There are different types of support groups on the internet–and it’s really important to be aware of the differences, pros and cons, and safety concerns with all the different types.
An “open” group on a blog or website.
Open groups (also called forums) on websites mean that anyone that goes to that website can see what you are posting.
Pros: Your identity is not openly tied to the account. So even though anyone can read what you are posting, they don’t openly have access to your name or other personal details (unless you for some reason make them known).
Cons: Anyone that goes to that website can see what you are posting.
Potential Safety Concerns: Consider selecting a user name that is vague and protects your real identity. (For example, if I were to join a group, I could use the user name of “DanaMorningstar” or “Dana” (which don’t protect my identity and wouldn’t be a good idea) or I could select something totally unrelated like “NextChapter” or “JaneDoe”.
A “closed” group on a website.
A closed group on a website is often a “hidden” or restricted access portion of an open group. Usually closed groups are for paying members (but not always).
Pros: Only those that have access to that section of the group can see what you are posting.
Cons: If people are only posting in closed areas, then new members who haven’t joined those areas yet most likely won’t be able to give or get as much feedback on their posts that they would like.
Potential Safety Concerns: The same concerns regarding a user name as an open website group.
Groups on Facebook:
“Open” Groups on Facebook: Anyone can read the posts and anyone can join.
Pros: This type of group format allows for a wide variety of people to ask and answer questions.
Cons: Anyone can read the posts and anyone can join. These groups tend to be very large, and poorly moderated due to their sheer size.
Safety Concerns: Since anyone can get in, internet trolls and bullies tend to flock to these kinds of groups, not to mention that any one on Facebook can see what you are posting. This can be potentially embarrassing and put someone at risk for online (or “offline”) harassment or stalking.
“Closed” Groups on Facebook: Only other members of the Facebook group can see what you are posting.
Pros: Only other members of the group can see what you are posting, so there is more privacy as compared to an open group.
Cons: Since the group is on Facebook, your Facebook profile is associated with it (so people will know your name and anything else you have on your Facebook profile). Any open or closed Facebook group that someone joins will show up in their Facebook friends’ news feed, as Facebook will suggest to them that they might want to join too.
Potential Safety Concerns: If you don’t want anyone knowing that you are in a group on narcissistic abuse, you may want to one of the following:
- Join a blog/website-based group (here is a link to mine: www.thriveafterabuse.com/forum)
- Join a “secret” group on Facebook (which I explain more about below)
- Create an alternate Facebook profile in order to protect your privacy. (You would do this by setting up another email and then joining with a fake (but still real sounding) name. If you go this route, make sure that you keep this profile as secret as possible, meaning, only use this profile to participate in support groups with. Don’t “friend” people outside of the support groups–especially don’t friend your family or friends, as this will show up in their news feed, and if someone is watching your (or their) account, they will connect the dots pretty quickly to realize that you’ve created an alternate profile. In addition, avoid sharing specific details about your situation in order to maintain as much privacy as possible, and I highly recommend not using your real picture for your profile picture–use one of an animal or of a sunset or a something like that. Something else to consider is that from an admin perspective, when we go to “approve” people’s membership for a support group, the only information we have to go based on is what’s on their profile page. Since there are a lot of spammers and internet trolls on Facebook, we try to screen people’s profiles as best as we can, but we can only go based on what we see on their profile. So make sure that your alternate profile has some sort of images that are related to empowerment, narcissistic abuse, or something along those lines so we can tell that you are real person with an alternate profile.
Secret Groups on Facebook: These groups are invitation only.
Pros: These groups offer the maximum amount of privacy allowed on Facebook, as no one can see that you are in them or can they request to join one. They must be directly invited to join these groups.
Cons: Secret groups do not show up if you search for them, so it makes finding one to join very difficult. From a group administrator point of view, having a secret group only works if there are people that can commit the time to connecting with each potential member to make sure they get in. (I tried this initially, and it very quickly became too time consuming for me and the other admins to try to keep up with. Perhaps down the road when I don’t work full-time and can afford to hire some people to specifically dedicate the time to help run a secret group I will reopen it.)
Potential Safety Concerns: Facebook may change it’s policies at anytime, about how they promote groups and who can see what, so privacy isn’t guaranteed.
*Regardless of what type of group you join on Facebook, you may want to consider changing your group and profile settings to hide this information if you feel that potentially problematic people are watching what you are doing. You can do this by going to your Facebook timeline, then clicking on the “More” drop down arrow. Then scroll to the bottom and click on the “Manage Sections” link. There you have the option of “hiding your groups” as well as any other section by unchecking the corresponding box. Keep in mind that even if you hide the groups you are in, they are only hidden on your Facebook profile, but will still come up as a “recommended group” to those you are friends with on Facebook.
I hope this clears up a lot of confusion out there. And remember, when in doubt, always err on the side of safety.
My goal is to educate, empower, and inspire other abuse victims in understanding more about what happened to them (and how to prevent it from happening again), as well as how to go on and rebuild an amazing life.
Even though I have had a lot of "in the trenches" experience with highly manipulative people of all kinds, I consider myself to be a student of Narcissism, mindset, motivation, healing, and life in general, and am by no means an expert on any of these topics.
It's for these reasons, that when you are reading my information that I encourage you to hold to what helps, and let the rest go.