Editor Column: Community Facebook pages are a valuable resource; thanks to the admins
I’ve made it well known that I am a child of the digital age.
That means most days start and end with checking my email and social media accounts.
It’s easy to waste hours scrolling through my Twitter and Facebook feeds.
This was the case when I pulled out my phone about two weeks ago and saw that the Roaring Fork Swap page was going to be shut down due to “legal threats” levied against the administrators, according to a post. For those unaware, the page is one of many in the area where people can sell and swap items, and start discussions.
I was shocked and far from alone in my reaction. The comments populated at a pace that made it difficult to keep up reading them. People did not want to see the page shut down, and although I refrained from commenting, I was among the many people hopeful the page would not disappear.
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I used a similar swap page to sell what little furniture I had when leaving Salida, and I used the Roaring Fork page to buy furniture when I first moved to Rifle. It’s easier to buy gently used furniture, rather than paying to transport it all.
Aside from buying and selling, people have used these pages to find lost pets, raise awareness for individuals in need, and other generous and noble causes. These public pages were how the story of Rifle resident Al Scholz, who was looking for a wheelchair for his wife, spread like wildfire — even though Scholz does not use Facebook and admitted he is not a technological guy.
To be certain, plenty of garbage can sneak onto some of these pages. At times, conversations can become petulant and vitriolic, as my colleague Will Grandbois noted in his column last week.
One particular swap page — not the Roaring Fork page — had an issue of pornographic links showing up in the feed. In most of those cases they were posted by bots, or web robots, and they were quickly removed by one of the page administrators. I must admit, though, as a person who is increasingly unsurprised by most things, I was shocked the first several times I saw those images on Facebook.
While some could see these examples as reasons to avoid such pages, the reality is being an administrator can be the equivalent of a digital babysitter for thousands of people, and the job does not pay.
Even on more civil group pages, such as the popular Rifle COnnected page, being an admin is a time consuming task, said Alisa McCathern, founder of the page and one of two admins who oversees it.
The fact that the page is largely free of the posts and dialogue that plague other pages — McCathern estimates the admins removed two or three posts before clarifying the rules of the page — is due to “groundwork.”
The admins screen every person requesting to join the group to ensure that they are a person and that they either live in the area or have a genuine interest in local information, such as a person who has a family member living in the area.
The admins are also proactive in addressing posts that could be potential issues. For example, at the onset of the most recent municipal election in Rifle, McCathern posted a note to the page clarifying that the COnnected page was not a forum for attacking or degrading people, a message that also is clear in the page’s description.
“Rifle COnnected is not the place for marketing spam of any type. It is also not the group page for posts that are divisive in any way, shape, or form (ie: no posts of a political, religious, or sexual orientation nature, and no personal attacks).”
Members of the COnnected group have adhered to that request and the page maintains its original purpose, although it has unexpectedly grown since it was formed, McCathern said.
Although some might complain that the rules restrict free speech, the fact is anyone can start a Facebook group, McCathern said, adding that she fully supports free speech but posts that could be considered slanderous or libel are not tolerated.
Personally, I love the COnnected page and check it several times a week too see what people are talking about. In some instances, posts on the page have helped me generate story ideas and in others I’ve posted myself to help find sources with a vested interest in a particular issue.
I, like many others, value the COnnected page and other Facebook groups. They truly are important community resources that benefit many of us. I just wish more of us were grateful for the work that, in most cases, one or two administrators do in managing these pages. Many of those people do this job, which again is unpaid, in addition to working a real job and caring for family. Like many jobs, being an admin is one that I would not want to do and one that would leave me lost if nobody did it. So thanks, admins, for all you do.
Ryan Hoffman is likely wasting time on social media. You can force him to get off Facebook by calling 970-685-2103 or emailing him at email@example.com.
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