When Jesse Curatolo launched the Bad Moms of Long Island Facebook group for women who aren’t picture-perfect mothers, she didn’t anticipate getting 9,000 members, landing on "Good Morning America" or organizing real-world meetups for the moms. And it's only been seven months.
“It has been like a full-time job that you’re not paid for,” Curatolo, 29, of Long Beach, says of being a co-administrator for the lighthearted and often-racy group. Says her co-admin Tara Johnson, 46, of Merrick, “It’s a challenge, but having people tell me how much they love this group when I’m out in the world is rewarding.”
Many ordinary Long Islanders — Curatolo and Johnson work together at Lice Clinics of America — volunteer for the gig of Facebook group administrator, called "admins" for short. They give voices to people who share their passion for a subject, place, or cause. Tens of millions of Facebook groups exist worldwide.
"Admins really are at the forefront of their groups," says Leonard Lam, a Facebook spokesman. "They're really at the center of managing the group, adding new members, making sure the conversations and interactions within the group are productive and safe and how the community wants their culture to be."
Locally, there are niche groups as broad as the Long Island FAILroad and as narrow as Freeporters for Freeport.
Michael Taub, 41, of East Northport says he organized Long Island FAILroad in 2017 to voice his frustration with his commute. “I ended up creating a group for me and my friends so we could talk about issues and problems,” he says. The group’s current 3,500 members update each other about train delays, share videos of bad commuter behavior, and vent about the trek back and forth to work. Taub has designated moderators who assist him with tasks such as deleting inappropriate comments.
“It’s been fun,” Taub says. “I’ve had a great experience.” After commuting on the LIRR for 14 years, Taub recently accepted an accounting job in Farmingdale, but he plans to continue as a group administrator.
Fred Gross, 55, started Freeporters for Freeport after what he called a contentious race for village mayor. His goal was for residents and business people to “start fresh.” Gross also wanted to network — he’s a contractor. While many Facebook groups don’t allow advertising (or restrict it to say, one day each week), Gross allows Freeport businesses to promote themselves. “I have made a lot of friends in the village as a result of this,” he says. Candidates have even asked for his endorsement, he says.
Freeporters for Freeport now has close to 3,000 members. “Every request comes to me and I have to approve it or deny it. I sometimes can get a couple of dozen requests each day,” Gross says. He peruses each person’s social media presence to make sure they have a village connection. On top of that, Gross checks the group “a few times a day to see if there is anything new in there that needs my attention.”
POLICING THE FEED
He says things got “ugly” about a month ago during the race for village trustee. He’ll warn people to pipe down, he says. “There’s a lot of refereeing that needs to be done from time to time. They don’t realize that it’s my group. I’m the host. It’s no different than if they come to visit me in my house. If I don’t like what you’re saying, I’m going to kick you out. It’s a matter of being respectful.”
Monitoring activity is biggest challenge, Curatolo and Johnson say — they’re constantly “on alert” and sometimes put members in timeout, muting them temporarily to show they’re serious about their no-judgement culture. “Sometimes people take that gracefully,” Curatolo says. Others not so much. “I’ve been getting a lot of love letters lately, and by love letters I mean hate mail. I’ve been called lovely names. It doesn’t hurt my feelings, it’s just … one of the things I didn’t expect.”
And admins have to remain neutral, Johnson says. “It takes … a lot of restraint. I can’t delete a post that goes against what I personally believe in even though it might irritate me. There are plenty of times when I find what they’re saying slightly atrocious,” she says, such as a post about the role of spanking as a possible discipline technique. “But I have to just scroll on, because that’s what I tell everybody else to do.”
HOW TO START A FACEBOOK GROUP
Facebook groups already exist for practically every community, school alumni, niche hobby and lifestyle interest — and that's in addition to buy/sell groups devoted to specific brands of clothing or collectibles. If you'd like to start your own group:
1. Click on "Create" in the upper right corner of Facebook's main menu.
2. Choose a name for your group and invite your first members. Consider the level of privacy you'll start with — the default is "closed," which allows potential new members to find the group but not view its contents until they've joined.
3. Once you've created your group, click on the "More" tab and choose "Edit Group Settings" to customize the default settings for how your group will run, from how you'll traffic membership approvals to permission levels for posts. Facebook's Help Center has a robust area devoted to managing groups.
SAMPLING OF LONG ISLAND FACEBOOK GROUPS
Long Island Girls Pint Out (for women who love craft beer)
Long Island Dog Parents (resource group for local dog lovers)
Long Island Homebirth Support (for anyone who has had, is having or is considering an at-home birth)
Eastern Long Island Knitting Guild (provides a knitting/crocheting community for eastern Long Island)
Long Island Motorcycle Enthusiasts (for anything that involves motorcycles)