Social media can unite people, can create a sense of community among people who have something in common, and give everyone a voice. That voice can be used for positive purposes, but it can also be used to create strife, inflame feelings and inflict pain.
Case in point: The Facebook group called Wallingford CT Community Forum, a group with more than 16,000 members which shut down for a few days after a series of incidents led to “several personal and professional attacks” on the group’s moderators. The group has now re-emerged as Positively Wallingford, a name that indicates an intention to change direction.
“We think the new name clearly communicates our desire to keep the group positive ...” administrator Wayne Harriman said in a Facebook post.
When one online group shuts down, even temporarily, other groups tend to spring up, and a new group with the same name, Wallingford CT Community Forum, emerged, if temporarily, along with the New Wallingford CT Community Forum. Other groups for Wallingford residents include Wallingford News and Information and Wallingford Uncensored Community Forum.
As so often seems to be the case with online groups, the moderators will try to keep discussion focused, in line with their original intent, while others will prefer to go off in many directions. They may come to see the moderators as censors and rebel against the rules.
There also seems to be a foible of human nature at work: that when there is no face-to-face contact involved, some people feel free to attack others with nasty comments. When technology puts us at arm’s length from others, some of us feel free to type things we would never say to someone’s face.
Whether adding the word “positively” to this group’s name will be enough to counteract some people’s tendency to get snarky online remains to be seen. But we endorse the idea of providing forums that are meant to build a sense of community.
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