Behind The Fiercely Protected Walls Of Facebook Groups In Dubai


The evolution of Facebook groups came from Facebook itself. The social-networking platform wanted to help humans ‘build meaningful connections’, to encourage you to become more social online, so, they famously switched the algorithm and now you’re more like to see Facebook groups posts from your neighbour, asking for building maintenance tips, than say, a news story from Lovin Dubai.

Facebook groups serve a unique purpose. In 2019, 400 MILLION people said they are part of Facebook groups they actually find helpful. Town halls are a thing of the past and you’re now increasingly likely to connect with your neighbour on Facebook than you are to meet them for a coffee.

These groups are helpful, and for many, offer a secure environment to vent, share tips and ask for advice. But how were these online communities created and what about the people who created them? Many who hold their thankless roles as group admin with the highest respect, to serve the community.

I asked some of the city’s most established and well-guarded Facebook groups about the role Groups play in the community, the pitfalls of being an admin and the reason behind some of their fiercely protective privacy policies.

“We have people pretending they live in the building”

Neighbours turn to groups to vent and share situations about the community; you can look for suppliers and service providers, ask questions and sell things, according to an admin of a close-knit Facebook group in Dubai Marina, who would rather stay anonymous.

This particular group has 3 questions to deter non-community residents wishing to join the group. The questions are highly-specific, asking wannabe groupies to share particular info about the building that only residents would know.

We ask questions because even in our small group, you get people who are not living in the buildings trying to get into our group to sell their services. We have people pretending they live in the building and recommending their own services as if it wasn’t their business. We just want to have people living in the buildings – just neighbours. – Anon Facebook Group admin

The crux of these groups is authenticity. You trust a recommendation from your neighbour more than you’ll trust an internet ad, which is why some crafty local business people attempt to infiltrate these groups. Select questions from Facebook admins are there to ensure the groups stay ‘community only’.

Groups might just be your lifeline to connect with people in a similar position to you

Some groups were created out of a need to find a safe space. Mum’s Facebook groups, in particular, are very popular in Dubai. For example, Real Mums of Dubai has over 20k members, it’s a private group that provides an honest place for mums to connect.

The group was created in 2016 for mums to ask questions without judgment, get support and advice from those who could relate and understand according to Megan Al Marzooqi, Owner of Real Mums of Dubai and Real Mums Group.

Dubbed the ‘mum oracle’ the group constantly gets feedback from users with regards to how helpful it is. The group allows members to answer questions, get advice, give recommendations and has an anonymous feature where admin will post a sensitive question on your behalf.

And becoming a member is a tough nut to crack.

The vetting process includes three questions. Your social profile will be reviewed so admins can determine if you have a child/are pregnant in the UAE and if not, your application will be rejected. The group gets 1,000 requests a day, many from men, fake accounts and people abroad looking to push their business online. Hence the super strict policies.

Of the 1,000 applicants each day, about 20 are admitted.

The reason we are so strict without vetting and verifying is that the group started out to be a non-judgmental, safe space for mums in the UAE, we are very committed to ensuring it stays that way, no matter how large it grows. – Megan Al Marzooqi, Owner of Real Mums of Dubai

“The most frustrating part is when people don’t read the group rules. They will then try to promote their own business, sell second-hand items or post about things irrelevant to the group topics. We delete a huge amount of posts on a daily basis.”

Dirham Stretcher has 43k followers, it’s a Dubai-based support group that helps people save money, whether it’s by sharing a deal or a life-hack, or simply helping people buy an item cheaper according to Susan, a group founder. 

A page that encourages business involvement, businesses can advertise once a week to group members and the groups also spotlight individual businesses to give them a helping hand. The page has even helped businesses successfully pivot to new audiences (Harvey & Brockless which was previous catering for hotels and airlines also now has a public service thanks to the DS community) and has created its own additional site to further community involvement. Here, you can drop your email and you’ll get promos from DS. 

Smaller groups offer a helping hand if you’re new in the city

Dubai is a transient city, filled with 200+ nationalities and sometimes, a compatriot offering a friendly digital hand to tell you where the best spot to find (insert local delicacy here) is all you need to make it feel like home.

‘Espanols in Dubai,’ is a Group that’s growing every day is a hub for the Spanish and Latin community in the UAE where you can all share our experiences and find help if needed. The group is not fiercely guarded, and you’ll also find locals in the group who love the language according to Fran, a group admin. ‘Everyone is welcome, not only Spanish speaking people.’

Still, the group remains private because even welcoming groups vet applicants. Groups deal with spam and scams daily, so it’s the task of the admin to keep sales posts to a minimum to preserve the quality of the posts in the groups.

People, read the rules!

If a Facebook group is your town hall, the self-appointed admin is your mayor.

They create the rules, and if you don’t like it, you can leave. Groups are not perfect; you’ll find dissent in the comments and shockingly personal attacks on reputations, but it’s worth it, says the admin, for the community they are creating.

They’re not getting paid to vet your profile or to monitor your comments or to help you out. These are time-consuming tasks and thankless tasks. All they ask of you to read the rules. Stop promoting your own business (unless approved) and provide value to the group.


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