The positive impact of online groups with Facebook’s, Alex Sloane

Brittany Lee Waller

No matter your location, timezone, or cultural background, online communities have the capacity to bring people together so that they may bond over shared interests and feel a sense of place in the world. With the ability to cross borders and be accessible at all hours of the day, these online groups and communities mean many people around the globe no longer need to feel isolated.

We recently learnt about the remarkable Football Without Borders Facebook group – an online community from Darwin bringing together asylum seekers and refugees through the international language of sport. Since being established in 2014, the group has assisted many asylum seekers and refugees in successfully integrating into their new homes.

Inspired by this, at TEDxSydney we were interested in finding out about other online groups that might be forging the way for humankind, so we had a chat with Alex Sloane, Head of Marketing at Facebook, Australia & New Zealand to find out more.

Strengthening society one group at a time

Facebook groups can act as safe havens, wells of information, sources of entertainment and points of important discussion. So, if you’re a part of a Facebook group yourself, then it might not come as a surprise to you that 200 million people globally are also members of meaningful groups – with that projected to reach 1 billion in a few short years.

“Over 75 percent of Australians who are on Facebook are active in a group and 55% have made friends through groups,” says Alex.

“We’ve seen the world become particularly divisive over the last few years, and it’s encouraging to see so many people connect on Facebook groups which we hope helps strengthen our society’s bonds with each other.”

Connection drives individual fulfilment

Alex indicates that they vividly see Facebook groups enabling people to pursue new passions, learn something new, or to find and provide support that is much needed around critical life moments.

“The Bold and the Beautiful swim squad encourages healthy, active living where people of all ages meet 365 mornings a year, to swim in the ocean together wearing their iconic pink swimming caps. We see great examples locally of mother’s groups like Mama Tribe where 30,000 women nationally are connecting online and in real life to support each other through the daunting and sometimes lonely experience of new motherhood. Modern Soldier is another community that brings together veterans and their friends and family to help tackle Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other mental health issues.”

Groups can access funding in Australia

Facebook recently announced their Facebook Australia Groups Fund of $30,000 AUD as a means to strengthen these important communities online and offline. The programme will allow groups across Australia to apply for funding to support an offline event to empower group leaders to bring members together, ultimately fostering meaningful connections.

“Through the funding program, we want to celebrate and support the amazing contributions made by Facebook Groups in local Australian communities. We want to help meet the costs of group meet ups or even to develop new resources to support the groups’ activities face to face.”

Empowering community for a more connected world

“Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together,” explains Alex.

“An important part of this is supporting the leaders who foster community – people who offer support, build bridges and make change. This is just the beginning and we’re excited to learn through this process about what more we can do to support local communities that use Facebook Groups.”

We invite you to connect with different tribes and people at TEDxSydney 2018. Engage in less small talk and deeper conversations that might encourage more meaningful connections.

Photo credit: Ben Duchac

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