I figured the community outreach section of "the official online planning and discussion forum for Playa Del Fuego", as labeled as such in the Glossary section on page 2 of the G.U.D., would be the ideal place to post this. Mods, Admins, move as you see fit.
tl;dr: there isn't one. Get a drink, make a sandwich. I think it's important. You might too. Or not.
One of the 10 principles of burning is Radical Inclusion. The text of the principle is as follows: Anyone may be a part of Burning Man. We welcome and respect the stranger. No prerequisites exist for participation in our community. I realize Playa Del Fuego is not Burning Man, but it is a regional burn, so I'm assuming the principle applies. Another of the 10 principles is Communal Effort, whose text reads as follows: Our community values creative cooperation and collaboration. We strive to produce, promote and protect social networks, public spaces, works of art, and methods of communication that support such interaction. I choose to mention these two principles not because they are more important than others, but because they are relevant to the idea of "community outreach".
Facebook is a social network that is highly ubiquitous. Hence people use it for everything across the spectrum from official to non-official, from personal to completely non-serious communication. It is because of it's ubiquity and it's trashbag nature of compiling all sorts of expression and communication into one convenient package, people use it as the go-to for information about any sort of group of people. This includes regional burns and the community who attends.
If we, as Burners, believe in the ten principles enough to call them principles of a community, the ways in which we use the Facebook group is contradictory to a number of them, but for the sake of this post I'm only referring to the two principles mentioned above. As people use Facebook as the go-to as their source of information about an event or group of people, and this idea has been supported by individuals and businesses regarding their social media image as a part of their public face, a great deal of the first impression that those outside of the burner community get of Playa Del Fuego is a bunch of utter nonsense, unhelpful text, and cyber bullying. People can take a joke, some cannot, but if the first impression of a community is any of the three items I mentioned, it steers people away from Playa Del Fuego, Burning Man, and burners in general.
I know this from personal experience. People who enjoy art, enjoy radical-expression, enjoy being surrounded by a community that does not judge, but accepts, still exist in the default world and have learned to live within it as best they can. I attempt to bring these people into my community and they are immediately met with what amounts to bullshit they simply do not have time for, because they can't get a straight answer from people in a Facebook group who they expect to be "accepting" and "into communal effort" and "participation" and whatever the heck that means, who scream at them phrases like "RADICAL SELF RELIANCE" and "DO-OCRACY". They get a sense that Burners are assholes. They wonder what kind of prank I've played on them that I would want them to associate with a bunch of dip-shits, and who the fuck do I spend my time with when I'm so very much not like these people?
Those I want to bring into the community are so turned off by the behavior they see on a Facebook group, they react in ways that would never allow me a moment's consideration of wanting to include them in the burner community. They aren't this way, frustration at the public face of a group of people makes them that way. Having brought a number of virgins to the community, I now tell them I'm not going to invite them to the Facebook group until after they've been to the burn, and this statement alone gives them pause. They trust my judgement however, and after they've experienced the Burn we can talk about it and they can agree with me or not if my reasons made sense.
I'm not going to change how anyone acts on Facebook, nor do I want to or can. I do want to make people aware of how they've turned the Facebook group into an "inside joke" that those who are virgins to the community are automatically outside of. They've turned the price of admission into experiencing frustration and cyber bullying, when by virtue of what the burner community is there shouldn't be a price of admission. You can tell me that "Facebook isn't a burn" and I will agree with you wholeheartedly, but someone who isn't a burner doesn't know that. To them, the social media face of anyone represents a piece of their public persona. A burn event might be a temporary zone purposely removed from certain aspects of society, but Facebook is that trashbag of personal communication a click away from an activist's cause a click away from a page of memes a click away from their favorite bar, beauty shop, poet, artist, or friend. If a company's official Facebook page responded to someone's post in the way that members of the Facebook group respond to posts of new members, there would be a news story. People would have opinions. Someone might even lose their job.
I know that the Facebook Group, or the myriad of "troll" Facebook groups, is not in any way an official means of communication for the Playa Del Fuego Event. The greater community at large, the one we exist in, doesn't know that. A little blurb on the sidebar of the group telling people it's not official isn't enough. The only mentions of the P.O.N.Y. forum on the .org site, an actual official source of communication for the event, being a little link at the top that says "Forums", or a mention under the "Tickets" menu as a link for a ticket exchange, is not enough. Two mentions of the P.O.N.Y. forum in the G.U.D. on page 2 in the glossary and pg 16 under "Communications" is not enough, especially when the link provided doesn't work, and just getting to the G.U.D. on the .org site requires knowing it even exists. A link to the "Burning Pony Express" on the .org site, which upon clicking leads to a page with one of the first lines in large bold type reading "We don't do social media, we do this newsletter" is not only misleading because the link to the burning pony express does not work, but also contradictory because two links down the menu on the .org site is "Social Media". Then under the social media link, a paragraph that states,
"Playa de Fuego's presence on Facebook, Google+, Tribe.net and other social media sites are unofficial and considered fan pages. Most of these are unmoderated and may contain some official information along with lovely pictures of bacon and ads for the shiniest pants in the world. They may also contain mis or disinformation and have trolls under the bridge. It is suggested to use your own judgment before taking any info on a fan page too seriously."
is a wonderful succinct statement that deserves to be quite visible to those who would most need to know such information, like virgins. Yet it is not that visible because it is within a link that is far down the list on the .org site, who no virgin would be aware of unless they decided to ignore a Facebook page on google search results, which I reiterate, is the go-to public face of most individuals, businesses, and communities.
It may not be purposeful but we have steered those seeking information on Playa Del Fuego to visit the Facebook Group page for information, through a lack of a concerted effort to make the P.O.N.Y. easier to find, through broken links to official forms of event communication on the .org site, through misleading information on our lack/non-lack of social media usage on the .org site, and through broken links to official forms of event communication on an already difficult to find G.U.D. which I'm not sure as to where it is even first mentioned to anyone that it exists.
It may not be purposeful but our being a burner on a burner Facebook group page, radically expressing ourselves as we ought to as burners, is actively un-including would-be burners and giving them an impression that does not accurately represent a community that exists based around ten principles, two of them in particular about having no pre-requisites for inclusion into our community, and "producing, promoting, and protecting social networks... and methods of communication that support such interaction."
What can be done about this?
I have some suggestions.
1. Claim responsibility. Telling me that Facebook isn't a burn is code for "I don't have to adhere to the principles here." While you may be right, someone new to the community may be setting their foot through those gates for the first time because of their hearing of or about the 10 principles. Immediately being shown an opposition to them, when they've had no introduction to "Radical Expression", "Gifting", or any of the other principles you think not adhering to the principles falls under, is akin to telling them it's all bullshit, and they don't got time for that with all the other bullshit in the world. Also, "do-ocracy". You're part of the community. What you do and don't do will give an impression. I'm not asking you to be a "virgin-sherpa". Just be aware of how someone new to the community might feel being "new", like you once had to be.
2. Use the P.O.N.Y. and fix the mis-directing or broken links on the .org site. It's an official source of information for Playa Del Fuego. Discussions could be had there devoid of memes, stray snark, an ad, you know, all the shit that makes Facebook Facebook. Trolls are always going to find a way to troll. The beauty of the P.O.N.Y. is that there are threads with threads in them, so you don't have to be exposed to all the mis-info and dis-info and "art" posts all at the same time. You can actually focus on getting/giving information. Plus some effort is required to post on the P.O.N.Y. unlike Facebook, which is built to make posting anything you want as easy as possible because more content equals more ad-views and clicks. Actually fixing the links on the various other pages of the .org site would help in making sure virgins or anyone else get to where they need to go. Making the top link bigger, or bringing more attention to it as the first thing people see after visiting the .org site would be a step in the right direction.
3. Make it obvious that the Facebook Groups are unofficial. I realize that no one is paid to moderate the Facebook group(s). I realize that you can approve anyone that requests being added. I realize that "Facebook is not a burn". But if you care about the community in the slightest, realize that the world at large considers Facebook real-life enough that a group called "Playa Del Fuego Official" or "Playa Del Fuego 0ff1cial" or "The real Playa Del Fuego group please stand up" is going to attract virgins who don't know any better and are looking to meet people or find information about the community, and the harder you make life for them by not cluing them into how to actually navigate to an official information source, the more frustrated they will become, and the more likely they'll tell people that Burners are a bunch of assholes. Make it a pinned post that informs people this is a fan page. Put a link to the actual official information sources in your cover image. Put it in bold on the first line of the group description that the page is unofficial. Or if this somehow limits your "radical expression" or your artistic direction, don't just accept everyone into the group unless you know who the hell they are because you know they already know it's a fan/art page! Put in some effort. Message them. Ask if they're looking for info or if they just want to see ridiculousness. And to a page that wants to post official info: Maybe don't? Yes, I realize you want your burner buddies to know things. But maybe help out the community as a whole by not baiting people into thinking they're in the right place when they aren't?
4. Actually make an official Facebook Group. The option exists, although for various reasons I doubt it's a good idea, and I don't think people can be trusted to curb their behavior in ways that "the public face of a community or group entity" would like to show the world. Or don't alter the way anyone behaves and accept that your use of Facebook is going to turn away a number of people as I've mentioned long ago in the above post. As a counter-argument, it probably would also attract people but, "community outreach" to me doesn't jive with cyber-bullying and frustrating people away from a community that espouses particular statements enough to call them "principles".
5. Do what I do. Tell virgins I want to introduce to the community not to go on the Facebook page until after the event. So far it's worked well. They trust my judgement and after the event is over they gladly visit the page and friend all those lovely people they met, and by that time they are willing to either overlook or take part in the less feel-good aspects.
I'm aware that taking such measures may be contradictory to some of the principles. In actuality, I think the use of Facebook is entirely against all of them in some form, but that's a post for another day. A burner dealing with other burners is entirely different than a burner dealing with a virgin burner or a non-burner, in regards to the principles. They are the public in that they are not a burner. They may be included in the community but they don't know what makes this community in any way different than theirs. Until they know about the community or have experienced it or become a part of it, there are different expectations placed upon the interactions between themselves and other humans. The Facebook group is mostly full of people who are familiar with each other and have interacted in a burn space. If Facebook wasn't as ubiquitous as it is, this wouldn't be as important a topic, but since it is, this is one way "in" for people across the planet. Let's be aware of what an outsider experiences, because as much as you want to treat them as an insider or think that everyone is on the level, they aren't yet. And that could be damaging for both parties, as well as make "radical inclusion" and "communal effort" seem like throw-away ideals that we could totally espouse on principles, but only when it doesn't conflict with me being me.
For those of you who think that somehow changing the way you act on a Facebook group may be affecting someone's perception of a burn, I'm far more concerned with affecting their desire to even make it to one.