Facebook Groups are a strange and interesting phenomenon that highlight this new social world. Groups with simple, fun concepts, or titles that just elicit a laugh, are like the Bazooka Joe comic strips for this generation. They are worth a quick giggle or groan, and then you toss them away. In the same way, people like to join these groups for a quick laugh. Given that groups are indexed by Google, we decided to do some digging around and found one trend that inexplicably stands head and shoulder above the rest: the quest for 1-million-members group.
Invitations for these types of groups have been lighting up my personal invitation feed (and probably yours) for years, as people from all around the world attempt to – for various strange reasons – get their groups up to 1 million members. Now, we could take the intrepid scientific route and get into an analysis of the social and psychological ramifications of this desire for mass acceptance, or we could just list some of the groups that actually achieved their goal, and marvel at the nature of the feats. I’ll save the science for scientists: let’s look at the groups!
I’m almost tempted to let the title say it all, but upon further inspection we see that Robert Clarkson had real intentions of somehow converting his house into a pirate ship when he hit a million members. His initial plans were not quite as exhaustively detailed as I’d expect:
- Land (a plot where I can build the ship)
- Plan (schematics)
- Materials (plenty of wood and decking)
- Labour (I need professional help, builders, accountants, web designers, etc…)
But nevertheless, his persistence and the unique nature of the idea armed him with a world of supporters very quickly, and he in fact did achieve a million members last year. In fact, he quickly put up a web page describing his dream exploits (all in pirate talk). His inability to actually turn his house into a pirate ship meant that he had to come up with a new plan that involved more than ‘plenty of wood and decking’. He quickly determined that his goal was to “be collectin 2 dabloons from each of ye maggots and totalling a booty of aboot 1.4 million dabloons then I be buyin a pirate plot”.
The funny thing (other than the word ‘dabloons’) is that it’s not clear if he was really attempting to do this. With over 1.4 million group members, even small donations like two dollars could easily make Mr. Clarkson a millionaire. I’d wager he was semi-serious about this pirate goal.
Unfortunately, the top of his homepage has him listed at reaching only $338 so far, although one of the sponsors was corporate, in Ernest Wright and Son. Check out the page for proof, and also read his FAQ for some of the controversy over some of his members who are angry he reached 1 million and never built the pirate ship. This group is also an example of a “Brody Ruckus”-type group, which applies to any group that promises some sort of action after a certain number of people follow. Read more about the “Brody Ruckus” effect here.
There are several of these groups, but this one in particular tops the searches, and has hit its goal recently. This kind of group truly demonstrates the nature of social media and virality, because while there are 1 million members, there is almost no content on this group at all. The home page is just a few sentences about wanting to beat the ‘men’s group’, and somehow I feel like at the end of this gargantuan mission nobody really understood who was the winner and the entire net result was probably a Facebook wall post taunt like “We won!” followed with a response like “Won what again?”.
The funny thing is that the discussion board tab of the group has taken on a life of its own, with random people using it as a women’s discussion board for topics as fascinating as “men r da bomb” and “free chip in the poker”. Virality leads us to real substance once again.
For the record, the men’s group is still at 400,000 members, and seems to be somewhat apathetic in this game, although the discussion board is just as lively, with posts like “if 1m people join I will s**k off a chimp”.
I had to include this, because they took it to a whole new level. Instead of sticking to the trend, Jo Scriven and friends have started their quest to hit 90 million members. This would be about a quarter of the entire Facebook population, but Jo’s got it all figured out, so don’t worry. Under recent news, she has listed:
1 PERSON INVITES 10 FRIENDS = 10 MEMBERS[...done]
10 MEMBERS INVITE 10 FRIENDS = 100 MEMBERS[..done]
100 x 10 = 1,000 MEMBERS[...done]
1,000 x 10 = 10,000 MEMBERS[...done]
10,000 x 10 = 100,000 MEMBERS[...done]
100,000 x 10 = 1,000,000 MEMBERS[...Next goal]
1 MILLION x 10 = 10 MILLION MEMBERS
10 MILLION x 10 = 100 MILLION MEMBERS
With math like that, this can’t fail, right? The problem is that they’re only at 400,000 users. But still, that’s almost half a million people! That’s more people than live in my city. The funniest part here is that this group could actually achieve its goal. Virality truly has a speed of spread that we’ve never seen before, and all Jo would have to do is somehow promise something crazy and people would start to spread it. Maybe she could say she’d cure world hunger, or turn her house into a Pirate Ship. The draw of the promise would have her stated mathematical principles come into effect as people passed this to all their friends to see the results of this crazy promise.
Groups like this really remind me of something I once heard about spam email, that is, the only reason it exists is because 1 person in 2.5 million clicks the link. It’s so cheap to send out those mass emails that as long as that one person clicks to find out more about “herbal enhancement pillz 4 u”, they make enough profit off the advertising on their site to continue the business. In this same way, these groups are here as long as people keep passing them along. I am considering joining to dissuade them from continuing this futile quest, but I’m afraid I’ll get sucked into the excitement and begin spreading the group to my friends as well.
With the popularity of these irreverent groups, and the speedy nature of their spread, I feel that these humorous, simple groups are here to stay, just for the laugh. My main worry is that the number of invites I get leaves me with a ‘boy who cried wolf’ situation. What if one day, there is actually a man who truly intends to build a pirate ship based on his Facebook Group support? I’ll never know and never join because of all the joke groups, and the man may have to suffer in regular accomodations for his whole life. Alas, social networking can be a dangerous thing.
Interesting to note that if you search Google for all groups on Facebook, you come up with 2.2 million results. The immensely popular nature of Facebook groups means that sorting and finding a group you like can pretty much only be achieved through search, but Facebook’s search does not allow you to sort your group results. The difficulty in finding popular groups related to your topic is somewhat staggering. Perhaps in the future, Bing can help with this, as Microsoft and Facebook have recently partnered to power Facebook search.
Check out more about the The Brody Ruckus groups here. Also check the “Ruckus Networks” page on Wikipedia for more background on Brody Ruckus.