[ Question ]

How do you feel about the main EA facebook group?

by JanBrauner 1 min read12th Feb 202012 comments

18


Referring to this group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/effective.altruists/

I submitted my thoughts as an answer but I would be interested in other opinions.

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4 Answers

So this is my very personal impression. I might be super wrong about this, that's why I asked this question. Also, I remember liking the main EA facebook group quite a bit in the past, so maybe I just can't properly relate to how useful the group is for people that are newer to EA thinking.

Currently, I avoid reading the EA facebook group the same way I avoid reading comments under youtube videos. Reading the group makes me angry and sad because of the ignorance and aggression displayed in the posts and especially in the comments. I think many comments do not meet the bar for intellectual quality or epistemic standards that we should have EA associated with. That's really no surprise, online discourse is not particularly known for high quality.

Overall, I feel like the main EA facebook group doesn't shine a great light on the EA movement. I haven't thought much about this, but I think I would prefer stronger moderation for quality.

Thank you to JanBrauner for raising this. I have had similar concerns.

However I don't think stronger moderation is the answer, especially since it's hard to moderate the comments, which is where most of the poor quality content arises.

Instead, it perhaps needs more concerted efforts from those who have thought about EA ideas more carefully to (nicely and constructively) help to improve the quality of the discussion.

This means participating in the EA facebook group more actively, rather than spending less time on it and just paying attention to the forum (which candidly, is what I've found myself doing)

The group seems very reasonable as a default place for people to be regularly reminded of EA topics as they go about their day. 

I can't think of a single large (5000+ people) Facebook group that regularly features interesting original discussions that aren't intruded on by aggression, trolling, memes, etc. In that context, I'm glad that the Facebook group has:

  • A good selection of top-level posts, thanks to the efforts of moderators
  • A much better tone of discussion than most large groups (it's very rare to see someone openly insult someone else without a moderator stepping in, and I saw quick action the one time I reported an aggressive comment)
  • A good amount of reasonable advice being given in response to quick questions (e.g. how to best persuade a company to add a charity to their matching program). Not all questions get good answers, but few seem to get bad answers.

I think that an outside observer who knew nothing about EA would look at the group and at least think "okay, these seem like well-meaning people who run a lot of different projects". If they thought the discussion was especially aggressive or low-quality in an epistemic sense, and saw his as a reason to think poorly of EA, I'd question their ability to take Internet norms into account.

(That said, the discussion quality seems much lower than on the Forum, in smaller EA Facebook groups, or on Discord, and I understand why someone would feel dismayed at the thought of how much better it could theoretically be.)

I almost never read the EA Facebook group. But I tend to generally dislike Facebook, and there simply is no Facebook group I regularly use. I think I joined the EA Facebook group in early 2016, though it's possible that it was a few months earlier or later. (In fact, I didn't have a Facebook account previously. I only created one because a lot of EA communication seemed to happen via Facebook, which I found somewhat annoying.) Based on my very infrequent visits, I don't have a sense that it changed significantly. But I'm not sure if I would have noticed.