It’s a beautiful day in July and I’m sitting with Robyn Hochglaube, the creator and administrator of the Leaside Community Facebook site. We’ve having coffee/tea at Avoca, the newest neighbourhood coffee/chocolates/ice cream shop at the corner of Rumsey and Millwood. Yes, I read good things about it on the Leaside Community Facebook site and was looking for a reason to try it out!
This is the fourth year Robyn and her family have lived in Leaside. When they first moved here she didn’t know anyone and was looking for a way to connect with her new community. The only Facebook site she could find was the Leaside Moms, but she was looking for something broader and more inclusive. Having created a Facebook site in her old neighbourhood, she thought it might work here too.
The Leaside Community Facebook site was born. She was genuinely surprised at how quickly it caught on and grew. There are currently over five thousand members. She loves the idea of both the North and South Leaside communities rallying together and supporting each other whether it be buying, selling or discussing local issues – “no borders”. And she likes the fact that both residents and businesses are members and support each other.
For the most part the site has lived up to her vision. As the administrator she does her best to accept only people who live in Leaside, however it can be a challenge as she can’t see where they live when they apply. When asked about her role as administrator Hochglaube replies, “I’m not going to be a police officer,” but she does appreciate feedback from members to help identify those who live outside the community, hawk their wares too aggressively, or cyber-bully or trash talk other members. She adds that she created the site because there was a need for it, but it’s a page for the community, and community members must take some ownership over content too. And yes, she is a user herself, having bought and sold a number of items and researched local resources.
We talk about all of the good things the site has produced. Lost pets reunited with distraught owners, donations for refugee families, awareness of local events, reviews of new eating spots, and support for local businesses including summer camps, daycare, cleaning services, trades, pest control, lawn mowing, tutoring, babysitting, and much more.
Then we both laugh and give our heads a little shake as we share stories of some of the more “opinionated” threads on topics like dog poop, traffic, driver behaviour and fireworks. “It’s a challenge to keep people out of the trash talking for sure,” she admits. I reply, “I am always a bit incredulous that people will respond to posts with nasty, hurtful comments that over five thousand people will see and know who posted them.”
Robyn’s advice is simple. “Before you post something, ask yourself: Is this nice? And is this helpful? Voice your opinion in an objective, not trashy way and be ready for others who don’t agree with you, but engage respectfully. If you wouldn’t want your grandma to be spoken to that way, don’t post it. Make this a site for positive community action. Each member has the intelligence and vocabulary to participate nicely and respectfully. I look to the entire community to come together and be responsible and accountable to each other.”
Here are her suggestions for members to help build the site as a positive space for our neighbourhood:
• Delete your buy/sell posts when they’re complete. It’s simple. There’s a little arrow on the right with a dropdown menu; choose ‘delete’.
• Do a keyword search on the page before posting – you might find someone has already asked this question!
• Be considerate and kind to those who are also members of the group. You don’t have to agree with everyone, but you do need to be respectful. There is enough ill will and intentional hurt in our world. Leasiders are better than that.