Monday, September 7, 2015

The 5 Do's of joining Online Parrot Groups

Joining an online group for parrots is an excellent experience for many reasons. For starters, an online group is a great way to get in touch with other people around the world who share similar passions and interests as you do. Depending on which part of the world you are from, meeting crazy bird people can be harder than it sounds, and crazy bird men and women may actually be rarer than diamonds in some neighborhoods and settings. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, however "community" is always just a click away! It is always a good thing to have a supportive community on constant "standby" for when you need help or when you just need to rant and the wonderful thing about most online parrot groups is that because members can come from all over the world, there is almost always somebody present at any given time.

Another benefit to joining parrot groups is that - even if you are a seasoned parront, but especially so if you are a potential, or new one - there is always something new to learn: whether it is the care and personality of a before-now-unknown-to-you species of parrot, or quite simply the do's and dont's of bird safety in and around the house. You would be surprised at how many things in a regular household can have the potential to kill a beloved fid and I have no one to thank but my favorite parrot groups for scaring me straight educating me on all of the potential parrot dangers that lurk in an average household. Just when I thought I knew it all, I stood corrected. However, if one wishes to stay in a group for long, to contribute, and to help it grow, there are certain things that one needs to practice, and to look out for, in order to be considered a good member of any given group. The following is a list of basic DO's when joining online parrot groups.

*Do note that this article was written specifically with the newcomers in mind, although I daresay we could all do with a good reminding every now and again as well.*

1. DO: Read the group rules.
This is probably the most important "Do" in the list: read the rules! Almost every parrot group I am in on Facebook comes with its own set of rules and guidelines and as a guest in these groups it behooves you to follow them as closely as you can. Shortly after making my birdy presence known online, I was invited into an online bird group for green cheek conures. This was the largest group for green cheek conures on Facebook at the time and I was quite delighted to join. Immediately, and with much enthusiasm, I began sharing my photos. Over time I noticed that some of my photos would disappear from the group wall after several hours but thought nothing of it. "Perhaps they have just been buried under a ton of other posts," "Or, perhaps I had remembered it wrongly and didn't share this photo to this group after all." After just 2 weeks of being in the group, and without warning, I tried to log on one day only to find that I had been placed on a permanent ban. What happened??? What did I do??? Why did they kick me out??? It wasn't until I spoke to a friend who was an admin of the group at the time that I realized my mistake: I had not read the group's rules, which had apparently stated that all photos shared to the group must be posted in the group. No external links were allowed and no links in the form of watermarks were permitted to be on those photos.

By Brandon Lim [CC BY 2.0]
Quite naturally, I was devastated. It was a good group, the first one I had joined, AND I was starting to make good friends there. Nonetheless I accepted that it was my mistake and made a point not to repeat it again in the future.  It is important to remember that while some of the group rules may seem "unreasonable" to us, they are almost always drafted by the group's admin for a very good reason (and often, after much deliberation). If you are unsure of anything about the rules and how it may relate to your posts, you can often write in to one of the group's admin for further clarification to avoid causing an incident later. Having since been made an admin of the small Birds Safety Zone, and the larger Pets and Wildlife (Global) that is something I now understand quite clearly. So kids, remember, before posting anything: READ THE RULES. And please, unless given explicit exception by one of the admins, follow them as best as you can. :)

2. DO: Interact, mingle, and Offer advise. But kindly

By Ripton Scott  [CC BY-SA 2.0]
It is a good thing to be active in groups that you join and a "good member" is generally one that shares posts of his/her own, but also comments regularly or even frequently on the posts of others. Many groups will appreciate sharing but not all will tolerate blatant spamming or advertising without any other forms of participation. Remember, a good group is an active group and you must interact in order to be considered a part of that virtual community. Advise given to people who are asking for it is always appreciated, whether it be from knowledge or personal experience. Do, however, be kind with your words. Remember, everyone starts their journey into parronthood from somewhere and while it is generally unwise to take in a parrot without first doing one's basic research, not everyone will be able to cover all bases. Conversely, some people may find themselves unexpected parronts when rehoming abandoned or otherwise abused birds. Either way, you catch more flies with honey than you do vinegar, and if your goal is to educate, you will naturally get through to a larger audience with kind words, than with scolding or vindictive words. Many groups will have one rule or other that prohibits such behavior under penalty of expulsion or a ban, and with good reason too. Scolding often leads to quarrels, which often lead to arguments which (in the case of larger groups) can lead to a severe dampening of the group's overall cordial atmosphere or serve to be disruptive to the usual thread and flow of discussion and ideas of the group. In such instances, always follow the advise of an admin to avoid exacerbating the situation. For instance, when an admin decides to close a thread, all participants (whether or not they have settled their quarrel) must respect that the thread is indeed, closed. In general, however, a group is not there to police your actions and barring extreme cases of unsolvable arguments, personal attacks, or bullying, our God given right to Freedom of Speech can often be practiced freely and within reason. 

3. DO: Ask before you react

By Duncan Rawlinson [CC BY 2.0]
In almost every bird group I have been in there will always be an occasion where one member posts a photo that is quite shocking in nature (of a bird doing something we know to be dangerous, or of a bird living in less-than-satisfactory conditions) but without much description or background as to what is actually going on. In these instances it is very tempting to fly off the handle and react - in the way any concerned parront who has been conditioned to see the red flags in these things might be expected to react. However, when and where it is possible, it is always good to try to restrain oneself and practice the rule of thumb: ask, before you react. Asking before formulating a reaction to the photograph is a way of giving the poster a chance to provide some context to what is being displayed that he/she might have taken for granted. A bird depicted in a small cage with no toys might, perhaps, be on his way someplace, or simply in a smaller cage so that he can be "sunned" safely outdoors. Similarly, a bird that is photographed seemingly "sleeping" with his parront (a dangerous act) could probably have in all likelihood simply been "posing" with her parront for a very cute selfie. No immediate danger at all. Another benefit of asking before reacting is that in doing so we open the poster up to the possibility of maintaining a conversation and conducting a discourse so that in the event that something dangerous was being posted, the prospect of having a civil conversation and exchange of knowledge can be held receptively and positively.

4. DO: Respect differences

By TomFawls [CC BY-SA 3.0]
Despite the fact that we have all united under the same cyberspace because of a common love for birds, each and every parront will undoubtedly have his or her own way of doing things that we will not always agree with, or be able to see eye-to-eye with 100%. Free flying parrots is a good example. While generally considered highly risky activity in many parrot communities, free flying is a common practice among parronts in some parts of the world, most notably: South America, Thailand, Singapore, and many other parts of Asia where an entire culture is built around the practice of free flying companion birds. When interacting with vast communities online, it is important to be able to understand and accept that differences exist and that this will always be so. Forcing someone to do things exactly the way you do it doesn't work very well in real life, let alone in cyberspace.  In such instances the best course of action is to first refer again to the group's rules and guidelines and question: are such actions acceptable according to the guidelines of the group? If no, you can always point that out to the poster informing him/her that they are in breach of the group's posting guidelines. Better yet, you could also use the "report to admin" feature that is available in most groups so that an admin can then be made aware of such postings and contact the poster to inform them that their post is not allowed, and why. However, in the event that such a picture (free flying, to return to that example) is not against the group rules, it is sometimes better to bite one's proverbial tongue (or if you feel the need to, leave a simple but polite cautionary note) and carry on.

In such cases the admin of the group may have deliberated on this already, or may even come from one of the countries where such things are customary and commonplace. Either way, regardless of personal opinion, making assumptions, attacking the poster, or in general being a negative nelly could get you reprimanded by one on the admin team, expelled, or even banned for rude or disruptive behavior. Now I know that we all like to believe that we only have the birds' best interests at heart, and I am guilty of being to outspoken on groups myself from time to time, but there is very little we can actually do in way of changing someone who is already set in their ways, or (if your are not an admin or on the team) changing the way the group is run. Remember, if you do not agree with what is or is not accepted by this community, you can always remove yourself and be a member of another. Who knows, you could even be motivated enough to make your own! 

By lilivanili [CC BY 2.0]

5. DO: Enjoy 
At the end of the day the best thing about joining these virtual communities is so that we can mingle and interact with people like us from around the globe. Sometimes, a group is best simply because of its colorful mix of human and avian characters and its heart warming, funny-bone tickling, sometimes tear-jerking stories. Be sure to enjoy the groups you are in, otherwise what would be the point of joining those groups at all? 

By Percita Dittmar  [CC BY-SA 2.0]
If you have not joined any groups yet, or even if you have and are perhaps looking for a few more, I highly recommend the following, which are my favorite among all the groups I have joined.

Birds Safety Zone 
Conure Owners Unite
Parrot Buddies and Mates
Lorikeets Madness
Birdies and Friends Sg

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