Martin pressed the delete button on a Facebook post, as he often did.
As the admin of a community Facebook group for over 7,000 people in his village, he had a lot of control – but also a huge amount of responsibility.
The post featured details about a local man who had a heart attack, and not wanting to upset the man’s family, Martin thought it was more appropriate to remove the post.
For that, he received a threatening message – a picture of a man he knew with a knife and a comment below saying he wasn’t very happy about his post being deleted.
After months of being criticised and personally attacked for the things he did in the volunteer role, Martin made a decision – it was time to give up his adminship.
‘Nothing was worth putting my young family who live, work and play in the village in any danger,’ Martin tells Metro.co.uk.
‘Stepping away from it, I immediately had a massive weight off my shoulders.
‘I think the majority of people understood and appreciated that I was a volunteer but some people saw it as a public service. They would get very, very upset if I didn’t respond to their messages within minutes, for example, despite me having a job and family.
‘It became very childish and people became real keyboard warriors behind a computer screen.’
For 10 months, he’d been the one in control of the group – approving posts, looking through comments and ensuring everything remained civil.
He went into the group with a background in working with social media thanks to his business Bamford Media, but he didn’t realise how much time and effort it would take to administer the group – which he did as a volunteer.
Martin found a small number of people continually disrespected the rules and attacked him for trying to enforce them.
Dr Sarah Hodge, cyber psychologist at Bournemouth University explains that part of this rebellion against Facebook group admins in these groups could be the idea that they are taking away the freedom of the internet.
Dr Hodge tells us: ‘I think a lot of people feel that online spaces are spaces of freedom and people don’t expect their behaviour to be policed, so as soon as you start introducing somebody who’s telling them what to do, it causes friction.
‘They feel a bit like “who are you to decide what I should and shouldn’t do?” and it is a bit of a conflict of authority, especially as the administrator is usually in a voluntary role and really, aren’t different to the people in the group.’
Facebook groups like Martin’s can be incredibly useful – spreading information and bringing communities together like a modern day public notice board or classified section.
But as well as personal abuse, Facebook admins have to deal with issues including scams and bullying.
Most admins are untrained and often the only reason they end up taking care of the group is that either they set it up or they have been appointed by the people who did.
Alicia Strube set up #MentalHealthAwareness. It now has over 15,000 members.
Like many groups focused on health, many of the members find that it is a great source of support – especially for connecting with people who understand something that other people around you don’t.
Alicia set the group up because she has dealt with her own mental health problems, including suicide attempts and self-harm.
But Alicia is not a professionally trained counsellor and it can become difficult to manage questions asking about complex mental health problems.
She explains: ‘We take the time to approve members and approve posts, as well as watching for reports from others.
‘If someone needs medical attention or posts that they are suicidal, I immediately contact the person and contact their local police department.
‘It can be difficult but we just want to make sure everyone is taken care of and is safe.
‘At times I get upset and frustrated but in the end I love this group and will do anything to make sure it’s up and running.’
Other health conditions have support groups set up in different ways. Charity Crohn’s and Colitis UK set up their own group, with qualified and trained staff monitoring it during office hours.
By doing this, they hope to ensure that people have a place to get support both from people going through their condition and medical professionals.
The group has over 38,000 members and has stringent safeguarding in place.
Dan McLean, Director of Marketing, Communications and Membership at the charity, explains: ‘We took the decision to set up a closed forum because of the nature of the conditions.
‘People want peer-to-peer support in a private space. They want to share difficult conversations with people who would understand and have similar experiences.
‘By establishing the group through the charity, we have staff who are trained in safeguarding. We do have a responsibility to everybody there.
‘We try not to be too involved in most conversations but if people are looking for particular medical advice or if they are feeling depressed or suicidal, we can step in and signpost where they can go for help.’
Facebook does offer advice and information for admins to help them understand how to deal with issues.
In May last year, they released a range of tools including an admin support area where group admins can ask a question and get a response within one business days.
They also put together an admin education centre where groups can read articles and watch videos on how to keep themselves and others safe when running a group – however, these resources aren’t automatically flagged to people when they set up a group.
Last year, they established a Facebook Community Leadership Program, with 115 people chosen from 46 countries to represent a variety of communities.
Within the groups themselves, there are tools including features to establish group rules and ensure members are made aware of them before they join.
Groups also use different levels of pre-approving members and content to ensure the admins are in control of what is posted.
Rate My Plate – a group to critque meals others have made – has over 480,000 members and the admins and moderators go through every member request and post to approve it.
Unlike community or health groups, these are simply fun posts that most people can enjoy.
The group started just over a year ago and people loved the idea of rating or slating mundane meals, while others were just there to watch the comments flood in from the side lines.
But with a group that is based on harsh comments, it can be a fine line between keeping it fun and preventing bullying of members.
Like the Crohn’s & Colitis UK group, there is a dedicated and structured team of moderators behind the group to try to make it work. By approving posts, the admins have a huge amount of control.
Josh, director of Rate My Plate explains: ‘We have three group admins and 12 moderators who approve every post and we’ve been working with Facebook as they release more tools to give admins more control over the group.
‘The moderators spend every single day actually going through things. No one can post an image without the moderator seeing it first.
‘We want to make sure that people are commenting on the image of the food, rather than people and their character.
‘We can’t pre-approve the comments beneath the post once the it goes up, but we do monitor them and if a post is receiving lots of comments, it does go right to the top. We can turn off comments or delete them on these posts if we need to.’
Group rules include warnings that the group will involve criticism but advise ‘this is not a free pass to get personal’.
Personal insults, continuous petty post reporters and advertising are banned.
Josh adds: ‘We keep an eye on keywords that might indicate abuse. We want honest opinion on the food, not the person behind it.
‘If people are nasty or unkind, we can remove them and they don’t have another chance to get back in.
‘A huge part of the community is that they flag things that aren’t fair and they help our administrators.
‘It does take a lot of time to make this a place where people can comment and criticise the food, something the group was set up to do, without it being a place that is unpleasant to be in.’
A recent trend is for wedding shaming groups, where people post dresses and rings that they have spotted online, specifically for the group to shame.
In other groups, this roasting tone can be misunderstood and nastiness can quickly escalate into bullying.
Dr Mark Griffiths, cyber psychologist at Nottingham Trent University, explains: ‘In a lot of online situations, people say or do things that they would never say in a face-to-face situation.
‘You become disinhibited because you feel anonymous. In a closed Facebook group, you are even further removed because you are in a smaller clique of people.
‘It’s not surprising that people end up trolling or saying things to Facebook group administrators that they wouldn’t normally.’
When this happens and arguments get out of hand, the victims often rely on the Facebook admins to intervene.
Lauren Hannah set up Mrs Hinch Made Me Do It about 10 months ago, and says despite strict rules and constant moderation, there are still incidents of nastiness and bullying that they have to deal with every day.
The group grew out of the popularity of cleaning influencer Mrs Hinch and every day the over 100,000 members create around 100 posts a day, each with lots of comments.
Although most of the post are supportive, light hearted and just people sharing tips about how to keep their homes clean, some are interpreted as rude and arguments start quickly.
Lauren, three other admins and two moderators moderate the group between 8am and 10pm and Lauren says she is online for a minimum of four hours every day.
She explains: ‘We get at least one angry/abusive/rude comment a day, which we do not tolerate.
‘As soon as someone acts in that way they are immediately removed.
‘We welcome everyone into the group and a lot of the time it takes people a while and is really frightening to ask for advice and people can be so cruel.’
And when admins call members out for their comments, they often find they are targeted with abuse themselves.
Lauren adds: ‘I’ve had numerous private messages from members that have been removed. I’ve been called every name under the sun.’
Can more be done to protect Facebook group admins from abuse, as well as ensuring people within these groups remain protected?
Facebook groups have become a huge part of our online lives, offering closed spaces and places to meet people who share an interest or problem.
Whether it’s somewhere to connect with the people in your community, somewhere to sell your used furniture or somewhere to chat to someone with the same condition you live with everyday, they are our modern day communities.
Facebook has some basic training in place – but it’s not pinpointed when the group is established.
More tools to have control over all aspects, including comments on posts could also help.
But as members of groups, it’s important to understand the work admins do – and learn not to take arguments and disagreements out on them.
Follow the rules, take a step back if things kick off and try to treat people in the same way you would speak to them face-to-face.