Over the last year or two, I started investigating various Facebook Groups on Irish Mythology to get some kind of sense of what people were looking for – or what they even understood – when it comes to Irish Mythology (or any mythology for that matter). During that process, I plonked a few of my own articles in there to see the kind of reaction that garnered but mostly I just sat and watched the information being presented and the various responses to it.
My overall process was very passive but it soon became clear that Facebook Groups had some serious limitations and that, despite their popularity, they sure as hell aren’t a good mechanism to learn anything meaningful or authentic (particularly on Irish Mythology). I’m currently exiting most of the groups I joined but, below, I’ve outlined some of the issues I’ve noticed. This is a very early summary and there’s a whole bunch of material I haven’t yet analysed but I don’t want to bore the crap out of you on a nerdy topic that probably only interests me.
- The understanding of Irish mythology on Facebook Groups – is very much on the lower end of the scale. In general, most people who have a good understanding of Irish Mythology (i.e. who’ve taken the trouble to do some kind of academic course on the topic or work in that area) generally don’t do the whole Facebook Group thing. Specialist/academic groups linked with universities or professionals in the field tend to communicate on professional platforms. Facebook Groups are really for interested amateurs (meant in the original sense of the word).
- On Facebook, anyone can start a “Mythology Group’ and give themselves an air of authority. In most cases however, these groups tend to be are run by individuals with a passion for the subject (or with an associated business) but no genuine understanding of it. A lot of them have their own discrete agendas (i.e. to gain followers for business, religious, political ends etc.) and tend to regurgitate the same tired old misinformation from discredited sources, over and over again. They also lack the knowledge to ‘vet’ material shared on their group – i.e. they can’t tell when something submitted is genuine or not.
- People join Irish Mythology Facebook Groups for a whole bunch of reasons (and the diversity of those reasons is quite staggering). In general, members are genuinely trying to learn about mythology or find out something about themselves. In some cases, what the latter are looking for may not exist – or at least not in the form they believe it does. This can mean – and I’ve seen examples of this – that they can be easily misdirected or manipulated.
- Facebook Groups on “Irish Mythology” and “Irish Folklore” seem to have an inordinate number of “Comment Crawlers” – individuals who’ve read the free, online mythology stuff (which is usually based on discredited early 1900s material) and are convinced they understand everything. Given their limitations, most don’t actually generate any original content but they do tend to spread further misinformation though their (cough) ‘informed comments’.
- Facebook Groups by Celtic Recreationists should be particularly avoided. These people are usually well intentioned but see no problem with cherry-picking specific elements of Irish culture that support their own prejudices or ways of thinking (while discarding anything that doesn’t suit or isn’t particularly marketable). Because they’re trying to promote an interpretations of Irish culture that doesn’t align with the reality, they tend to misuse the Irish language for branding (sometimes to unintentional hilarious effect) or misrepresent Irish cultural concepts by introducing them in a way that’s completely out of context. The end result tends to be a kind of plastic, pseudo-Irish, culturally shallow spirituality product.
- Many of the ‘Irish Mythology-themed Facebook Groups post or reshare content from other, more authentic or credible sites. Each group differs but my (very rough) impression was that about 30-40% of the shared content was genuine/credible (some are better than others). The rest is self-produced content (where the various agendas are clearer), regurgitated rubbish from W.B. Yeats and other discredited sources or fantasy material with an ‘Oirish’ spin. Because of the members’ lack of knowledge however, most can’t tell the difference.
- As a general rule, in my limited experience, any Facebook Group with the words “Irish” and “Mythology” in the title are best avoided as they’re generally rife with inaccuracies or misinformation. The only Facebook Groups I’ve come across that offer any credible or ‘vetted’ information on Irish Mythology tend to be the more generic ‘Irish Interest’ Groups – where they’re run by Irish people with no interest in ‘Plastic Paddy’ Mythology. The Irish Way Group , for instance, is an excellent example of how such groups should work.