Want to be kept updated on the local fire? There’s a Facebook page for that.
Need to know what your friends think about a particular issue? There’s a Facebook page for that.
Feel you have to sound off on what some school board, city council or water board member said? The same Facebook page is available.
While there are numerous community pages residents can join to be informed about what’s happening around Santa Clarita (and what people are saying about it), only one has more than 20,000 members: Santa Clarita Community.
“When something comes up, and people want to discuss it, there’s a forum for it,” said Mike Devlin, one of the group administrators.
Here is where people share video and photos, ask for recommendations, create polls, link articles and sound off when somebody angers them with their comments.
It’s where reporters troll for story ideas, people connect with strangers, and candidates announce their fundraisers.
“The goal is to be there,” Devlin said.
And they have been since May 2013. There was an earlier group, SCV Letters to the Editor, in which the administrator kicked off several people, including Lee Rogers, who suggested a new group, Santa Clarita Community.
“We wanted a better version of what we got kicked off of,” Devlin said.
At the time, Facebook group pages were relatively new, and Devlin said nobody realized how big it would become. An early clue was the number of comments they got when the Saugus Union School District censured then-board-member Stephen Winkler for posting online comments people found inappropriate, then removed him because he violated residency requirements.
Another hot-button issue was Measure S, the digital billboard issue. So was the 2014 city council race and the House race between Steve Knight and Tony Strickland (Devlin said that once upon a time, Knight actually posted in the group. “It was a different time,” he said).
Like any group, the administrators have rules. The original ones included no in-search-of or recommendation posts, no spam or fake names, no personal attacks; and topics must be local Monday through Thursday but anything goes on the weekends. Also, members had to have some tie to the area.
Some of those rules still exist, but Devlin said it can be tough to enforce. ISO and recommendations were easily found (a violation of rule 4, although the rule says that if it’s unique, it might be allowed), and members personally insult and shame each other (rules 2 and 5). Devlin said this is the price that’s paid for having so many members. Of the one third of posts not allowed, most violate the ISO or personal-attack rules.
“The destruction of the other person is your main objective if you’re online. That catches us off guard. We’d rather people find a way to get along,” Devlin said. “It comes and goes with the issue. … You have to commit to being in the fray and taking on all comers, or not at all.”
The most important thing, Devlin said, is to have polite discussions. In fact, to him, the conversation is more important than the outcome.
“We have a really good thing going,” he said. “We’re not trying to drive it in a particular way.”