I live in a rural community and overall I love it.    I think that the community members tend to support each other through all sorts of issues; from a loved one being sick and needing help with medical costs, making sure kids have winter clothing, donating wood to those in need of heat, supporting each other during major disasters like we saw this summer with forest fires, and in general we are a solid community working together for the betterment of all.

However, a new trend is starting to emerge in my community which got me looking at other community’s social media pages; specifically Facebook.   It is somewhat astonishing to see what people will post on community pages and how harmful their posts are to the work that I and many others are doing in Rural America and to their own home-town community.

 

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In just my small rural community we have a number of Facebook pages for the community to utilize.  There is an Online Yard Sale site, a Eureka Small Business and Handyman Service Site, an “Air Your Grievances” site,  a Eureka Community Bulletin Board, a Eureka Kudos and Thanks, and a Eureka, Montana fire update and pics site.   Overall, each of these sites are serving an important role in our community.  They serve as a place to share information about activities, events, business services, sales, and so much more.

And, they are also serving as a place for people to be very aggressive in behavior and spew unnecessary negativity.  Hey, it is easy right, you are sitting in the comfort of your home and something irritates you… why not say what you want…what is the harm?

Well, the harm is that social media is a key tool for businesses and site selectors to utilize in determining investment.  It is a tool for potential employers to determine employees’ potential.  And, it is used to determine if a community is for someone to move their family to or relocate to for whatever reason; retirement, change of lifestyle, telecommunicate, or job opportunity.   For whatever reason, they have people are using social media to learn about your community… But your post could be sharing the wrong story and actually harming your community. 

If your community pages are flooded with discontent, false accusations, misleading information, and general arguments what is Facebook portraying about your community?

The other day I followed a chain from a woman, who obviously is upset.  She claimed that people have been stealing from her and though many responded with positive ways to address the situation, she and others were adamant that our community was crime-ridden and the law enforcement does nothing.  And this post is being shared!   YIKES!  and it continues to have more people posting on it so it continues to pop into newsfeeds of anyone following this public community Facebook page… double YIKES!   This is a community where I don’t even lock my car doors while running errands!

So, here I am reading this chain, and, mind you, I work almost daily with our law enforcement entities (which we have 6 different branches of) and they are each dedicated to the protection and service of the community, and I’m heartbroken.

Is this one woman’s perception really the reality? Do people really believe this about our community?  Or is this just an easy way to be disgruntled and is group mentality really at play?  Whatever the reason, it is harmful.

 

I was working with a potential business to move into our area over the last couple of years and they could be a game changer for our ever-present economic distress.   However, one of the comments that continued to be shared with me was “Your community is so negative”.   They were following our community pages.  And,  though they absolutely loved the local restaurants showcasing their specials, the call for recommendations for a service needed, the information on community events, and all the other positive and informational posts, they were focused on these negative long dramatic chains that were just feeding and festering this unnerving attitude.  I mean, we have an “air your grievance” page (which I do not follow!) … why can’t that be the center of this social experience of hatred, why does it have to spill over to the pages set up for the betterment of our community?

I’m appalled!  And, as I started researching to see is this just in my community or in others, I truly think it is an epidemic.  Rural America has so many things facing us and now this?!  How do we combat this horrible trend in social behavior that gives anyone with any type of a gripe a platform regardless of the truth or right?

So, my challenge to you… think before you post.  It is so easy, I know I’ve done it myself.  You are having a day of hell, and there is just that one person that treated you unfairly and you want to gripe about it.  We are all guilty of it… I think it’s human nature.  However, maybe do it off of social media?  Let’s make our community better by focusing on the good like the “Eureka Kudos” page does.  Maybe focus your attention on what is working and take the time to say thank-you! 

Economic-Gardening
image from Sutherland Insitute on Economic Gardening

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And if you really have a situation take it to the right people who can help remedy it.  You have a problem within your local community then be active and make a change for the better.  Proactively talk- don’t attack- but TALK to those in charge.  Call the Sheriff and tell them you were disappointed with how you were treated if that doesn’t work call the County Commissioner.  Everyone tends to have someone that they report to.

And as one wise man once said “Be the Change you want to See in the World”

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Though, I will add, make sure you know the whole story and the facts behind an issue before you jump on board!  You just might not have the whole story when you respond to someone else’s post!