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Babysitting Adults: The Misadventures of the Facebook Admin

For many users, Facebook is a source of entertainment, nostalgia, and information—all plotted along a spectrum that runs from amusing to annoying. However, for a select few of users, Facebook is a chore. These users are known as “administrators” (or “admins” for short), and their jobs are not as fun or easy as onlookers believe.

Behind every group on Facebook is an admin or a group of admins. They are the intelligentsia, the night watchmen, the online shepherds of your experience within this collective you have volunteered to join. While you are away, they are guarding the group, mindfully and carefully choosing their actions in an attempt to strike a balance between excessive intrusion and utter neglect. They decide who is allowed in, what is allowed to say, and who needs a swift boot to their virtual butt.

Basically, this is a poetic interpretation of a job description that can be more aptly described as an “adult babysitter.”

I’m an admin for my local community message board. Many of its members are local residents in my town—many of whom I interact with offline in what is commonly referred to as “the real world.” I’m always amazed at how differently some of these people act once they get behind a keyboard. They Dr. Jekyll when I cross paths with them at the grocery store, but turn to Mr. Hyde when they return home and log in.

Part of me thinks that online activity is equatable to drinking alcohol: your true character reveals itself over time, especially when excessive consumption takes place. Moderating a Facebook group is also similar to being a bartender. Sometimes, overzealous customers imbibe, disrupt the experience of other customers, and earn no-expenses-paid trip out the front door. Repeat offenders eventually get 86’d, because some folks’ personalities necessitate more than moderation; they need intervention.

Fortunately, I’m not tending bar all by my lonesome. The amount of “stuff” (not the exact term I prefer) that gets posted in these groups is dizzying and more than what one person can handle. I share this joy with a group of dedicated volunteers.

We often commiserate over private group message.

“Have you seen this bonehead post?” asks one admin to initiate the conversation.

“No, not yet,” replies another. “I was busy being a productive member of society.”

“Yeah, I saw it,” a third admin chimes in. “Don’t people have better things to do with their lives?”

“Clearly, not.”

As a group of volunteers, we don’t possess unique qualifications, certifications, or vocational experience that makes us the “right people” for the job. You don’t go to school to become a Facebook admin.

You just need the right mixture of patience and sarcasm to be successful as an admin. Too much in one direction, you’re a pushover that allows people to get away with all sorts of nonsense. Too much in the other direction, you start hating the human race (assuming that your misanthropy wasn’t a prominent quality to begin with).

Your faith in humanity is challenged as an admin. There are the pot-stirring trolls who are only interested in engaging in virtual fisticuffs with their weaponized keyboards. Then, there are the “I had one bad experience at a restaurant and rather than approach the management about correcting the situation I opted to blast the business online because deep down I’m a passive aggressive coward” people.

Also in attendance: the multi-level marketing scammers (“I make $12,000 per month and work from home; click here to learn more”), the self-promoters (“Hey y’all…I’ve got the hook up for LuLaroe, Pokemon cards, and free kittens if anybody is the market”), the unmotivated job-seekers (“Is anybody hiring? I’m a real people person”), the chicken littles (“OMG… I just saw a fire truck drive by my house… what’s going on?”), the nanny police (“I’m going to report this post and several others just to be safe”), the nostalgic historians (“This town was better before all of you morons moved here”), and the perpetually unhappy (“I hate this town and everybody in it… but I’ll probably never move because this is all I’ve got going in my life”). All walks of life seem perfectly capable of hitching a ride on the information superhighway.

On top of juggling all of these multiple personalities, admins can also be the gatekeepers of the group. People usually have to request permission to join a group, which makes us turn into college admissions officers. Fortunately, as a member of a small town, it’s easy to spot legitimate accounts because of mutual friends. Otherwise, everybody else looks like potential Nigerian princes or Japanese pornographers. The internet is a weird place.

At the end of the day though, this online freak show only represents the squeaky wheel minority of users. The vast majority reserve their nuttiness for offline endeavors.

So the next time you log in to your local community message board, just remember to be kind to your admin. He or she is likely a hapless volunteer who isn’t paid to babysit adults online. And I don’t say this because they deserve sympathy. I say this because they can give you the boot without warning. Your virtual butt will thank you.

About the author

Jay Stooksberry

Jay Stooksberry

Born and raised on the Front Range of Colorado, Jay Stooksberry is a freelance writer who is establishing his roots in the Western Slope with his wife and newborn son. Follow his journey at www.jaystooksberry.com.