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Kelli Scott | Facebook comments: The good, bad and ugly

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I have written before about how social media can be a powerful tool for community building and dialogue. Sometimes, not so much. Two examples:

Last month, reporter Dee Riggs put up a Facebook post asking folks who look like a celebrity to submit photos of themselves for a forthcoming feature story. To illustrate what she was looking for, the post included a picture of a perfectly lovely local woman who is often told she resembles actress Sandra Bullock. What followed in the comments was a ruthless critique of the woman’s appearance, and we made the decision to take the post down.

On March 28, we posted an article to Facebook about the previous day’s TEDx event held at Wenatchee Valley College. The day included a lineup of rousing and inspirational speeches given by local luminaries that covered the big issues: education, health care, the local economy and ways to improve the all-around quality of life in North Central Washington. By all accounts, the day was a great success. From the posted article by reporter Rick Steigmeyer: “Thursday’s event brought leaders together to think more creatively about the valley’s shared future.” Here’s a representative sample of the Facebook comments that followed the post:

  • “A good sized water slide would be nice.”
  • “Another bowling alley and a roller skating rink!”
  • “A Red Lobster!”

I will admit that the comments section on Facebook is not exactly conducive to tackling the biggest issues of our time. There will always be online commenters who thoughtlessly attack or bully from behind their computer screens, or those who turn a post about civic engagement into a debate about water slides and Red Lobster.

I will also admit that our goal is a lofty one: to make The World’s Facebook page a place for truly enriching conversation. But it is a goal to which we remain committed, and we move closer to achieving it every day as more and more constructive, thoughtful dialogue begins to sprout up.

Following a posted editorial about the City of Wenatchee’s financial troubles this week, commenters engaged in a civil and practical discussion.

Praise and congratulations follow posts about local folks winning awards, celebrating big anniversaries or doing extraordinary things.

And when we post sad news — car accidents, fires, mudslides — our Facebook friends respond with words of prayer and support.

With the launch of the new Local Solutions page in last Sunday’s paper, we hope to further elevate the online conversation. You can help.

The idea behind Local Solutions is to create a forum for approaching local issues in new and creative ways and to invite the community to pitch in. The first edition was dedicated to caring for the Wenatchee Foothills. If you missed it in the paper, you can find the page on The World’s website now.

We’d like you to join the conversation by posting photos of you and your family enjoying the foothills, or sharing with us your own foothills stories and ideas about how to manage this protected land.

Reader participation is essential if we are to create meaningful conversation and drive real change.

Kelli Scott is digital content coordinator at The Wenatchee World. Email her at kscott@wenatcheeworld.com.