During the pandemic, social media can be an information lifeline for rural communities

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So hard to quit facebook is that it's actually really essential for information support and connection. That's especially true in small rural communities where local news is mostly happening on facebook and people are turning to the platform is a resource for information about covid nineteen. But K. UNC's Adam raise reports from Colorado that in groups that were meant to keep people updated divisiveness is creeping in. Like many school districts across the country in Morgan. County, Colorado has been working on a plan for the fall. So some parents in the rural county have been turning to a more than five thousand, nine hundred member facebook group to get and share information. This is exactly what Christie spots Cobley had in mind when she created the group in two, thousand, twelve, I kept thinking we need a place where the community can go and find information many posts from people, asking questions or sharing information about covid nineteen restrictions, local politics, community resources, the local paper that covers the counties biggest city used to have four reporters. But now it shows just one full time reporter with another paper out here in. Rural America sometimes, we don't get information as fast as doing urban counterparts asked Nathan Trout he works on a farm near the town of Gan's and primarily uses facebook groups to buy or sell farm equipment, but he sees a broader value in them. So I think it's really or that we need to open up all meetings or communications that we we as AS Roma citizens know what's going on in our rural communities. These groups can provide a platform that wasn't available before Roberto Gherardo has helped rural areas take advantage of social media as director of the Purdue University Center for Regional Development. If you use it properly, you can convey value win formation. You can really truly have discussion and discourse. That helps he says there are also downsides and Morgan County facebook group administrator Cobley is seeing those now with covid nineteen I think there's so much longer before the pandemic she says, facebook group remained fairly civil now small number of posts provoked dozens of argumentative vulgar comments some with misleading or false information cobley was a hand off moderator before the pandemic but now I think I, it was time I. I need to get control back over of the group in March she posted some ground rules. That's vital part of moderating community based social media says Jeremy Lipshultz he's a professor at the University of Nebraska Omaha. Who Researches Social Media I think if you're honest and transparent and you keep your audience in mind in your fair with everybody fares as you can be, you're not going to make everybody happy. But I think it will work fairly well over time the moderating rules for the Morgan County facebook groups seemed to help but we still has weeks or she doesn't even want to look at the group and yet I think it will always be around one way or another. It's not something I will ever shut now still in mid-july. Cobley to crack crackdown on threads about mask-wearing requirements that devolved into arguments laced with profanities. That's K. UNC's Adam race from Colorado. And now, for some related links, it's hard to get numbers on how many people are joining new facebook groups during this pandemic. But lots of stories from all over the country and the world point two people gathering figure out how to deal with school reopening teachers getting together to share tips for remote learning small businesses, creating support networks for each other and sadly stories of groups devolving into such toxic discourse that their moderators closed them down. I will say I opened facebook for the first time in over a year to try to around and get a sense of how many community groups there might be, how many people are in them little light research and I did almost immediately find a page in my area had some updated information about my county and some restrictions on hair salons had recently been eased, and now I have hope I might be able to get a haircut soon. So that was actually kind of helpful although I did not read any of the comments. The thing that's frustrating is that although facebook makes it easy to create groups and you can kind of assume sadly that most people are on it. This is literally what the Internet started as a series of forums and chat groups and bulletin boards. It's what people have done online since online began and in some ways, the great lie about facebook is that you can't do this anywhere else. Have the groups, dumped the engagement algorithms and the hyper targeted ads and you know what you've got. The World Wide Web I'm

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