These are the guidelines from the UUHS coffee hour group, which get an abnormal amount of praise relative to most guidelines. This could be because a) they’re great, b) UUHS people are weirdly enthusiastic about process, or c) a bit of both. As a moderator, I have found these to set a good tone—feel free to share/steal/adapt as needed.
Group guidelines/covenant/yadayada. Now, with 20% less boring (relative to the regular variety of guidelines):
1. This group carries the name “Unitarian Universalist” in its title. And it’s very popular. Which means that inevitably there will be people scrolling through it to get an idea of what UUs are like. Let that sink in for a minute. Newcomers searching for UU are not getting the Commission on Appraisal's report in response. So… if we’re gonna use the name, we should be consistent with the values of UUism.
2. No, I am not interested in specifying what exactly “the values of UUism” are. This is a humour group. If you want to have a discussion about The Core of What Unites Us As UUs, I suggest the report on said topic by the Commission on Appraisal. Or, the ongoing discussion happening on The Entire Rest of the UU Internet. My operational definition for UUism is approving posts is “kinda religious/church/meaning oriented” and “not jerk-ey". If you feel this is an inadequate definition, or if you enjoy long and drawn out nitpicky conversations about the specifics of our identity, I remind you that THIS IS A HUMOUR GROUP. As an alternative outlet for your urges, may I suggest plenary at GA, or candles of joy and concern at your local congregation.
3. I believe we have a principle around the “Free and Responsible search for stuff that is funny”. I am a lot more fussed about the Responsible part than the Free part. There is already lots of Free Speech on the internet. So, if someone is hurt by a thing and asks me to take it down, I’m likely gonna. Because I am a) compassionate like that, and b) lazy. See #1. If this bothers you, I am sorry (but only Canadian sorry). To meet your Free Speech needs, I redirect you to a) the entire rest of the internet, and b) the candles of joy and concern at your local congregation.
5. THAT SAID… we also have a principle about “acceptance of one another and encouragement to growth in learning not to be clueless”. If something is meant as funny but is also unintentionally hurtful, I think it is a great use of space to have a conversation about why that joke exists, why it hurts, and what is a good response to it. This is a great alternative to just killing a joke as a) we all grow as people, and b) the joke still dies, because nothing un-funnies a moment like deep discussion of it’s implications.
6. I would also draw your attention to the principle about "justice, equity, and COMPASSION in our Facebook commenting practices”. I know calling stuff out is a thing, but it can get kind of anti-opression olympics unpleasant. Remember, the difference between "You" and "Someone Making a Mistake" is not that you are more enlightened or anti-oppressive than they are. The difference between you and them is that this week is their turn and your turn is coming later. If you point out painful humour in a granolier-than-thou manner, I will likely still take the action you request because you will probably be right, but I will SCOWL FIRMLY AT THE SCREEN AS I AM DOING IT. Be nice. If you are mean, you will still go to heaven (thank the Universalists for that) but you will be put in the paperwork department (for paperwork, though, you can thank the Unitarians).
7. Noticeably absent from the principles is “people who believe in x are idiots”… yet we seem oddly fond of this as a theme. A little poking fun is okay (particularly if it’s at ourselves), but if we get a bunch of posts that ridicule any perspective (don’t say “it’s just a joke”… we all know jokes are huge and powerful forces) I will take action. By “action” I mean I will post a polite and encouraging note about the trend, which will be utterly devoid of humour. Then, a bunch of people will get mad that the PC police have arrived and post their own (equally humourless) notes about storming out of the group. Please do not discourage them. It is their right to storm.
8. As a moderation technique, “getting people into line by politely boring them" may seem a little passive aggressive on my part. This is to be expected in a group founded by Canadians. I will not be adopting the (more direct) American style of conflict resolution despite the (wonderful!) influx of southern neighbours, because there are very few truly Canadian things in UU Universe, and I want to keep this one. Please feel free to look at my admin style as an education in cross cultural competence. Or, alternatively, feel free to post that you are storming out of the group. I will not stop you. I may even apologize to you on your way out. It does not mean what you think it means.
9. Also noticeably absent from the UU principles is the statement “we will stay on topic”. I have felt, in a number of settings, that this omission is an unfortunate one. There are a lot of generically funny groups out there. The idea of this group is to have content that would be particularly funny to UUs. I won't approve off topic humour, because there's so much of it, unfunny church stuff, or self promotion. Sad as it is, I also won't approve "hi, thanks for adding me" type posts (even though you are very welcome), and duplicate posts (when I notice). If I've failed to approve a post you think meets this criteria, PLEASE MESSAGE ME. I will not be offended, particularly not by the type of person who worries about offending people. Remember, many of my decisions are made in a split second on my phone while supper is boiling over and one of my children is yelling “mom, can I have your paypal password for homework for the science fair” and the other one is yelling “mommmmm… how do you spell plutonium? It keeps autocorrecting!" and a dog is peeing on my shoe and WE DON’T EVEN HAVE A DOG. You are my backup. You are what makes the group awesome.
Funny is important—it nurtures a sense of identity and culture, it nourishes hope, it creates connection and joy. I am forever grateful for all you do.
In Faith and/or Discussions About Faith and/or Funny Memes About Faith,
Your Friendly Neighbourhood Admin
P.S. Wanna see this wonderful group for yourself? Click here to be taken to our Facebook group.