‘The Northend’ Group Social Media

Social Media Standards & Practices

Introduction & Summary

‘The Northend’ Facebook group was founded in 2010 to serve the interests of family, friends and neighbors. The stated purpose and standards for the group have largely remained the same since its founding:

Boise’s historic neighborhood online and more!

Get together and contribute about North End culture, arts, politics, education, nonprofits and neighborhood news. Let’s try to keep it commercial free and practice civility as much as possible … thanks!

Also, this group is completely open, so please feel free to report posts, flag comments, etc.

The group and the tagline are related to the work done with our Northend.org website since 1999.  It is and was intended to be a place where information and issues could be raised about our neighborhood’s politics, culture, lifestyle and nonprofit community. To that end, it has an established record of supporting the community, nonprofits and helping to make issues known to our neighbors and the broader Boise community.

The pinned post at the top of the page contains some of the standards for conduct. While every instance or type of problem can’t be specifically addressed, the statement is pretty clear as to what is allowed and not allowed.

For those of you selling pretty much anything PLEASE use NextDoor or other Facebook groups and pages. To join NextDoor click the link below. Thank you.

ALSO, to be clear, this group’s purpose is: to discuss North End culture, arts, politics, education, nonprofits and neighborhood news. For more visit: http://www.northend.org (Boise’s Historic Neighborhood Online since 1999)

UPDATED as of 10/19/17 – If you post ‘sales info’, your post will be deleted and you will be removed from the group. If you persist in posting sales info a second time you will be blocked.

NEW as of 10/19/17 – Posts that are absent obvious relevance, are intended to incite hostility through unsubstantiated statements and lack civility will be deleted after the poster is questioned by an admin about the post and their intent.

NEW as of 10/19/17 – Threats, verbal abuse and repeated trolling by an individual user (who has been previously warned) are grounds for immediate removal from the group.

To check in with our City of Boise certified neighborhood association, check out North End Neighborhood Association.

The Northend group is intended to reflect the values of the North End. While some see the more contentious posts as being an indication of our dysfunction, they are poorly judging the neighborhood by a few posts and comments from people who aren’t in touch with the larger community or, in many cases, don’t actually have experience as a Northender.

Statistics and Analysis

The Northend Facebook group has grown to over 7,000 members since I created it in 2010. There was a rapid increase in membership during 2016, the last election cycle. The group’s membership doubled as a result of people joining from other parts of the city, state and afar. We passed 4,000 members on April 17, 2017. In just 5 months close to 3,000 people joined. Between July 15, 2017, and October 15, 2017, alone 1,600 people joined the group.

Over that time 87 membership requests have been declined, 2 members were blocked. Only 36 people have been blocked to date in total. 75% of the people that were blocked used lewd language, were trolling members of the group, etc. The remainder were blocked for violating the “fairly strict no selling” standard that has been in place since the group was founded.

Those who have been in the group for a while remember when the tone was consistently civil. That has changed recently, and in the opinion of admin and long-standing members, it needs to be addressed. The goal is simple: to return to that level of civility. We believe this civility is a core North End value, and we’re confident that you all will embrace it here as well.

Trolling and Other Social Media Behaviors

Trolls & Trolling

By my estimate, which is consistent with analysis by Facebook and industry, as many as 30% of the people using social media are “trolls.” And there are many types of trolls. I believe many don’t even know they’re trolls but exhibit behaviors like the infamous “Grammar Nazi Troll” or “The Hater” described in the great 2013 article in BuzzFeed “13 Types of Troll You’ll Meet on the Internet.”

Gaslighting

And there are some who are practicing “gaslighting.” In a 2017 article, “11 Signs of Gaslighting in a Relationship,” Dr. Sarkis leads off with this definition:

“Gaslighting is a tactic in which a person or entity, in order to gain more power, makes a victim question their reality.” 

Some would say gaslighting only applies to people in relationships. What may not be clear to many on social media is the existence of social agreements that are created when you post or comment, especially in an open forum.  In “Flickering the Gaslight: Tactics of Organized Online Harassment,” author Gersande La Fleche notes:

“When the words we use to verbalize hurt, pain, and resistance are co-opted and twisted, it becomes harder to identify peers, allies, and kindred spirits.” 

It’s clear to me some actively try to diminish a person’s sense of worth by replying or commenting in a way that targets them while they’re online. And it is clear from my reading many people are affected negatively by online gaslighting via social media.

Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias is one of the more interesting forms of online behavior. And it has been around for centuries in one form or another.

“The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion … draws all things else to support and agree with it. And though there be a greater number and weight of instances to be found on the other side, yet these it either neglects or despises, or else by some distinction sets aside or rejects.” ~ Francis Bacon (16th century)

Confirmation bias is more than likely a characteristic of almost every Northender …. mostly in a good way. We all love our neighborhood, believe it is unique and, for the most part, feel that all of our neighbors feel the same way. This is sometimes called “myside bias.”

In The Enigma of Reason, Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber defend the idea that myside bias is not always a bad thing. In fact, they think myside bias is one of Reason’s essential features. And they argue that human reasoning works just fine when used in its natural context. And there that word is again … context!

Trolling & Negative Behavior End Note

“Political debates on social media are not generally cooperative in-group dialogues. They are competitive debates between people in our in-group, and people in our out-group.”

And, because we can’t even see our opponents face-to-face while we argue, the biggest in-group, the group we share with all living, breathing human beings, isn’t even particularly salient. This isn’t a cooperative venture between people who care about each other. It’s tribal warfare.

So what to do? Some of the work I did right after the 2016 election revolved around reconciliation and solutions to the divide. It clearly requires empathy. And there are tools to understand how to move from debate to discussion. Check out “5 Communications Skills That Open People’s Minds” by Dr. Jim Stone … a favorite on the topics of psychology and social media.

“Divisive” Poll Results & Comments

On October 14, 2017, I created a simple Yes or No poll with the question “Should posts intended ONLY to be divisive be deleted?” and later added a clarification:

“This poll is intended to provide guidance when considering if a post is being made to create “hostility between people” in the group if the post should be deleted. While it may not be evident, we will often inquire of the posting party as to their intent.”

The poll resulted in Yes votes of 194 to No votes of 54 up to the time the poll was closed on Monday, October 16th. The comments got very interesting and heated at times. I personally read all of the comments, responded to valid questions and largely ignored comments that were less than constructive. I freely admit it was exhausting. Here are some of the gems and examples of the types of conduct we are seeing in the group which I will address here.

“The answer to unpopular speech is free speech not censorship.”

The idea is great but made up from a misunderstanding of what’s actually in the 1st Amendment and what it protects.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

To be really clear, Facebook and The Northend group are clearly not the government, and I don’t work for the government. So, of course, this argument is spurious and went in the circular file pretty quickly. The author of the statement above went on to basically troll another member ending with this comment:

In response to a commenter about too much a response said:

“Ha ha, don’t blame other people for your behavior, your beliefs and the things you assert are your own choices.” 

Taken out of context? You bet, but the point is simple. Personalizing replies or comments, even in a faux intellectual tone, making stark judgments about people, going off topic using inference, trivializing another’s ideas or basically “getting into someone’s face”  may be a symptom of some of the abusive online behavior discussed above.

Another questioned who is qualified to make decisions on behalf of the group. Is he or she “objective,” have “an agenda” (been hearing that one ever since Jr. High), “feeding their ego,” etc.  Most members seem to agree many in the group are uniquely qualified in the context of what we agree is best for the North End, and how conversation can be conducted to be most useful.

And the list goes on….

Standards of Conduct & Discussion

As a result of the poll and comments, observations over the past 7+ years and my understanding of the culture of the North End, we’re going to implement the following:

  • Posts that are absent obvious relevance, are intended to incite hostility through unsubstantiated statements and lack civility will be deleted after the poster is questioned by an admin about the post and their intent.
  • Additional moderators will be sought out to assist in monitoring the group for incendiary comments, harassment and so on.
  • Posts that are absent obvious relevance, are intended to incite hostility through unsubstantiated statements and lack civility will be deleted after the poster is questioned by an admin about the post and their intent.
  • To continue our policy of “self-policing,” members will be asked and reminded to flag comments and posts for review by the admin.
  • The other stated policies shown above will continue unchanged.

Additional standards may be implemented as needed, and complaints about posts and comments will be handled on a case-by-case basis. It is my desire to continue to have the group contribute in a positive way to the neighborhood and the community at large.

Thanks, Dave (Updated October 19, 2017)

 

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