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Mission (effectively) accomplished

On occasion I click and open the emails from my county government.

In today’s email was an announcement about a HoCo Lights neighborhood guide to finding homes and businesses decorated with elaborate and fun holiday lights.

I think this is grand. I really do. And it’s a great project for the county government to take on. They created the tool and website for folks to input an address (along with some notes about what types of decor people will find there), and they created the tool to output the results (a searchable map); and they have reach and resources to make this information and opportunity knowable to many people. Gobs of people.

Seeing this notice also caused me to reflect back to circa 2009/2010 when I was deep in the nascent and rapidly growing world of social media and significantly involved in my local community’s use and adoption of these tools.

I had so much hope for once-promising, geo-focused tools such as Foursquare, for the rise in civic journalism, and for the thoughtful and intelligent use of local and relevant hashtags. A citizen-created map of awesome holiday lights was one of the (many, many) possibilities I’d envisioned.

I’d also envisioned (and made) lists of which restaurants had half-price burger nights, which restaurants were on ‘the nicer side’ and other lists; those links and lists no longer exist.

Back then, I had felt there was so much potential power in civic journalism, social media and local hashtags. Back then, I championed the potential of this union; I worked tirelessly to promote community awareness and the adoption of good practices; and I believed–with these new tools and tags–we could create a community both rich and wise in sharing local information, tips and resources.

When I was the director of communications and engagement at the Columbia Association, for example, I directed my team to make a robust Foursquare list of the association’s 23 outdoor and five indoor pools, replete with photos and specific amenities and vibes at each pool. (They really are, each, quite different.) I’d envisioned community members (maybe even some lifeguards, too) adding comments and tips, such as “Wednesday night at such and such pool is adults only! Come on by” or “The water features and slides at Hopewell pool keep my kids engaged for hours. So grateful.” Or whatever people wanted to say.

But for all the upsides of civic journalism in people being able to intelligently organize resources and content in their communities, the downside is no one can stop stupid. In short order, local hashtag feeds in then-nascent Instagram posts started to spiral out of control, e.g. a #HoCoFood hashtag on a picture of someone’s burger and fries at McDonald’s. I mean, I guess that counts, but it wasn’t at all in the realm and vision of “thoughtful hashtags” that could help a community know itself and its resources better.


Alas, alas, alas.

The day I saw that #HoCoFood burger and fries post was the day I knew I couldn’t win. Well, not “win” in the way I’d envisioned. Not “win” in the way of there being etiquette and protocol and reason behind hashtags and content organization. And that was when I started to pull back in my local social media involvement. The burgers and fries did me in.

But here we are–some dozen or so years later and the local government has picked up the torch, so, I guess … #MissionAccomplished?

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