to someone or are experiencing suicidal thoughts, text the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. For international resources, this list is a good place to start.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/05/17/facebook-lgbtq-trevor-project/

Facebook teams up with The Trevor Project for LGBTQ youth suicide prevention

Facebook has partnered with The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention hotline for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and/or queer youth, to bring additional crisis support to Facebook Messenger.

Back in March, Facebook brought suicide prevention tools to both Live and Messenger in partnership with organizations like the Crisis Text Line, the National Eating Disorder Association and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Facebooks lineup of partners, which now includes The Trevor Project, enables people contemplating suicide and/or feeling depressed to immediately, directly connect with them. Chat functionality with The Trevor Project will roll out over the next few months.

Worldwide, there is a suicide attempt every 40 seconds, according to the World Health Organization. Among those aged 10-24years old, suicide is the second leading cause of death, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2017/05/16/facebook-teams-up-with-the-trevor-project-for-lgbtq-youth-suicide-prevention/