Online and on the ball

Facebook groupsI have to boast that we in the Issaquah Highlands have achieved greatness. No, it’s not because we’re wired to the gills, nor our progressive environmental stewardship, nor even our goats. Our supremacy is evident because we have three healthy and thriving Facebook Groups. Not impressed? You think that since Aunt Margaret is a member of a knitters Group, and Uncle Ralph connects with a radio controlled airplane enthusiasts Group that this social medium is immaterial? Think again! There’s something uncommon and powerful about our ever-growing social media trio.

First, a quick primer about Facebook Groups. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Groups a simple explanation is that they are the social media equivalent of a club, blog and newspaper. It’s an online private branch of your social network, where, by invitation you can be included in the comings and goings of specific topics that are meaningful to you, i.e. knitting and radio controlled airplanes. I’m also capitalizing “Groups” to distinguish its usage for in-person gatherings. The Issaquah Highlands has three such Groups. All three have around 500 members (probably 10% of those active participants), and several have saved my tail in many circumstances.

Remember our mid-January cold snap? In addition to my front porch plants turning into popsicles, our furnace decided to head south for the winter just when the temperatures dipped below 25 degrees — not good timing. I immediately pulled up Facebook and posted an S.O.S. on the “Highlands Moms” Group. “Furnace repairman recommendations? Someone who can come out on the weekend? Brrr?” I waited no more than five minutes for the first response to come in. Within the hour I had four names and phone numbers of candidates who could put the kibosh on the cold. A friend also dropped off a space heater (thanks!) to tide us over until full furnace recovery. Included in the responses were sympathy, empathy and therapy from my fellow neighbors. I got warm on the inside and out by calling out for help.

My neighbors’ generosity and helpfulness is heartwarming. Countless are the number of times folks have posted “Lost Dog” notices, who receive an almost immediate response of “Found Dog”. Gone are the days of posting flyers on mailboxes. Fido is found, and owner is tracked down almost instantly through this neighborly web.

Most postings on the Moms page resemble a newspaper’s classifieds ads with “crib for sale”, or Help Wanted ads requesting babysitter/housekeeper recommendations. A lot of information is revealed in what is NOT said in these referral requests. I consider it a condemnation by omission if folks won’t publicly refer a service provider. Silence can speak volumes.March HC

On the flip side, spilling the beans is very effective in these online forums. Once in a while the topics deviate into Police Blotter territory. Announcements of prowlers, bears, and unremorseful teenage drivers plowing into garbage cans intrigue me on both a personal security level and for voyeuristic vigilante justice. Because the community of the Highlands is so self-contained, there is always someone who knows someone who knew about something. Instead of six degrees of separation, it’s only two here on our hillside.

Treated respectfully, the Highlands Facebook Groups open the door to communicating issues of varying importance. It’s like a futuristic version of neighborly gossip across the fence, spreading word of mouth that is more valuable than thousands of dollars in advertising. I take comfort in knowing that nearly 500 people could potentially have my back in a pinch.



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