By Rachael Daniel
Living in the Ledge Staff Reporter
When Grand Ledge Mayor Kalmin Smith created a community Facebook group, he expected it would be an efficient way for members of the community to discuss Grand Ledge issues and to transport the town’s strong sense of community online.
However, he did not expect the group to become a place for useless information, vulgarity and personal attacks.
According to Smith, the Grand Ledge Community Facebook group has lost its original purpose and is now filled with information that does not pertain to the community. He also dedicates time to deleting disrespectful members and comments that do not encourage a positive community environment.
Smith said he still thinks the bad outweighs the good and is thinking about giving up on the Facebook group all together.
“I have been consulting with a few folks about how to improve the site. Just getting rid of it is one of the alternatives, said Smith. “It once was a helpful resource, but now it is not.”
Smith said has been trying to steer the group back to its original track, but he does not see a solution.
“One of the disappointing things about the use of the page is that the serious community-oriented people who have contributed to the community in the past and continue to do so have dropped out, because serious and important posts are immediately lost in all the junk,” Smith said.
The group was originally an open group that anyone could join freely, but Smith said he had little idea that people who did not live in Grand Ledge would have the desire join the group.
“I am now much more selective and turn down hundreds of people, dozens every day, who do not say where they live or who do say and live in Asia or Africa or other far away places,” said Smith. “It is supposed to be a local site serving local needs.”
Grand Ledge resident and member of Grand Ledge Community on Facebook Jordan Stevens agrees the group is no longer successful in fostering a positive environment.
“To be honest, I do not frequently post on the Grand Ledge Community page anymore, because people generally treat me the way I was treated today, which was I was constantly harassed and teased for being a millennial and called entitled more times than I could count,” said Stevens. “As comes with interacting with people on Facebook, when you don’t agree, you are likely to receive negativity about it.”
One of the ways Smith said he attempts to improve the page is by ridding the group of nasty comments and commenters, but it is not an easy task.
“Monitoring a widely-used site to keep out vulgarity, name-calling, etc. takes a lot of time and that is a huge issue,” said Smith. “There are almost 9,000 members and would easily be double that number if I did not aggressively deny entry and delete.”
Despite her experiences, Stevens does not agree with Smith’s reasons for deleting members and censoring content.
“At one point people were getting removed from the group for reasons that are unexplainable, and alternate, sister pages had to be created, so that members of the community could still be on community pages,” said Stevens.
According to an article by Customer Experience Psychologist, Dr. Liraz Margalit, people generally find it easier speaking their mind behind a computer.
“The extra effort involved in face-to-face interactions can be spared in online interactions that are founded on minimal or constrained social cues. Most of these signals can be summed up in emoticons or punctuation. Hence, it is easier to hide our emotions behind an email, a Facebook post or a tweet,” stated the article.
Though Stevens said there is much about the group that needs to change, she thinks it has its helpful aspects as well.
“Local businesses are active and that’s good advertising for them. I am a huge supporter of local businesses,” said Stevens. “When there are school issues, weather issues, construction issues, you can be sure to find an answer or at least someone else asking the same question on the community page.”
Beagle’s Café and Bakery on 214 S. Bridge St. in Grand Ledge takes advantage of the helpful parts of the online community, said owner Charles Beagle.
“We advertise on the page whenever we have a special or bake something new,” said Beagle. “We usually post every one to two weeks.”