By Tanisha Edwards
Living in the Ledge
How do you stay updated on the latest things happening near you? For some Grand Ledgers, whether it is business or pleasure, they have adapted to the social media era and a city Facebook page was created.
Mayor Kalmin Smith created the page two years ago hoping that the page would “benefit the community by improving communication about the many positive and beneficial activities that affect the quality of life in our town,” said Smith.
Its purpose was to provide an additional tool for communication within the community. “Fewer and fewer people read newspapers and television and radio are really not reliable for coverage of the Grand Ledge community,” said Smith.
Gina Ogden, who was added to the page when she moved to the Grand Ledge area for work, used the page to help find her missing dog. “ I met a lot of great people and forever friends from this page during that tragic event,” she said.
“My dog was missing for nearly four weeks (he was camping out in some woods) and the group never gave up! So many strangers were willing to help me. It was very refreshing,” said Ogden.
Ogden also uses the page to mostly keep up with what is happening in the community.
Is the page useful?
“It used to be more useful,” said Ogden “Now its just people bickering. It’s basically an adult playground and very immature.”
Smith said that he tries as the administrator to keep the page focused on the many patriotic, civic, charitable religious and fraternal organizations and individuals that undergird their community through volunteerism to promote their activities, and discourages drama, uncivil behavior, libel, and negative destructive behaviors.
“Social media has made some changes in our community. Some good and some bad,” said Smith.
The page was “very useful during the December ice storm of 2013 when people shared critical information of assistance to volunteers and emergency services, opened their homes to people without power, and offered many different forms of aid and assistance to their fellow residents. I was very proud of our community during that crisis,” said Smith.
Ogden agrees that social media is important and useful. “ I think it has changed the community for more good than bad,” said Ogden.
“Use of social media to communicate reflects a problem and a challenge. I think it is sad and dangerous to society that most people no longer read the daily newspaper or even the Grand Ledge Independent, which is a weekly paper,” Smith said.
“I am astounded at how little people know about their community as revealed by the questions asked on face book and how quickly rumors and false information spread,” said Smith. “When most people shared the same newspaper or tool for communication, the community as a whole was much better informed.”
So does mean every city should have a Facebook page?
“With the demise of mainstream media or at least its failure to provide local news to the community as a whole, I think it is very important that other tools be found to do the job,” said Smith.
“I have been surprised to learn that some larger cities do not have a page. There are obviously pros and cons of free wheeling social media, which too often serves as an outlet for, disturbed and emotionally fragmented people to project their insecurities, fears, hatred and paranoia on others,” Smith said. “I can understand why responsible persons might be reluctant to create or wade into such a chaotic forum.”
“I think it would be beneficial for cities to have something since most people use Facebook and news seems to spread faster that way,” said Ogden. “’I do think it is unique. I don’t think a page like this would be beneficial for other cities like Lansing or Detroit because they don’t have the same ‘small town feel’ as Grand Ledge.”
Ogden says the page is greatly used to advertise local events, which brings the community together.
What are some ways to improve using the Facebook page to communicate?
“That’s hard to say. I wish there weren’t so many people on the page that are quick to criticize, judge and belittle others. But I think you get that everywhere and it’s something you can’t change. The administrators on the page do a really good job at keeping things civil,” said Ogden.
Smith said, “I am consulting with three experienced professionals about how to use face book more effectively. Following their advice, I plan to soon pin very explicit rules on the use of the Grand Ledge Community Page and vigorously and consistently enforce those rules. Once the rules are posted, I also plan to recruit a few additional administrators to assist with that chore.”