At Monday evening’s Board of Selectmen meeting, first selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice took an unusual step, criticizing a well-known Wilton-centric Facebook group during her first selectwoman’s report. She referred to the Wilton CT 412 group as something that was “demoralizing” to many members of the Wilton community, and she recommended that, “…the best thing everyone can do is to leave that group.”
Wilton 412 is one of several Facebook pages and groups devoted to information and discussion around Wilton and related topics. The group was started around three years ago by a resident who was unhappy with the rules set by admins of the original Wilton CT 411 informational Facebook page. Those 411 rules limited posts and comments to positive conversation only, and they prohibited posts about politics and controversial issues.
The description of Wilton CT 412 reads:
This group is open to all discussion and debate in the town of Wilton CT, a gateway for town dialogue. This is a place where people with an interest in Wilton can air opinions and thoughts…good or bad. All residents of Wilton CT are welcome, additionally Wilton business owners are welcome. Posts from RESIDENTS/business owners will NEVER be deleted or censored. Two exceptions: racism and pornographic material will be deleted. The privacy settings are “closed,” however, the posting is OPEN. In short, all news is welcomed, and admin oversight is minimized.
In the last several weeks, conversations have reportedly taken on a more antagonistic and confrontational tone. Several conversations around the National Student Walkout and other political topics often include insults, name-calling, and comments that are accusatory and argumentative.
The page was even mentioned two weeks ago by researcher Dr. Suniya Luthar, who studied Wilton High School students. She found that many students were well aware of the lack of civility that adults in the community engaged in on social media, and Luthar recommended that parents and adults need to be better role models. She stressed that, “The kids are watching and listening to how adults are behaving on social media–and the grown ups need to be better role models.”
She made a point to identify Wilton 412 as a negative: “This is about the fifth time that I’ve heard about 412. I have no idea what it is, but I know that it is not good.”
In Vanderslice’s remarks at the Monday night meeting, she mentioned how she has heard from many residents about their similar concerns specifically about Wilton 412. She reported that when she attended the Wilton Library’s Annual Gala Fundraiser on Saturday night, the page was “a major topic of conversation.”
“A number of people spoke with me about Wilton 412, and how upset they were about the divisiveness of some of the exchanges that occur on that [page]. That seemed to be a major topic of conversation. My advice was, and continues to be–leave the site. I did,” she told her fellow Board members.
The rest of her comments were just as strong, saying that many people find the arguments on Wilton 412 “demoralizing,” and she suggested that leaving the Wilton 412 group would send a message.
“The arguments that happen on that page tend to occur within a small group of people, some of whom are not Wilton residents. I firmly believe what occurs on that site is not reflective of the community, the community that I have known for 30 years. I find most of Wilton to be tolerant, to be concerned about their neighbors and to be extremely generous towards their neighbors. I know a lot of people find the arguments demoralizing, and I really do believe the best thing everyone can do is to leave that group. We should not be giving them an audience for their arguments. We saw that happen on another site. It lost more than 75% of its membership. I left that site, and I asked other board members to leave that group, when they were making very disparaging comments about town employees and board members. A lot of board members left at that time, and so did a lot of the public. I think if the same thing happens, it’s important to send the message that the rest of us in the community are done with it, we’ve had enough and we’re leaving. I would just encourage anybody that is being upset by it, just leave. There’s really helpful information on 411; there’s not much you’re going to get on 412 that you can’t get on 411, other than these arguments. Just wanted to say that publicly.”
GOOD Morning Wilton has sent a message to the administrator of the Wilton 412 page asking for a comment, and will update this story if he agrees to provide a quote.
Lynne is 100% spot on. Dr. Luthar’s remarks were a wake up call for me and I realized my complicity in being part of a discussion that was not productive. I stopped following the group a while ago but every now and then would be be pulled to it because of a topic going “viral”. It’s a shame that we have acted so immaturely as adults while our children have been quietly absorbing our actions online. I was embarrassed by her comments and have since completely deactivated my Facebook account. I will be seeking social interaction that is meaningful, touching, and productive in more traditional manners.
Thank you for all you do!
With all due respect, I am a 70-year-old grandma who has been on Wilton 412 for a couple of weeks now, and I must say that I have seen very little evidence of disturbing posts, and certainly nothing that would warrant leaving the group. Thus far I have seen very few if any exchanges of political or social opinions. Nearly all I have seen so far comprises requests for storm information and cleanup advice, requests for recommendations of contractors, merchants, restaurants, travel services, pet sitters and the like, and promotion of local events and girl scout cookie sales.
As far as I can tell, the moderators of the site seem to be doing an excellent job of screening out material that would provoke vitriol in what seems to be primarily a respectful online community.
I may well have missed some earlier nasty exchanges, but I am not seeing anything like that now.
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