My first online group was set up about fifteen years ago when I wanted to get my alumni members to get connected with each other and we can share our knowledge and experience. It is also a platform to network for business and pleasure. At that time, there were no social media like now where we can communicate using WhatsApp and Telegram groups. We had to be on the web using Yahoo Group.
Back then, Yahoo Group was a Godsend that enabled me to re-connect to my lost friends and school mates. After we left school, we went our own separate ways to get higher education or seek employment. From the online group, we made arrangements to meet in person and talk about the old days in school, about our work and families. However, I did experience some ugly incidents when the members quarrelled when they started talking and discussing political and religious issues.
Fast forward to the present, many of us belong to a few groups of our interests. Almost every family has their own Whatsapp or Telegram group. Being ordinary members, we may remain silent or take part in the conversation. However, the problems will come when we are the admin or the moderator of the group.
I am the founder member and the admin of a few Facebook groups. The most active groups are Putrajaya Photowalk, Putrajaya Riders Club and My Breakfast Story. To start the group is easy, but each group needs to be monitored and supervised all the time because some members just break the rules and the guideline for postings. A few may engage in hot and emotional debates with other members. As group administrators, we have to be firm and kind. In a few instances, I have to remove some members and mute a few members who keep sending advertisements and religious sermons every day and every week.
How do I keep the Putrajaya Photowalk Facebook group active and relevant for the last five years? It takes a lot of hard work and passion. Every week, I create a theme/topic for members to post their photos relevant to the topic. Every two or three months, I organise a real Photowalk where members meet in person and walk together in a group and go out shooting photos. After each Photowalk, we regroup and meet for our second breakfast or lunch. It is not just taking photos but more like a social event for us. We also have a Zoom Meet to discuss a few topics on photography. The same goes for our Putrajaya Riders Club. Every month, we organise two rides — having fun cycling and eating together.
From my experience of managing online groups, social media is a great enabler for us to enjoy our hobbies. From the social interactions, we become a community caring for one another. I have also noticed that it forms a good business network as well.