By Ariel Rogers
Grand Ledge Gazette staff writer
GRAND LEDGE – Controversial comments on the Grand Ledge Community Facebook page have triggered an uproar within the group.
The page’s purpose is to strengthen the communication of Grand Ledge community members through technology, but some have missed the point completely.
Mayor Kalmin Smith created the Facebook group two years ago “as an additional means to communicate information about what the city is doing, and to encourage residents to share ideas and information.”
Smith, the Facebook page’s administrator, has seen problems such as advertising and spamming within the group, but neither of those issues have been as problematic as aggressive and inappropriate users.
“Mindless chatter and misinformation are challenges, but the biggest problem is nasty and rude behavior by a few,” Smith said. “A few months ago, an increasing number of people began using the discussions to exchange personal insults, use vulgar and offensive language and viciously attack individuals and groups.”
Turbulent times and controversy
The Grand Ledge Community Facebook group has 2,360 members and continues to grow.
“The bad behavior causes good-mannered, positive people who treat other people and different ideas with respect to drop out of the group,” Smith said.
Group member Julie Hendrickson Gray did just that. Hendrickson Gray joined the group to keep up on current events happening in the community.
“Things were okay for a while, but then everything took a real bad turn for the worse when winter came,” Hendrickson Gray said.
Large reactions hit the page when a bus driver submitted a post informing group members that school was closed the next day due to snow. No one had yet received an automated phone call from the school district, making some weary of the validity of the post. The parents started posting rude and hateful comments on the bus driver’s comment that eventually lead to her removing the post.
The online drama caused Hendrickson Gray to leave the group, but later rejoined when Smith deleted some of the problem-causing members.
Group member Jordan Stevens has experienced online backlash from other members who commented on a post she was following. Stevens’s friend, Gina Ogden, had lost her dog and posted information on the page regarding her pet.
“This guy told [Gina] that her dog didn’t want to come home because she was a bad owner,” Stevens said.
After rebuking these false claims, Stevens received irrelevant backlash and insults from the commenter. He used derogatory language toward Stevens and her son, which had nothing to do with the original post.
“In the end, I just stopped responding to the guy, and he disappeared,” Stevens said. “I tried hard not to be hurt, because this guy is just a troll looking to stir up trouble and get attention, but it was irritating.”
Despite the frequent negativity, positive things have resulted from the use of the Grand Ledge Community Facebook page. Ogden’s post
about the search for her lost dog received numerous replies from Grand Ledge residents.
“The support was overwhelming,” Ogden said. “Everyone was willing to come out and help look for him when we had spottings, and sent positive energy and good vibes my way. Strangers even donated to his cause.”
Ogden’s dog was returned home by the support of the tight-knit, and sometimes argumentative, community Facebook page.
“The kind words from these people really helped me and my family through that awful time,” Ogden said. “It was amazing.”