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How Greenbelters Talk Online, 2017 Edition

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Back in November of 2014 I wrote a blog post called “How Greenbelters Talk Online” and boy, is it ever out of date! So here’s the latest on how we Greenbelters are communicating among ourselves online, in 2017.

The Move to Facebook

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Sure, there are still some Yahoo groups (scroll down for an update) but they’re fading fast as people use Facebook groups instead. Here’s a survey of the 53 Facebook groups I found about Greenbelt, Maryland simply by putting “greenbelt” in Facebook’s search box.

Greenbelters is the largest group in town with 3,455 members now, having tripled in size since 2014. It’s lively and informative and surprisingly civilized, with excellent moderation by Julie Winters and James Riordon. And I can recommend a trick used by many of us who prefer not to see political arguments there – simply “blocking” the people who regularly start arguments. Moderators keep the posts on-topic and the spammers out – or remove them as soon as they’ve revealed their spammy intentions.

The next largest group is Old Greenbelt Days, a public (open to anyone) group of 1,529.

Greenbelt Neighbors with 692 members and Greenbelt Community with 401 members are both closed groups that, as I understand it, were started back when the original Greenbelters group was less moderated.

gb111The Unofficial GHI Group of Greenbelt, with 581 members, has a narrow focus and a strict moderator (yours truly) keeping the conversation on one of these topics: GHI homes, GHI yards, and GHI itself. I direct postings of general community interest to the much larger Greenbelters group. Popular topics in this group include the HIP program, mini-splits, room colors and other details, and there are albums of home and garden photos to inspire us all. (More coming next month.)

Gardening in Greenbelt Maryland is a closed group with 112 members and Greenbelt Biota a public group of 198.

That’s just a start. There are Greenbelt Facebook groups for: Homeschoolers, Greenbelt Station Residents, Youth Baseball, Timebank, Pottery Group, Friends of the Animal Shelter, Yarn Circle, Greenbelt’s Great and it Rocks, New Deal Cafe, Greenbelt Runners, Arts Center, Online Yard Sale, Pride, Tennis, Green Man, Middle Eastern Rhythms, Triathalon, Lakeside Drive Greenbelters, Babysitting Club, Food Share, Makerspace, Re-Use Coop, Bates Family, Writers Group, Things I remember Growing up in Greenbelt, Community Garden Club, Doggie Playdates, Tennis, Pagans, Friends who Like the GAC, Single Parents, Greenbelt High 1951, the Coop and Supermarket, Elementary School, Boys and Girls club, Parkway Apartments, and for maximum political posts – Greenbelts Protesting Trump.

Why Facebook Groups are so Popular

Unlike email-based communications, Facebook allows for images, videos, and easily searchable prior discussions, all while clearly identifying each participant. That goes a long way toward keeping things civil.

Leery of Facebook?

If you’re a Facebook hold-out because you don’t want that behemoth knowing everything about you, there’s a solution! Simply create an account with JUST your name, then join the groups you want to participate it. If they’re closed groups, as most Greenbelt groups are, only other group members can see your posts and comments. Search results won’t display them, and people visiting your personal Facebook page will only see your name and the names of groups you’re a member of.

Only if you comment in a public group or on the pages of people you friend will your comments be publicly available.

Yahoo Groups No More?

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Until recently there was a large, active Yahoo group in town called Greenbelters, but it’s been disbanded. For people who prefer email there’s still some activity on the Greenbelt Community Yahoo group among its 339 members. That may not last, though – the groups are rumored to be on the way out. Since Yahoo was bought by Verizon, people are looking for alternatives.

What else?

If you know of other examples of successful or not-so-successful online communications in Greenbelt, tell us about it in a comment.

Follow Susan Harris:

Susan has been blogging about Greenbelt since she moved here in 2012. Retired from garden writing and teaching, she continues to blog at GardenRant.com and direct Good Gardening Videos.org, a nonprofit, ad-free educational campaign.

3 Responses

  1. Katy Collin
    | Reply

    There is also Indivisible Greenbelt and Concerned Women of Greenbelt – political and social justice action groups.

  2. Nicole Williams
    | Reply

    There is also a Greenbelt group on Next Door which is another social media platform where folks can communicate with one another.

  3. Bernard Kelly
    | Reply

    Thanks for the dizzying rundown on the many, many FB groups now centered on Greenbelt. I think their popularity has risen because so many people are on Facebook for purely social purposes anyway, and it’s easier to sign up for/leave a FB group than an e-mail-based Yahoo group.

    However, I think FB is still not great for extended discussions in large groups. For example:

    * Comments replying to comments are sometimes nested, sometimes not, according to the preferences of the commenter, making it hard to follow the thread(s) of discussion.
    * Comments can be edited and re-edited mercilessly to allow people to revise their own positions or make others look foolish.
    * And even the “feature” of blocking those who bother you leads to conversations being fractured.

    Moreover, FB participants are *not* clearly identified. It’s still very easy to create additional accounts with other names, just for fun or to sow discord.

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