Facebook can be a place to catch up with family and reconnect with old friends. For a few, groups, it is a way to encourage civic engagement.
Keep Eagle WI Rural
Ryan Hajewski created Keep Eagle WI Rural on Facebook, which has more than 400 members. One of the catalysts for creating the group was a meeting on a proposed change to an animal ordinance. Hajewski said he was one of just two people in attendance.
"The conversation at the meeting sounded like 'this is how we think the whole community thinks.' This wasn't the whole community or (even) a large set of people," Hajewski said.
Hajewski decided to turn to social media to spread the word about what was happening. The group's purpose is to provide a place where information can be easily accessible about what's changing in the community and what's happening in local government. Hajewski also wanted to focus on the rural heritage. He explained this is the culture of preservation of open, undeveloped, natural spaces that make Eagle an unique place to live and do business.
"We don't just cover code and regulations; it is much broader and includes cultural news. It is bringing the community together in some shape or form," he explained.
Hajewski added that social media is just one outlet. He has also gone door to door with pamphlets and talked with neighbors about what is going on.
"It is necessary to go out in the community and do some type of outreach," Hajewski said.
His efforts seem to be working: He said he has seen an increase in the number of people showing up for Eagle meetings.
Village Center Mukwonago
Village Center Mukwonago is a group of 20 people that aims to create a better downtown. The group was created in early May and focuses on issues such as developing a comprehensive plan for downtown. Members have also discussed ways to save the Grand Avenue house, which was featured in the Chief.
The group's Facebook page "will be used as an informational source to boost public awareness on current events in the village," according to a Facebook post. "With participation and support, we will be able to heavily influence what happens in OUR Mukwonago."
Resident Amanda Brissette got the ball rolling for the group, according to resident Roger Walsh.
Walsh said Brissette was posting on social media about saving the Grand Avenue House. Walsh followed up by speaking with neighbors to see whether there was interest for an informational meeting.
"The meeting, for me, was a way to bring the past forward and hear about the things people did and what excited people years ago," he said.
Walsh was impressed with the younger residents who came forward and wanted to do something for their community.
Residents came together for a May 15 public hearing on a proposed overlay zoning district downtown. They voiced concerns that a new zoning district downtown would cause the village to lose its historic feel.
Village officials seemed receptive to their concerns and ultimately sent the proposal back to the plan commission.
Walsh recruited Ty Wittliff to be the group's social media coordinator due to his studies in advertising at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Wittliff said he is new to the local government scene and is surprised to be enjoying it.
"I like learning about how it all works and the pieces to make it move, it is quite amazing," Wittliff said.
Wittliff hopes to use social media to inspire others to attend local meetings and perhaps make a public comment. Even if they don't comment, he hopes people will just show up.
"Social media has a big impact on people showing up," he said.