• Vaibhav

What's in a social media group?

Updated: Aug 4, 2021

The therapeutic effect of group support during the pandemic.

In May of 2019, I formed a Karaoke group with 11 families including my own. Many of the members possessed a unique ability to utilize their vocals cords to match the famous singers around the globe. A few of them had even performed for an audience before.

My primary purpose was to bring people from a community in the greater Philadelphia area to connect over a shared enthusiasm to sing songs, primarily from Bollywood movies, and also gives young ones (kids, ages 10 - 15) a chance to hone in on their singing.

I have mastery over several skills, but singing is honestly not one of them. But, I thought if I bring disparate people together with different capabilities, maybe I can also attempt to sing.

In spite of our attempts to meet at least once a month, calendars didn't match and we ended up meeting every two months. The attendance was anywhere from 5 to 9 families. However, it was an extremely delightful experience.

COVID crisis hit in early 2020 and social distancing meant that we could no longer gather face to face. To overcome our limitation, I started a social media group (same 11 families) so that we could perhaps do this remotely. To my surprise, everyone enthusiastically joined in. Even those who had attended only one session "in-person" were now on this group, putting comments, interesting news, jokes, memes, advertisements, etc.

We met weekly using an online platform and the attendance was amazing, 10 families joined us every Saturday for a 4-hour session. The first few minutes were spent adjusting microphones, sound and voice quality settings, checks on background music, etc. As we progressed we added other activities along with singing, games like Pictionary, and plenty of both clean and dirty jokes after 11 pm. A few of our kids began to have their own sessions during this time.

I was amazed at how therapeutic it was for all of us trapped in our COVID prisons (our homes). However,

A social media group has both advantages and disadvantages:

1) Connects multiple friends

2) Easy to coordinate meetings

3) Easy to communicate at a mass scale and share a common interest

4) Discuss current events, pass on movies, books, or series suggestions, display a new hobby, share gastronomical ventures.

5) Forward jokes, memes, and interesting news or warnings.

However, over time (around 9 months) the weekly meetings lost their charm, many felt that singing over an online platform didn't do them justice. The jokes ran dry. More importantly, we ingested heavy doses of each other, higher than normal. We came to know the strengths and weaknesses of every member. Adding to the agony were political discussions among liberals and conservatives, especially being an election year.

A few pitfalls (disadvantages):

1) Cannot see the tone of the writer

2) Too many emojis, often resulting in miscommunication

3) People start believing that it's a clique or a cult

4) In spite of being the founder, adding new members meant approval from existing members.

5) Political views among disparate people often counter reconciliatory

6) Made it harder to meet in smaller circles, as those left out got offended quickly.

Learnings: As a founder, make your exit strategy clear and put in some basic rules, such as no political discussions. Know when to respond or when to just read or to ignore certain posts.

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