Post date: 
Friday, 11 January 2019

Richard Shuker, Community Facilitator for the South West, on how RNIB’s Facebook groups provide a space for you to connect, share and air your concerns with the community.

Founded in 2004, there is no escaping the major success of Facebook. As its co-founder Mark Zuckerberg reinforced in a tweet when commenting on the goals for 2018.

He said the aim of Facebook was to help people stay connected and bring us closer to the people who matter to us.

“When we use social media to connect with people we careabout, it can be good for our well-being and less lonely,” he added.

These words ring true for RNIB’s 13 Facebook groups across the UK.

One of the main aspects of dealing with sight loss is the isolation it can bring. Having this platform allows people to connect with their peers, colleagues or people in the sector they want to contact.

It’s really another opportunity and another way of engaging with friends, family and professionals in the sector – in a nutshell, it gives them a platform to communicate.

Moral support

We have people who live in small communities, who don’t have opportunities to engage with each other, so this gives them a chance to ask those questions and seek that support. For example, a lot of people are going through the Personal Independence Payment process and people will wish them good luck, help talk them through the process or just let people know that they are thinking of them.

I think the moral support the group can give to people is fantastic, we (RNIB) don’t need to post, we don’t need to encourage conversation, we just see the conversation growing organically by itself.

The South West group

Our group was set up by my colleague Sophie Fox, and between us we’ve managed to grow into a very healthy community. It’s not just our hard work; I think it’s the hard work of the members because we rely so heavily on the members promoting the service. They do so much to encourage their peers and colleagues to come on board and join in. It’s totally organic and run by the members of the group, and free from RNIB.

New friendships

The friendships that the group form are important too. We have people who will post they live on the borders of Dartmoor and ask if there is anyone else who lives

in the area. And all of sudden you’ll get people who say they live in the same village and they plan to meet up.

A safe forum for discussion

We have fantastic volunteer who help moderate the group and the important thing to remember is it’s a closed group. People can only be invited to join by one of the admins, myself or Sophie or the moderators. Just come and try it. If you don’t like it, leave, but we would prefer you to stay and join in with conversations.

Laura Brennan on how the group just gets ‘where you are coming from’:

I’d lost a lot of confidence in myself and got quite nervous about going out, but then I discovered the RNIB Connect Facebook site for the South West. I have made lots of friends, we all meet up once a month and go for a coffee or bowling. We talk about lots of different things, it isn’t just serious things about losing our sight, we obviously do talk about that, but we have a lot of fun as well.

If you’re having a particularly bad day, you can just go on to Facebook and rattle on. There will always be somebody there willing to listen, give advice or just say that they know how you’re feeling. They get where you’re coming from and that means so much. And also it makes you feel that youare normal, whatever that is, it’s brilliant.

Find a Facebook group near you by visiting our Facebook groups page (please note you will need a Facebook account to join).

This article originally appeared in the Winter 2019 edition of Connect Magazine.