ODs on Facebook was established as a safe place to share clinical, practice management information and have a little fun, but not at anyone’s expense.

It’s a place to network and get to know our colleagues, not just professionally but learn about their passions, share successes, cheer each other on and support each other in times of need. I am always happy to hear how much members enjoy and value our community as it makes all the hard work worthwhile. We are a very special community, not because we are the largest organization in eye care, but because we influence the entire eye care industry, which is a huge responsibility. We are influential because of the extreme amount of sharing that goes on here. We owe that high level of sharing to the fact that we generally have a safe place to share because we have consistently stayed true to our mission as outlined by our guidelines. How does this all work?

To understand how our guidelines succeed in maintaining a safe place to share, it’s important to know the history of the online eye care conversation. Before ODs on Facebook, there were old style login forums and list-serves where ODs got together to discuss clinical and practice management topics. These weren’t always pleasant places to share; comments weren’t moderated and disputes would get ugly and rage as they degenerated into personal insults. People used the perceived distance the internet creates to act in ways they never would face-to-face.

Discussions on partisan politics created divisions in the community.

The people hurling insults and yelling the loudest about their politics pushed the average forum participant to the side enabling a very small clique of active users to take over. Moderators, some timid in character, unable to control the troublemakers, surrendered their administration to the clique and some even started to act like them. The quality of the forums declined which ultimately lead to less activity and irrelevance.

I know because I was one of those sitting on the sidelines. 

I stuck my neck out a few times only to have it chopped off. After a while, I just lost the desire to post. Even reading the forums became unpleasant because of having to wade through hurtful, hateful and divisive vitriol. I longed for a higher-quality place to share. It occurred to me that there must be hundreds, maybe thousands of others out there with great content to share who are holding back for the same reasons I am.

It was a shame that there was all of this great expert-driven information with so few willing to share out of fear of being attacked or denigrated by some stranger with an ax to grind.  Then the idea came to me; I could create a safe place to share. Thus, ODs on Facebook was born, literally on the back of a napkin. I sat down and wrote a list of all the things I thought were holding the online eye care conversation back. I drafted guidelines intentionally with the purpose of eliminating them while creating a safe place to share and open up the conversation so more people were willing to engage. What I believe many people take for granted is how intentional this community is. Our guidelines are structured to create a safe place to share because sharing makes the online experience great. Six years later we still enforce the guidelines like we did on day one. Are we perfect at it? No, but it is the secret to having the best community. 

ODs on Facebook is not about any one person, but about a community that cares about its space.

Everyone needs to be aligned with that mission. If not that’s fine, there are plenty of other places to share. Influencing the entire industry comes with responsibility. We are responsible for telling the truth about the products we use and our experiences with the companies we do business with. We are responsible for our actions in front of 33,000 others. We are responsible for respecting one another personally and professionally. We are responsible for controlling our reactions to comments and responding professionally. We are responsible for helping our young colleagues and student members learn from our successes and our failures. We are responsible for setting everyone here up for success, not failure and we are responsible for posting within the guidelines.

Our community becomes ugly when we attack others.

Things take a negative turn when one person trolls the community to get a reaction. It empowers others to repeat this self-serving behavior and is not in the spirit of the community. When these things happen the value of our community decreases, fewer people share and the cadre of haters, trolls and/or Debbie-downers start to gain power. I am committed to not empower those who would bring us down to make themselves feel better. Hopefully, you value what we’ve created together.

I want us all to think about what got us here and what the mission of the community is.

ODs on Facebook is about uplifting our colleagues professionally AND personally. We support our students when they have questions, not act like their preceptors. We support our colleagues when they reach out to us to share their passions, accomplishments, and achievements. If you see something you are inclined to mock or insult, please scroll on. If you feel something doesn’t belong in the community, re-read the guidelines and if you still feel it is inappropriate report it to me in a PM. Share your opinion but do so in a professional and respectful way. If people aren’t giving you the respect you feel you deserve and is mandated by our guidelines, send me a PM. If you value our community please consider what makes us great when you post or comment. 

I am so lucky to lead this community and I want you to know I take it very seriously.

Having an admin that supports the community and values its members is important and I want you all to know how important you are to me. Thank you for just being here to read and lurk, thank you for your contributions and most of all thank you for being part of and valuing the space we created together by being respectful and continuing my original purpose of a safe place to share.

Alan Glazier, OD, FAAO Dipl., ABO