From the President: Won’t You Be My E-Neighbor?

by Kat Bruner James
Adapted from article originally published in Ferndale Friends, February 2010 Edition

It’s amazing how Ferndale groups such as Citizens for a Fair Ferndale (CFF), FernCare, Affirmations and others have furthered their missions, and even raised dollars, through social networking websites. On Facebook alone, you can be friends with local businesses like Go Comedy!, B. Nektar Meadery, the Magic Bag, and Blumz—just to name a few. The Ferndale Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Ferndale (the DDA), and DIY Street Fair also have pages to keep you informed of local events and information. I did a quick tally of Ferndale groups to which I am connected on Facebook and was astounded to find more than thirty! CFF utilized this resource as we geared up for this year’s Good Neighbors = Strong Community Awards (or “Good Neighbor Awards,” for short).

For those who are not already familiar with social or professional networking sites, such as Facebook, MySpace, or LinkedIn, here is a brief primer: There are a number of websites where you can join and create a profile, which may contain any level of personal or professional information about your education, employment, family, interests, hobbies, likes and dislikes, etc. Then, you become linked (or “friends” with) other people who also have profiles on these sites. Most people connect with their real life friends, neighbors, family and classmates. You may also connect with people who you don’t know at all, but with whom you have something in common (e.g., political views, literature, sports). On most of these sites, you can even create your own group. For example, I could set up a private group for a bowling team that would be by invitation only, just for my teammates. Or I could set up a public group for anybody who loves Howe’s Bayou, for example, which would be open for all to join.

CFF already has a website (generously maintained by Ed Burns), and our secretary, Kelly Farrah, sends out periodic emails to a modest list of email addresses with our meeting agendas and minutes. In addition, I’ve occasionally set up Facebook events and invited all the Ferndaliens on my list of “Friends.” I’ve even set up a CFF group on LinkedIn. But, for the most part, I tend to set up information about CFF events only in the few weeks or days leading up to one. We have also set up a permanent CFF group on Facebook (www.facebook.com/fairferndale) to offer up-to-date information.

Of course, there are some detriments to all of these online connections and instant information sharing. In fact, a friend of mine recently wrote to me (on Facebook, actually) that, while the site is useful for getting the word out, it’s equally useful for spreading rumors. I would add that the perceived security of the internet allows people to make comments that they would never say to another person’s face, and it provides yet another platform for those who never followed the rules of decorum and civility in the first place.

Nonetheless, for CFF, I think the benefits outweigh the potential detriment. Our objectives of creating avenues for communication and creating dialog to dissolve barriers can be served by reaching out to more people through internet social networking. We will strive to utilize these tools for productive and positive outcomes. First and foremost, Facebook and other similar websites has helped us distribute Good Neighbor Award nomination information wider than it has ever reached before.

CFF’s Good Neighbor Awards recognize the ongoing efforts of those who live, work or attend school in Ferndale who value the fair and equal treatment of others and are engaged in making this happen on a daily basis. The Good Neighbor Awards program identifies and honors individuals, organizations and businesses in our community who are outstanding examples of “good neighbors,” who are committed to building, preserving, maintaining and improving the quality of life in their neighborhoods and our community. Join us for the announcement of the awards at 7pm on Tuesday, April 20, at Go Comedy!, 261 E. Nine Mile.

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