Coming Closer: My Experience at #FCS2017

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Travel enthusiasts, community organizers, and even a few locksmiths gathered together this past week in Chicago to celebrate the importance of togetherness at the inaugural Facebook Communities Summit. Around 300 admins representing 120 groups and over 9 million total members banded together to take the Groups element of Facebook to new levels of success. In his Keynote Address, Mark Zuckerberg, the legendary co-founder and CEO of the social networking giant, announced a new vision designed to bring unity to a broken, fractured world, praising the group leaders present for helping develop this new purpose.

As I sat in the center of the crowd, soaking in the words from one of my heroes, my heart felt so full.

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At the Facebook Communities Summit, I met many amazing people. I connected with the admin team behind Gay Geeks, an incredible place that shares my goal of creating accepting, active spaces for passionate nerds. I never expected to have unforgettable conversations with community organizers from Florida or educators who teach English over Skype. In the end, regardless of the reason for their group’s existence, I met an army of world-changers. Every single person around me understood the critical importance of fostering loving dialogue and attitudes within their spheres of influence. I thought that my personal experience as an admin was unique before this week. It fills me with so much pride and optimism to know that I am not alone.

I vividly remember when I first became an admin of my beloved Facebook family group, Movie Talk by Movie Fans. Something that already felt like an inseparable part of my life suddenly became my biggest hobby and my most passion-driven project. There have been so many nights since that I’ve stayed up until the early hours of the morning monitoring discussions, calming debates, and attempting to build deeper connections within my family. I would consider some members of MTBMF to be closer friends to me than some of my closest friends in “real life.” Later, upon joining the team at Geeks + Gamers and attempting to bring my mentality of love and mutual respect to other groups, I’ve come to a full realization of how deeply important the Groups Community at Facebook is to so many people.

The first time I received a message from a member that brought me to tears was only a few months into my admin experience. I didn’t join the leadership team at MTBMF to change the world. I definitely did not do so to save lives. However, that has become the harsh, beautiful reality of the situation. For so many within the geek community, truly expressing love for fandoms and niche genres comes with a high level of social anxiety and ostracization by peers. I think that most of you reading this article know the feeling of being laughed at for loving something out of the ordinary. For so many, Facebook (and specifically Groups) is an escape from the pain of rejection that consumes so much of their typical interpersonal connections. In my time as admin, I have been reminded again and again by messages or posts that our group is all that so many people feel like they have. We are the only place where some feel safe to express their passions in a loud and vibrant way.

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I don’t think enough people realize how important Facebook is to so many outsiders. The world at large doesn’t see what we, as admins, do as we interact with hurting, lonely human beings searching for acceptance. I didn’t expect to see so much darkness and pain in a movie discussion group. Humans need community. People need other people. This is why Facebook Groups are so important.

The new Mission Statement of Facebook is to “give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.” The development team at Facebook seems to fully understand how divisive a time we live in on social, political, and simply interpersonal levels. As we become a more fractured global society, face-to-face communities are disappearing and falling into irrelevance. Mark Zuckerberg never could have known that his little college hangout site would become a driving force behind unifying a world of hate and prejudice. However, he seems fully aware now of how important his creation is to society. I am so proud to be a small influencer within that greater movement.

You probably found this article through Facebook. If you comment below, it will send out through Facebook. You most likely have a Facebook tab open on your computer right now (or a notification has popped up on your phone as you’ve scrolled). This year’s Summit reminded me, above all else, of the power that comes with this new era of social networking. Every single person in the world with access to the Internet now has the ability (and, perhaps, the responsibility) to ask themselves every day “what am I doing to bring the world closer together?” Whether this occurs in a discussion group, on a personal profile, or in the comments of an article, every single interaction we have can work toward or against that end goal of building community. So, join me (and everyone here at Geeks + Gamers) as we do everything within our power to reach that goal. Thank you, Facebook, for an amazing conference. Next year, I firmly believe we will have even more good news to discuss.

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