A couple of interesting experiences with social media group filtering have come up recently, of not being welcomed into groups that I had a shared theme interest in. Both related to the form of the interest not matching up, or filtering just narrowing down participants to a known set; the feedback wasn't clear. I'll get to saying more about that, related to running and cooking groups, but it will work to frame the background better in relation to tea, a subject I'm more active in.
Tea groups tend to gravitate towards specific tea-interest themes, either by initial definition or through an evolved consensus take. Groups like Gong Fu Cha or the Pu'er Tea Club have the theme relatively set through the name alone, and what is implied by that title (I'll spare you the links in this post). I helped found and admin for the International Tea Talk group, and that's a bit more organic, since it's not as clear what that should mean. A lot of producers, vendors, and tea enthusiasts from around the world are members; kind of what one would expect. I also moderate one called Tea there, just not so actively. That has evolved to mostly be an Indian group, with a lot of other international participation.
A group like Tea Drinkers is more for "beginners," people just starting into better tea, or maybe still on flavored teas, blends, grocery store tin versions, or tea-bag teas. Not by definition or group rules, but per evolved convention. The Reddit r/tea subforum is mostly like that, but with more diverse range coming up.
In any of these groups if someone posts about something outside the theme (not tea but form of tea interest), comments would tend to mention that it's not the right group for that discussion, versus a post being deleted. In moderating the one International group I might even let a post about coffee stay, if the starting point is interesting, to see what that feedback looks like. Group tone tends to vary, and while in general people are very nice in tea-oriented groups it's really up to the individual. If a moderator or core group is a bit judgmental that tends to evolve into a norm for group culture. Someone would typically need to post advertising that is prohibited by group rules, for example, to be removed from such a group.
those rules; a bit general. it's harder than it seems to define an advertisement.
These other two group experiences, related to running and cooking, seemed a bit different. I'm not active in those groups, but I have been following and participating in the running group for a month or two, checking it out. And running for over two years, following a much earlier running history of track and cross-country competition in high school, and some in junior high. The running group is really set up for people to compare shoe specification issues, or tech product use, or advanced training practices. But the most interesting posts and discussion, to me, have been about more basic themes, about dealing with injuries, running in snow, or ramping up early training. I posted about my own training history, about using running combined with walking as an early approach, and doing a form of interval training, running segments at different paces, and that post was deleted.
a relatively open-ended group rule can justify removing almost anything
It's just a tangent here but I'll say a little more about that running practice background, in case it's of interest. In first starting out running I noticed a lot of people were running slowly, on a 10-12 minute mile pace, I would imagine. I didn't have fixed goals for what I wanted out of running but since it was tied to getting exercise I intended to arrive at a faster pace, at some point. To facilitate that, and to not move through a half a year of gradually increasing pace, and changing running mechanics, I instead started running at a pace that would seem more normal later, but that I wasn't initially ready for maintaining. Maybe 8 minute miles, but I don't time the running (part of why I the post was probably removed, that violation of sub-culture form). Later that evolved to include a mixed intensity theme, running nearly 2 miles (3 km) at that somewhat limited pace and 1 additional km / 2/3rds mile at full speed, at whatever pace my oxygen capacity would support.
That post removal theme isn't so unusual, depending on the group. A lot of social media groups are relatively completely open and inclusive, but others are set up to emphasize participation by a core subset of members, or at least to narrow shared perspective. A moderating judgment call could easily depend on degree of match or conflict with shared interest form, or in other groups it could just relate to not "being one of them," working up from commenting to posting topics. I've posted in a group about mixed martial arts interest and an automated removal notice suggested commenting more first, prior to opening my own new topic discussions. At first this seemed a quite foreign idea to me, only valuing input from established members, but group themes can and do vary, and I kind of get it.
In the cooking group the post removal seemed to make more sense, although it also wasn't explained, so that reasoning was a guess on my part. It was about low-cost cooking, and I posted about making stuffed peppers, using bell peppers, sausage, rice, tomatoes, onions, and then other optional ingredients. I would imagine that cost seemed too high, that the group was themed more around "dorm food." Far lower cost food versions could relate to making tuna casserole using a can of tuna, cream of mushroom soup, and pasta, even more basic and cheaper ingredients and process. Fair enough.
The context that emerges is that these groups are designed and filtered to collect and identify people with a narrow form of shared interest, not to be open to a broad range tied to theme. Again and again this comes up, in different forms. It seems a natural enough process, not just a product of people making the most of their own personal authority, or elevating favorite participants over others. The ideas are not necessarily the main point; it's about sharing identification in a specific form. In the running group I mentioned not using a sports watch, in so doing identifying myself as not one of them, essentially. In the cooking group I was using fresh ingredients, declaring an ability to spend the money on bell peppers, and openness to making a dish that takes over an hour to prepare. Again I wasn't one of them.
It's interesting how this ties to national sub-culture too. I'm in a Thai (Bangkok-based) Foodie group, which is quite loosely organized related to form of food interest, and discussion there often turns to where to get good burgers or pizza. If someone posted about that, or a fine dining meal, they wouldn't see negative responses (for the most part; someone can be negative about anything). I would expect the same to be true of Thai running groups too, that posting about advanced training process or starting from scratch would both be welcome in almost all groups. Oddly the starting point idea was one of the most common themes in that "advanced" running group; it seemed like filtering that back out was considered a problematic issue by them, re-capturing group theme back to what they intended instead.
As with tea interest, or any interest, the problem with that, limiting discussion to people of an advanced learning-curve scope, is that they don't necessarily need any input or advice. So you are really looking for people part-way or mostly through a learning curve, informed by those at the far extreme.
It's interesting experiencing inclusiveness versus exclusiveness by platform. Facebook groups have seemed very inclusive, in general, and Reddit subforums more towards the opposite. Dedicated forums, the older form, tend to have sections that enable a broad range of contexts to be included, but that form is generally dying out.
The origins of "trolling" tie back to a similar practice, of identifying users as part of the established group or not, as described in the Wikipedia article on that theme:
The context of the quote cited in the Oxford English Dictionary sets the origin in Usenet in the early 1990s as in the phrase "trolling for newbies", as used in alt.folklore.urban (AFU). Commonly, what is meant is a relatively gentle inside joke by veteran users, presenting questions or topics that had been so overdone that only a new user would respond to them earnestly. For example, a veteran of the group might make a post on the common misconception that glass flows over time. Long-time readers would both recognize the poster's name and know that the topic had been discussed repeatedly, but new subscribers to the group would not realize, and would thus respond. These types of trolls served as a practice to identify group insiders.
Related to that flowing glass concept, the standard description is that older buildings do tend to have glass windows that are not completely uniform in width, based on earlier inconsistent manufacturing instead of changes over time (the flowing). It was conventional to check that and put the thickest side at the bottom, but it's also possible to find examples where that wasn't done, with thicker old glass sides located at the top of a window.
It's probably already evident but one part of my social media experience is about continually exploring themes, seeing what else is out there, checking out how different discussions and formats go. I was really into Buddhism at one point, and still am in a different sense, and I've checked out a lot of groups related to that topic and philosophy. In such groups setting up and maintaining focus is more a problem, getting people to actually talk about those subjects instead of others, but the two issues connect. Someone posting about a different form of self-help material in a Buddhism group, or more random thoughts in a philosophy group, are both still about not maintaining a narrow focus, just in a very different sense. In the groups I joined the failure to set controls led to groups degrading into mostly not being about those core themes later on.
Still, mentioning a slightly varied context theme of running training or cooking seems like something else. It's a matter of degree though; if that running group was too open to beginner questions it could change to only be about basic stretching or injury issues, for example. In the other cooking group people wanting to discuss more and more complex cooking themes would seem unlikely, but it's still a potential example of scope drift.
An idealistic person may want social media groups in general to be open and inclusive. It isn't a positive experience to be told that what you want to say isn't ok to express, implying that you aren't who they are looking for as a group member. If someone posts in a tea group I moderate asking about the best brand of green tea tea-bags I'm careful to frame the response in positive terms, that I don't know that answer, but I can discuss why loose versions of teas are often better, almost universally so. Even that could be interpreted as a form of "gatekeeping," limiting discussion scope, but it's really not, technically. People can still answer that initial question. They tend not to, because green tea is particularly badly suited for drinking in a ground-up form, as it's presented in tea bags.
To me it just is what it is. If someone wants to define their own social media group scope narrowly, and only imply parts of that definition in group rules and description, that's up to them. It's hard enough keeping even far more broad themes on topic, and it's reasonable to want to narrow down members' shared perspective. Groups tend to transition membership and evolve theme naturally over time, on their own, as part of an organic process, and that complicates things. The filtering function may help support that staying positive, or it might lead the group to become inactive. It would just depend on a range of other factors.