First rule of the Girls Guide: don’t talk about the Girls Guide.
Well, that is, unless you’re trying to recruit. Or, in this case, report.
The Girls Guide is a Facebook group of more than 18,000 members: all femme-identifying folks with one unifying goal: to speak freely.
Essentially, it’s a never-ending sleepover or group trip to the bathroom where ladies from around the globe can confide in each other. The rules are simple. Members must be added by someone already in the group, members cannot share or screenshot posts shared on the page, no judging, no bullying, and some other logistics that include posting proper trigger and age warnings on specific types of posts.
UNO student and Girls Guide member Emily Caveye says topics discussed within the group range across the board.
“From less serious topics like make-up and ‘post a selfie,’ to more serious things like advice for PTSD and post forums for sexual assault survivors, it is very interesting to read and connect with different girls who share similar stories,” Caveye says.
Scrolling through the group, one usually first stumbles upon silly social media challenges that include zodiac signs or favorite Netflix binge-watching shows. The further one goes down the rabbit hole, the sooner they are to find advice column-style questions about significant others and women’s health issues. In the digital age, this is the new Tiger Beat, the place to share your period stories and M*A*S*H* games without shame.
Another UNO student and Girls Guide member, Ashley Ortmeier, says that goal is omnipresent in the group.
“This group has helped me realize that some of the things that were bothering me that I didn’t feel totally comfortable asking my friends or family about, like about my mental health or body image, are normal things that lots of girls are feeling,” Ortemeier says. “We can talk about these things freely and encourage other girls who are going through things.”
With over 18,000 individuals chiming in at any given time, it might be assumed that the page is an echo chamber of constant and mass-disclosed remarks, but everything I’ve seen tends to be deeply personal—or even individually fun. No one is trying to impress someone by being a Leo or Capricorn, and they are definitely not going for a big reputation boost when they share stories of lost love or bra fitting mishaps.
Caveye agrees and finds the safe space comforting and entertaining.
“There is so much hate in the world and often girls tear each other down, so I think it is awesome that there is this community that girls can build each other up.” Caveye says. “I have gained friendships from different girls across the world. There are even different girls that randomly post positive messages, which is always nice to see when I’m stressed and taking a Facebook break from homework.”
Ortmeier also says that while the community is exclusive and has its rules, it’s also inclusive with its members.
“This group isn’t just for cis-females,” Ortmeier says. “Anyone who identifies as a woman is welcome to join.”
Creator and administrator Alison Pool is based out of Florida and says she spends at least eight hours a day “monitoring The Girls Guide, posting anonymous posts [that are submitted to her] and disputing arguments.”
Pool also says she formed the group because “I know not every girl has a ‘safe place.’ Not everyone has a person they can get advice from, or know that no one is going to share what they said. I didn’t think the group would even get a thousand members, but now we’re close to 20,000.”
That being said, a group of this size does have its issues. Its magnitude alone can intimidate posters, so Pool and her administrative team developed different subcategories and threads that are dedicated to specific channels of conversation.
Some subgroups include The Friend Zone, for male and female conversations, TGG Selfies & Socials for more casual and entertaining discussion, and finally, TFF Mental Health Support for discourse and resources for those suffering with mental illnesses. Threads within the group include Netflix recommendations, piercings and tattoos, and love life.
Even with such diversity in conversation and outlets in which to conduct it, some individuals within the group still do not follow the main rules and threaten the sacrality of the community.
“There are some girls in the group who don’t follow the rules and screenshot things posted and send them to girls’ boyfriends and parents, which is not what the group is for,” Ortmeier says. “The admins of the group are trying to find these girls, but they do advise if you want to post something you don’t want anyone outside of the group to see, post it anonymously.”
As with most social media platforms, the vastness and danger of such vastness can create conflict, but from the naked eye, The Girls Guide is a majority-made group of young women looking for a place to turn– without being considered taboo.
Similarly to a recent Greatway story about a local creative collaborative group, it seems that while Facebook’s traditional social uses are slimming down for people in the college age range, online communities and forums are growing on the platform.
“This group not only lets us talk about these things but also help other girls all over the country who are dealing with things too,” Ortmeier says. “Us girls gotta stick together. It’s super important for everyone to be apart of something that makes them feel like they belong.”