Group Dynamics

Some observations I have made, purely anecdotal, about the dynamics in groups. I do not offer these as scientific, or that there is any universal truths, but some of the behaviors are bizarre in the greatest.

Group 1 – Guitar Enthusiasts

Being a Guitar player, Facebook recommended to me a closed group, with about 80K members. Several of my friends were in there, so I asked to join and was accepted.

At first it seemed cool, people sharing clips of their playing, pictures of their guitars, and some general fun stuff.

However, after a few weeks, I started noticing some subtle trends. First, there was some ugliness in the comments of people who posted video clips of their playing. Criticism of technique, or comments on the playing (out of time, missed notes, etc.)

Then the “Purists” would come out, people who would look down on people who play {fender|gibson|ESP|Schecter|Ibenez|} as being inferior. Or who would look down on the Made in Mexico Fender’s versus the American made ones. And on, and on.

Almost as bad are those who look down on the people who buy expensive guitars. The “spending more than $300 is a waste…” crowd. The anti-snobs.

After about 2 months, I left.

Group 2 – Odd opinions

I was “invited” to a group that featured unpopular opinions. Some really offensive things there, some tin foil hat conspiracies, and more. I lasted here about 3 weeks.

It wasn’t the goofy things that turned me off. I am used to just scrolling past things I find offensive.

What turned me off were a few things:

  • Outrageous racism. Not in the Breitbart sense, but such over the top, blatant racism. At first I thought it was just trolling, but clearly, most of the posters (and the commenters) truly believe what they were typing.
  • Crude Ignorance. I followed a thread about how the earth was flat, and as bad as anything I had seen an a Creationist group, or an antivax group, was the arguments. I started typing responses, but gave up. The amount of scientific illiteracy is high, I expect that, but this was beyond “Trump voter” ignorance.
  • Personal Bashing. Take the filters off, and there were a lot of direct, personal bashing. It was ugly, and impossible to ignore. That was when I knew I needed to leave.

A large atheist group

A few years ago, I belonged to a group of Atheists, and when I joined it had about 3000 members. It was a fun, safe, secret group, and I made a lot of friends there.

Then they went on an adding frenzy, and in about 15 months it grew to about 70K members. The group seemed to have a lot of narcissistic personalities, and with the growth in membership, the cadre of moderators also exploded.

Unfortunately, some of the moderators grew power hungry, and abusive. The group owner seemed to refuse to address the outright abuse, and finally, a lot of quality people left.

As the group grew, its dynamics became ugly. Cliques of people, aligned with power-mad moderators would hunt and prey on the weaker subgroups.

I left when I posted a meme making fun of Justin Bieber, and drew the wrath of one of the cliques. I left, and never looked back.


Is there an optimal group size? Is there a structure (leader and moderators) that can maintain control? Can they be self policing?

I don’t know, but I have my doubts.

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