Are Facebook Groups the New Drug Interventions?

Are Facebook groups the new intervention? A new group on Facebook has been started by the son of John Mellencamp, the rock and roll legend. The purpose of the group is to rally support for Mellencamp to quit smoking. The deal made between father and son is that if 1,000,000 people join the group, Mellencamp will toss the cancer sticks for good.

So far the group has about 17,000 fans, putting Mellencamp’s son Speck kind of far from his goal. Nevertheless the group is still growing, and fans are already leaving wall posts with encouraging words and advice on how to quit smoking. As with many other Facebook groups, this one has potential to continue to grow, and the buzz to make that happen.

There is also the possibility of this being a publicity stunt. Mellencamp released an album earlier this summer, and has been touring for a good portion of the year. The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer is seemingly a long-time smoker, having graced the cover of several of an early with cigarette en-mouth.

But is a public intervention on a major social network necessary? Will it even work? In Mellencamp’s case, it’s good to know that it’s at least a mutual deal between himself and his son. A loving gesture, perhaps, of one’s kin encouraging his father to take on a healthier lifestyle. The public declaration of Mellencamp to quit smoking should his son’s group gain a million users also holds Mellencamp accountable.

As a Facebook group created by the child of a rock star, however, it seems as though the ability to reach such a lofty goal and gain the support of so many is only possible on rock star level. What kind of message does this send to children of regular mortals, and could such an indirect pressure strategy work for them as well?

Facebook is a network that builds out one’s graph based on the people they already know. If someone is willing to put their goals out there for the world to see, then their friends and family members will likely respect that decision and give their support. Therefore, a Facebook group intervention may actually be a good way in which to encourage certain behavior and milestones for individuals.

Doing so in a non-mutual manner, however, can lead to serious issues. Feelings can be hurt and people can get themselves into a lot of trouble. Many groups that are initiated in support of one cause or another, as they pertain to other individuals, are typically frowned upon if they are done in poor taste. A complaint group started for a high school teacher resulted in the group administrator being kicked out of college.

Regardless of the intention behind a Facebook group page, one thing remains clear; Facebook is still a powerful network that influences our behavior. There was a time when towns were small enough to better control an individual’s behavior because of the level of accountability a smaller community holds for its members. Perhaps Facebook’s series of social graphs created by individual users has the same effect in a virtual sense, with very tangible ramifications.