Danedri Thompson

Columnist

I grew up in Gardner. With brief stops in other communities to work for newspapers, airlines and attend college, this has been my life-long home. I’m married to another Gardner kid, and we chose to make our lives here.

But, had I not married a person likewise attached to this community, I don’t think I would choose to call this place home – at least not lately – and the problem stems largely from Facebook.

Social media is a wonderful tool, but many in this community have turned it into a weapon that is threatening to bar the doors against kind and decent people moving here.

I am not a member of the local, community Facebook page, because reading it literally ruins my day. Although it started out as an informative page, as its grown it has digressed to a myriad of complaints, advertisements and spiteful comments.

When the people created the page several years ago, I’m certain they never intended to create such a hostile place, but that’s how it evolved.
I had hope for this page; I’d already watched horrified as the local newspaper’s website wastaken over by internet trolls extolling anonymous venom.
I hoped that, with their names attached, civility might rein on a local Facebook page.

And then I watched as the inane and sarcastic comments inched past; and for the longest time, I thought I was the only one amazed at the rude commentary and personal jabs.

But nope. The other day, a high school friend no longer living in town posted on her Facebook page that she used to miss living in Gardner until she started regularly visiting the local page. She wrote that site is full of mean “bullies.” Another friend commented that she’s glad those people aren’t her neighbors.

I agree.

Last weekend, I had a bad bagger at the local grocery. He was not paying attention. He came within inches of putting another person’s groceries in my shopping bag.

I joked with a friend that I should’ve taken a picture and posted it to that Facebook page to serve as a warning for others. The key word there is “joked.”
Unfortunately, others don’t just joke about it privately. That page has showcased the bashing of  a local Sonic carhop’s service, disparaged local restaurant owners for their food, chastised Casey’s employees, displayed pictures of teenagers acting unruly in a local park, disparaged a local daycare provider and publicly denigrated homeowners for not properly edging their lawns. Some of the comments border on libel. While here may be a place for reviewing a local restaurant or telling a misbehaving teenager they are out of line, a public Facebook page isn’t that place, especially when many of the page’s regulars hope to attract new residents and businesses to this community.

It’s so very tacky.

It’s one thing to have a discussion with your own friends, but to have it in a public place where your rude comments are likely to reach and offend the other party or worse, their family and friends, is disgraceful.

It appears that the page’s original creators are attempting to clean it up by limiting negative comments about private individuals. It’s a start, but the damage may have already been done. What a shame.

When posters on the page attempt to go the other way, by, for example, organizing food drives for the food pantry or a benefit for someone in need, it turns into a page of self-aggrandizing. I was always taught that when giving to the needy, do so in a way that the left hand doesn’t know what the right is doing. Hat tip, Matthew 6:3.

I don’t blame Facebook or the page’s creators. Sadly, a lot of the comments reflect the lack of civility in a culture that glorifies snarky humor, rude behavior and narcissism.

I don’t begrudge anyone wanting to know what’s going on in town or asking questions about how things work. But I do begrudge the people who are publicly making this town look like a bunch of bullies on an elementary school playground.

Next week, the Facebook group will gather for its first annual picnic. It’s easy to dash off a sarcastic comment at arm’s length from a keyboard, but more difficult when you realize that Facebook contributor is a fast food worker, business owner, clerk or neighbor.

Social media is an important part of our culture, but so is civility.