As a true elder millennial, I have not been able to extricate myself from the hellscape that is Facebook. The reason for my delayed exodus is that I am deeply nosy, and nowhere on the internet provides more opportunities for me to snoop on other people’s conversations and conflicts.
The strange assortment of Facebook groups I’ve joined really runs the gamut in terms of content, from memes to haircare techniques, but most of them are centered around recipes. I am terminally fascinated by how other people cook and eat, especially those who are from cultures that are not my own, and I love trying out new-to-me techniques. Without Facebook recipe groups, I would maybe never have learned that you can freeze cabbage leaves instead of tediously boiling them for cabbage rolls, or the logic behind rinsing rice to remove excess starch. But most importantly, I would’ve missed a hell of a lot of drama.
Amid the tips and tricks and weeknight dinner ideas, there is a somewhat shocking amount of fighting going on in the average Facebook recipe group. Most of these groups are moderated heavily, and operate under a set of rules that, if violated, will get you tossed out. Generally, these rules are pretty obvious — you’re not allowed to sell anything to fellow group members, you must keep threads on topic, and give credit where it’s due. But, most also have guidelines that govern how group members should post within the group and interact with each other. “Rude comments will not be tolerated. We won’t ask people to be nice,” read the guidelines for one recipe group for busy moms. “If caught being rude you will be banned without warning. This is not a daycare service, be kind and considerate or be banned.”
Those rules are in place for a good reason — the comments under any recipe post can flip to the dramatic in an instant. The type of infighting that occurs, though, largely depends on the nature of the group. If a group is dedicated to sharing vegan recipes or keto hacks, it’s inevitable that there will be fighting over whether the recipe actually follows the rules of these highly specialized diets. If the group focuses on healthy eating, woe be unto you if you suggest using any kind of processed ingredient, like low-fat cream of mushroom soup or sugar-free Jell-O, which couldn’t possibly suit a particularly crunchy cook’s definition of “healthy.”
Most of these arguments are incredibly petty, but it is also true that many posts in online recipe groups are objectively bad — they’re clueless, or perhaps are accompanied by terrible photos of truly unappetizing food. In the Instant Pot Community, a group run by the company that makes the cult-favorite pressure cooker, somebody asks seemingly once a month or so whether they can cook a cut of beef like prime rib or filet mignon in their Instant Pot; these queries are immediately met with hundreds of horrified commenters shrieking “don’t do it!” Other fights range from debates over whether or not the amount of sodium in Better Than Bouillon is “worth it” to frustration with new members for not searching the group for topics that have already been discussed literally thousands of times,